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Business News/ Companies / Tata Motors set to drive into premium trucks segment

India’s largest lorry maker, Tata Motors Ltd, will soon try making entry into the global market for goods vehicles, with a line-up of about eight premium trucks developed at its Jamshedpur manufacturing facilities.

The company plans to launch three models of its world truck this fiscal beginning September, and follow them up with the remaining models in phases, said a senior company official.

The production of the trucks—that would range between medium and heavy goods vehicles—is likely to begin almost simultaneously in India and at the Tata Daewoo Commercial Vehicle Co. Ltd’s plant in Korea, said the executive, who declined to be named as he is not authorized to talk to the media.

Trial units of the models to be launched in September are already being tested at the company’s Jamshedpur facilities, he said.

Meanwhile, at least three separate vendors working with Tata Motors on the world truck project said the company is looking to ramp up its international sales in a market dominated by Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. According to these vendors, Tata Motors will make 4,000 units in the first year, 6,000 in the second and up to 20,000 units in the next four years.

Another vendor said the company might also eventually manufacture the range in Thailand. The vendors declined to be identified because that would jeopardize their relationship with the company.

A Tata Motors spokesperson said officials involved with the matter were travelling and would remain unavailable for comment until the end of the week.

The success of its world truck range could be crucial for the company as it carves out a niche for itself as a global automotive player, with recent success in snapping up marquee brands such as Land Rover and Jaguar.

In a significant move away from its current products, the new range of trucks will have higher-powered engines capable of hauling greater loads.

With a lot at stake, the company has forged relationships with a number of global suppliers for the range. Meritor HVS (India) Ltd, a venture of US-based Meritor Heavy Vehicle Systems Llc., and Indian industrial conglomerate Kalyani Group will supply the axles for the heavier vehicles.

Tata Cummins Ltd, a venture between Tata Motors and Cummins Engine Co. Inc., will produce the new generation engines of up to 285 horsepower (hp) for the world truck, while Cummins India Ltd will supply the bigger 300-500hp engines.

Tata Motors sold 313,371 commercial vehicles in fiscal 2007-08 that ended 31 March, an increase of 5% over the previous fiscal and its highest ever. It sold 147,334 units of light commercial vehicles and 166,037 units of medium and heavy commercial vehicles during the year.

The company had also introduced last fiscal year a new range of medium and heavy commercial vehicles that included multi-axle trucks, heavy-duty trucks, tractor-trailers and tippers.

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Updated: 09 Apr 2008, 11:59 PM IST
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