January 17, 2002 | Business Standard

Tata sports car may be made abroad

Tata Engineering is considering manufacturing the Tata Aria coupe -- a sports car based on the Indica platform -- at a production facility outside India.

"The sales volumes of a low-cost sports car like the Aria might be higher in the overseas market than the demand in the domestic market. We are considering the option of producing the Aria at a plant outside India," Tata Sons chairman Ratan Tata said.

According to Tata Sons executive director R Gopalakrishnan, this could be done under a product sharing arrangement with a multinational auto company, wherein some of the partner’s models could be manufactured at Tata Engineering’s plants in return for manufacturing the Aria coupe at an overseas plant.

This would be a cheaper alternative than setting up a greenfield plant abroad which would also increase the break-even volumes of products on the Indica platform.

Earlier in the day, Tata Engineering pulled off a coup of sorts at the unveiling function of of its mid-sized car, Tata Sedan, held at the Auto Expo, with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee expressing the country’s "pride over Tata Engineering’s achievement in producing an indigenously designed car in the mid-sized segment".

The Prime Minister’s congratulatory message was read out publicly at a glittering ceremony at the Tata Engineering stall, at which Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Sons and R Gopalakrishnan, executive director, Tata Sons, in addition to all top executives from the Tata Engineering were present.

"On this occasion I extend my warm greetings to all the members of the Tata Engineering team. I also convey my best wishes for the success of the car not only in the highly competitive Indian market but also beyond," Vajpayee said in his written message.

This is probably the first time that the Prime Minister has publicly commended a private company’s initiative in producing an indigenously developed automobile.

Addressing the media immediately after the unveiling of the car, Tata said that the Sedan would be launched around September.

Senior company officials added that the car could be priced in the Rs 5-7 lakh region, and will compete in the low-end of the C segment (roughly cars priced between Rs 5-10 lakhs).

They also said that they expected the sales of the Indica sedan version to be around 15 per cent of Indica sales. An estate version of the Indica is also being planned, which will also be targetted for exports.

Among other passenger car models, launch of the mid-sized Magna and the small car Zing (which was planned to be built with scooter aggregates earlier) has been put on the backburner, Tata said.

The Magna, which would have competed in the luxury D segment, has been put on hold for the moment "till the dust settles in its category," according to Tata.