What Next for Tata: Are the Tiago and Nexon a Sign of Revival?

Mark Sanyal MORE

Tata Motors was established in 1945 with the sole aim of building commercial utility vehicles in association with Daimler Benz. Tata’s trucks became a common sight on Indian highways and with success in the commercial vehicle sector, a move to the passenger vehicle segment was only natural. Tata Motors set out to make indigenously produced cars that could go head to head with the competition in the booming Indian automobile market, and well who doesn’t know the ever so popular Tata Sumo or the face of Tata motors in India, the Tata Indica. A champion in the commercial vehicle sector, Tata has seen its fair share of limelight in the market with its set of passenger cars. The Indigo almost single-handedly replaced the humble Fiat Padminis and HM Ambassadors as the modern choice for Taxi drivers.

Indica Vista Exterior Spinny

The Indica, in its final form as the Vista.

Soon to follow was the Tata Nano, a car labelled as the car for the masses. Post that, Tata was again in the news for doing something that every Indian is proud of – the acquisition of British automotive majors, Jaguar and Land Rover. Not only did Tata buy out these legacy manufacturers of the automobile history, it also broke the spell of losses that its previous owners faced with the two British companies.

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The Evoque was the first product from the Land Rover stable under Tata leadership

With the acquisition of JLR, Tata Motors went beyond just producing commercial and small passenger vehicles. While Tata Motors seemed to be making all the right moves, in the domestic market there were some problems. Sales began thinning and Tata Motors’ passenger car market share shrunk, yielding to new manufacturers entering the market.

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The Stumble

The fault was Tata’s over-reliance on an old formula. The competition became fiercer and the cars became cheaper and better at the same time. The Indicas, even in their ‘Vista’ avatar began ageing. Even the Nano could not directly compete with the Maruti Suzuki Alto and lost on almost every front. SUVs like the Safari and Sumo Grande, or even the premium MPV Aria were faced with stiff competition from Mahindra’s stable. Tata needed to refresh itself or risk losing relevance in the Indian market.

This refresh in strategies appeared with the Bolt hatchback and the Zest compact sedan. Both cars were the first to feature Tata’s new design language and even featured newly developed engines. These new cars are a testament of Tata’s endeavor to constantly improve the quality and provide value to the customers. There was no dearth of equipment in these cars and there was just so much on the platter to fulfill everyone’s needs. From LED Daylight Running Lights to touch panel infotainment systems developed in association with Harman Kardon – Tata made sure they got their formula right. The Bolt and the Zest, however did not stray far from Tata’s past designs but the fresh new approach helped bring back Tata’s relevance in the market.

Tata Bolt Exterior White Spinny

The Bolt, and its sedan sibling, refreshed people’s perception towards Tata but fizzled out in the face of newer competition.

The Rise

The Bolt and Zest were the first step towards Tata’s rejuvenation. At this year’s Delhi Auto Expo, Tata showcased an entirely new lineup of cars for the Indian market. This included the Tata Zica (now Tiago) hatchback, Kite S sedan concept, Nexon subcompact SUV, and the Hexa MPV.

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What caught the interests of the people were the fresh, ready-to-be launched Tiago and the Nexon.

The Tiago, launched recently, has been generating a lot of positive interest, thanks to the strategic offline and online marketing. It has been launched into a segment occupied by the likes of Hyundai i10, Maruti Celerio and WagonR and Honda Brio.

Tata Tiago Orange Exterior Auto Expo 2016 Spinny

The Tiago got quite a lot of attention at the Auto Expo.

One look at the car reveals Tata’s new-found dedication towards designing people-centric cars. Gone are the single lined, stretched out tail lamps that forever graced Tata’s hatches and has been replaced with rear end as beautifully sculpted as the front. Open the gates and you’ll be greeted with somewhat shared interiors from the Bolt and the Zest, with a tinge of extra character added by the body coloured AC vent contours. Having learnt their lessons, Tata has packed the car with features to the brim this time. There’s a lot going in the Tiago’s favour and not surprisingly, Tata Motors recently registered more than 1 lakh enquiries about the car since its launch on April 6th.

Coming over to the Nexon, the next big thing in Tata’s itinerary and its ticket into the highly coveted subcompact SUV segment, which was very recently set ablaze by the Maurti Suzuki Vitara Brezza. When first showcased as a concept in the 2014 Delhi Auto Expo, it was all but confirmed that the final production version of the car wouldn’t be anywhere close to the concept. However, in 2016, the final production model diverged very little from the showcased concept. Kudos to the design and engineering teams for keeping the car true to the concept. Although it’s a while before the official launch and the final pricelist will indeed decide the fate of the car, the sheer amount of interest the car is garnering is commendable and Tata sure seems to have got a winner up its sleeve.

Tata Nexon Blue Exterior Auto Expo 2016 Spinny

What you see is exactly what you’ll be able to buy when the Nexon hits the market.

Tata Motors has its main facility at Pune, Maharashtra that mainly caters to the production of almost every Tata passenger car in its portfolio, aided only by the Sanand plant, which was developed for the Tata Nano. Pune efficiently manages both the national and the international network of Tata’s cars, and Tata has already prepped for ramping up production with the future launches in mind. Tata also has a technical center in UK, which can be credited for a lot of new developments that are evident in the company’s new avatar.

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Tata’s resurgence is boosted by a renewed focus on delivering value in a modern, attractive package. Tata Motors, however, cannot rest on its laurels as the Indian car market continues to rapidly shift towards new segments and the Indian carmaker has to ensure that it is ready to tackle the demand of the Indian consumer.

It might just be too early to predict where Tata Motors is headed but with a jam-packed year ahead they have the right intent to make a distinctive mark in the Indian automobile market. For the long term, Tata has to shed its utilitarian image to make the new launches attractive to the consumer. In the short term, Tata already has plans in place to leverage the expertise at JLR to develop new platforms and products specific to the Indian consumer. The resurgence of Tata Motors signals the new direction of the entire Indian automobile industry and this new direction is where the Indian market should be.