February 2009 | Gayatri Kamath

Dream drive

The Tata Indica has become bigger and better with age. The new second generation Indica Vista embodies the transformation of Tata Motors into a world-class automotive manufacturer

In 1998, Tata Motors embarked upon a decisive strategy – to make India's first indigenously developed passenger car. This singular decision meant that the company had to change its character inside out and transform itself from a commercial vehicle maker to an automotive producer that straddles the entire spectrum of four-wheelers, from small car to 40 tonne truck.

The all-new Indica Vista. (Left to right) Rajiv Dube, president - passenger cars; Ravi Kant, managing director, Tata Motors; AK Mankad, head (car plant) Pune; Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Motors; Kanan Chakravarthy, senior general manager (project management) Pune PCBU; S Krishnan, vice president (commercial PCBU); Ganesh Kalhe, general manager, (Dev), ERC-Pune
How successful the journey has been is evident from the numbers – today, the Indica is the best selling car in its segment. Even in its eighth year of launch (in 2006-07) more than 144,000 cars were sold, a record number of sales for any first generation car. The Indica, developed and produced by Tata Motors entirely with in-house expertise and no collaborations, has turned out to be a benchmark among small cars. Says Tata Motors Chairman Ratan Tata, "People said it cannot be done without collaboration. But we believed in ourselves and our group of engineers."

The belief paid off. Says Ravi Kant, managing director, Tata Motors, "The first time we went into cars, we received brickbats but we resolutely kept at it and succeeded." The Indica made it, against all odds, and in the face of tough competition from some of the best car manufacturers in the world. Says Rajiv Dube, president of the passenger cars business, "We have built a robust Rs10,000 crore Tata car business, but have sold over 1.1 million cars, built a strong relationship with Fiat, acquired world-class brands such as Jaguar and Land Rover, and announced the most awaited car in the world – the Nano. All this may not have been possible if the Indica had not succeeded."

The last ten years have seen the Indica evolving, from a germ of an idea and a new vision for the company, to India's first fully indigenous car and a best-seller in the market. It has gone through several iterations, with new models and variants aimed at specific target segments – the Indica 2000, the V2, the V2 Turbodiesel, the Xeta, the Xeta LPG, the Indica Dicor, and finally the latest offering – the brand new, second generation Indica Vista.

All new Indica Vista
With the Vista, Tata Motors has created a completely new platform. "The new generation Vista shares no components or aggregates with the older Indica. It is an entirely new platform, encompassing all that the company has learnt over the last decade. The car has a new skin, new interiors, new suspension, and a world class power train, making it a very contemporary modern car that can stand its own against the best small hatchbacks anywhere in the world," says Mr Dube.

The evolution of the Indica has in many ways mirrored the Tata Motors journey as the company has mastered the intricacies of the new business. As Mr Tata puts it, "The Vista showcases the progress that the company has made over the last several years in design, quality, technology, performance and refinement."

As a passenger car company, Tata Motors has learnt to understand and serve the customer better. It has become more quality-oriented, with an enhanced sense of refinement, of fits and finish. The company has also become more process-oriented and more disciplined in its product development programmes. Along the way, the passion and commitment of its engineers and marketers has transformed into a burning desire to prove themselves against the best in the industry.

"It's been a challenging yet exciting and satisfying journey," says Mr Dube. "Some of our competitors have crossed a century in the business and we have a way to go to catch up fully with them. The good news is that we are getting there fast." The ten-year old Indica has indeed opened new vistas for Tata Motors.

Also read:
The Tata Indica was launched in December 1998. In 2009, ten years later, the car is still purring on the highway to success — a dream come true for designers, managers and engineers at Tata Motors
Glimpses of Indica's journey
In the fast lane
Ideas that have worked