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Back off Super-Cars, here comes Tata

Ever notice how many Tata vehicles are seen on the road these days – this must be an international phenomena because lets face it, travel isn’t cheap. In the midst of all the glory cars, those that all the newly driving licensed are ogling or multi-millionaire dads we have Tata whom seem to be about the only sane manufacturer out there. Hell bent on producing the world’s cheapest vehicle they are also after all manufacturer of some of the worlds most exotic cars – Jaguar and Land Rover spring to mind here. But this article isn’t about the exotic slice of the pie but of their entry level vehicles, of their commercial vehicle success and their slow but forceful entry in these markets.


First of all, recently we had a contractor out doing a steel floor for us. His vehicle was a Tata which he had for about five years, never a problem he said, more stable than his old Ford he said and more economical than his 2 x 4 Toyota he said. This was a Telcoline 2 TDi. This sort of sums up Tata: It came from a structural and steel engineer.  Tatas are therefore tough. Then we move onto a family mag, a comparison test between the various “cheapie” cars on the road. The results weren’t really that surprising I suppose, China against India. India (Indica) scores 5 stars, China three stars.  (Think Chery and Geely). Tata has more serious breaking, more serious steering and it came with features the Chinese vehicle just did not have but oh yes, the Tata was the more expensive of the four models tested.

In the economy stakes two things must always be abundantly clear – emission and safety.  Tata gets kudos for both. You get what you pay for – from entry level to top class.  Did you know that Tata is the world’s fourth largest truck manufacturer – after Isuzu (of course), Daimler AG (Mercedes of course), Toyota (could only be).  Tata as you know also comprises of Daewoo Commercial.  As they lead Nissan, Ford and General Motors there is definitely something in the magic that they are formulating.  As the scribe hails from sunny South Africa I cannot say whether the Americans are as fond of Tata as elsewhere, especially in the emerging markets but it is abundantly clear that they are doing something right – beating Volvo in these stakes is proof of this.

Back to the ‘el cheapo’ – the Indica is very popular and enjoys good bang for the buck. Not only that I rarely read of any dealerships giving poor service – are they passionate about Tata? Just may be. Anywhere there is poor service there is a decline in sales – word of mouth is still faster than morse code. Tata also makes Jaguar.  Visit Top Gear for that one. If India is now knocking off cars better than the Brits in their prime I’d say we have a good product. But do we?

Tata like all vehicle manufacturers have their ups and downs, change of executors, change of models, wrong decisions, very bad decisions and of course sadly, politics. Anywhere there is money there is politics of the government kind. I do not see any arrogance here though – this is a corporate killer. They do understand their woes, they do understand their competition and most of all if you read the Indian market they are proud of Tata. Although Tata has been around for many years one must also consider which type of person would buy a Tata and which one won’t. I am not a Hyundai fan but definitely Kia. The Tata Nano is beautiful looking car, possibly so small it could be cooked up with eggs and bacon.  Which one wouldn’t:  Those that like muscle cars, those that like known brands in the European, Japanese and American sector. Tata is not designed for the emerging market, by no means.  I see India and China, like the Koreans and Japanese before them copy-catting. There is no uniqueness in them. That’s for now – not later. Tata will end up with bigger and better vehicles, right now their price is right. What does that hold for the world car market?

Well Tata has already ventured into the electric industry – they have a bucket load of knowledge and unless they drive the market, the market will drive them.  The Indica comes out as an EV. If the Nano ever makes it’s ways onto our shores it’s cheap enough to buy new and modify. That’s what I like – no old Fords or Opels – just a new car, electric motor/alternator and inverters. Perhaps Tata know something we don’t.  A brief explanation into my hair braised idea.

Vehicles that are hybrid or at least just electrically powered are high octane. They carry the most up to date electronic technology, parts are shockingly expensive and let it be said that the only people seeming to gather around the Prius are the wealthy. There are many budding scientists out there just waiting to grab a chance to put their skills to practice. The Nano may be just such a car.  Weight is after all very important. Toyota scrapped plans for electric vehicles because of the overated battery technology – but not hybrid.  I’d head in that direction first because at the end of the day your cheapest component is going to be the car. The most expensive is going to be batteries. If the vehicle is going to cost you $3 000.00 you can at least add another $3 000.00 to make the vehicle a hybrid – use the existing motor to power and charge the 12V electrics, plus 72V alternator feeding the batteries and drive motor, regenerative braking to assist charge. Is there space for all this, is there time to do all this. At $3 000.00 a vehicle I think most universities are already looking at feasibility studies. The cons: space of course and the dry kerb weight of 600Kg. One 100 A/Hr deep cell battery is going to be around 33Kgs. Dispense with the rear passengers may do the trick. Maximum payload is not going to be much but in total with modifications your kerb weight may stay the same but as a two seater. Drive to work and see how many ninjas are in single occupant cars?

The last part of the story may be more tongue in cheek but the fact remains that a cheaper mode of transport is what we are all looking for.  Modifying a new car to run from electrical power is not always that easy – the very weight of most cars is enough to concern those that do conversions, the Nano is perhaps the ideal experimental car, electrical conversions or otherwise.  The VW Beetle was another but they are sadly in short supply. India is known not only for their hard workers and dodgy dealings but having very street smart and brainy citizens. There’s a lot of street smart and brainy ideas going down in Tata and their motorcycle manufacturers.

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