Tata Motors Ltd, India’s largest truck maker, on Monday launched Winger, its maxi van, and Magic, the passenger vehicle version of its mini truck, Ace. The company has invested roughly Rs400 crore in the development of these two diesel engine passenger carriers that will be made at its Pune plant.
Tata Motors launched Ace, the sub one-tonne mini truck in May 2005 and has sold more than 100,000 vehicles since then. The vehicle has been successful in fulfilling the need of intra-city and rural transportation of goods.
Now with the Magic’s launch, it’s aiming for a similar market in the passenger transportation segment.
The Winger is a new category vehicle that targets urban demand. It is derived from French car maker Renault SA’s passenger carrier, Traffic. Tata Motors acquired Renault’s plant for the Traffic platform in France about 18 months ago and the company has since adapted it to Indian needs.
“We’ve invested Rs150-200 crore each in the development of two separate platforms for Magic and Winger,” said P.M. Telang, executive director, commercial vehicles business, Tata Motors. The firm believes that demand for smaller vehicles would remain strong with expanding highways and rising demand for passenger transport in bus-starved rural India.
It is not alone. Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd is working on a multipurpose utility vehicle that can carry people and cargo. No. 2 truck maker Ashok Leyland is keen to make a small truck, and two-wheeler major Bajaj Auto has said it would develop a small, multi-application vehicle.
“There’s an increase in demand for mobility for people, for modern retail, express delivery and other last-mile transport needs,” said Ashutosh Goel, an analyst at Edelweiss Securities.
The segment grew 12% in the year to March to more than 400,000 units, while light commercial vehicles—which make up about 40% of the commercial vehicle market—grew by one-third to nearly 200,000 units, with Tata’s Ace a clear winner. With the operating economics of a three-wheeled motorized rickshaw, the four-wheeled Ace has sold more than 100,000 units since its launch in May 2005, surprising even the company itself.
“We grossly underestimated demand because it was priced at a slight premium to three-wheelers,” said Shyam Mani, Tata Motors’ vice-president of sales and marketing for commercial vehicles.
A new plant in Uttarakhand will take total Ace output to 300,000 units, or 10 times the initial output. The Magic can seat four-six passengers and costs Rs2.6 lakh, while for the Winger, with a capacity of 9-13 passengers, the cost begins from?Rs4.7 lakh (both ex-showroom Pune prices). The Winger has 11 variants in standard, deluxe and luxury classes.
Sales of the two new vehicles starts next week in Maharashtra and Gujarat.
(Rina Chandran of Reuters contributed to this story.)