Pune: Tata Motors is on an African safari. After entering the European car market in a tie-up with Rover, the company may now be considered for the African small car project. This project has been the dream of Senegal president Abdoulaye Wade and is aimed at developing a popular small car for Africa. “I have been speaking to car manufacturers for the past few years to look at the possibility of a small car, which has very little fuel consumption, low maintenance and the capacity to be used on bad roads,” President Wade told a group of newspersons, while on a visit to the Tata Motors plant at Pune on Sunday.
He added that he was impressed with the Tata Motors plant and will hold discussions with the company on the issue. Senegal has no car manufacturing facility and has imports of various makes like Renault and Peugeot, which run in the country. The public transport system is also not well developed, which makes the potential for an affordable small car immense. President Wade was accompanied by a seventy-member delegation on his visit.
Tata Motors has recently bagged a $19 million contract to supply 500 buses to Senegal. The company won the contract in the face of competition from leading manufacturers in the USA and France. The company has also provided technical assistance to the Senegalese government to set up a bus-body manufacturing plant at Thies, called Senbus. Elaborating on the company’s African strategy, Tata Motors director (commercial vehicle business unit) Ravi Kant said that Senegal will become the focal point for the company for western Africa. “We have also been approached by a couple of countries in the western Francophone Africa to set up assembly facilities in their countries,” he added.
The company was also finalising the focal points for east and north Africa. Tata Motors has also emerged as one of the selected bidders for a major taxi project in South Africa, whereby 100,000 taxis will be replaced in the country over the next four years. The bid is for 18 and 35-seater buses.
“Our plan is to launch the entire range of commercial vehicles in South Africa. It will eventually include cars also. We recently had a visit of 40 dealers from South Africa and clinics were also held for them,” said Mr Kant. However, he added that being on the short list will not necessarily translate into orders and the company will have to undertake its own marketing initiatives for the same.