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A file photo of a Tata Motors showroom. Photo: Mint  (Mint )
A file photo of a Tata Motors showroom. Photo: Mint
(Mint )

Tata Motors to roll out two SUVs with Land Rover DNA

Tata Motors is likely to ask its vendors to start supplying components from the first quarter of 2015

New Delhi: Five years after Tata Motors Ltd acquired Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), both the companies have started working on two true-blue sports utility vehicles (SUVs) for the Indian market, which would be sold only under the Tata brand name, according to two people directly involved in the matter and two others familiar with it.

In what could further galvanize the SUV market in India, one of the cars will be priced at 10-15 lakh and is expected to be introduced in 2016. Tata Motors is likely to ask its vendors to start supplying components from the first quarter of 2015.

The specifics of the second SUV were not clear.

“Both of these products will be superb. We will surprise everybody," said one of the persons directly involved in the matter. All four persons declined to be named because they are not authorized to speak to the press.

Tata group’s then-chairman Ratan Tata told shareholders in Tata Motor’s 2010-11 annual report that while JLR and Tata Motors are looking “to optimize the synergetic strengths between JLR and Tata Motors in India, an examination is also underway on joint engine development programme which would have manufacturing facilities both in the UK and India".

The move is also likely to be seen as a drive against Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, which has snatched Tata’s leadership in utility vehicles.

However, it lost out to Mahindra,which came out with successful products such as Bolero, Scorpio and Xylo.

Responding to a detailed questionnaire sent on Tuesday, a Jaguar Land Rover India spokesperson said, “As a matter of company policy, we do not comment on future product actions."

A spokesperson for Tata Motors, which acquired JLR in 2008 for $2.3 billion, too, declined to comment on the story.

“We are talking about an SUV of the size of a Land Rover product but the attributes will not be anywhere close to them. Their inputs will come in architecture, performance, technologies, better body stiffness. That’s where we are planning to tap in to their knowledge," the person quoted above said.

The platform for the two SUVs is being developed by Tata Motors, and while Land Rover will assist in a number of areas, the British car maker will not use the platform for any of its own vehicles, the person said.

Another top executive of a Tata group company, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said his firm will work with both Tata Motors and Land Rover on the analytics and IT programming front.

“Things have started moving, with a lot of interactions between teams in the UK and Pune. At the moment, I can’t tell you anything else," this person said.

A third person familiar with the development said that the firm will be upscaling the Tata Aria platform for the new SUVs. Aria is Tata’s second generation utility vehicle platform that is also used in the Safari Storme.

“With new vehicle coming in there is a possibility that Aria as a brand may be discontinued but the platform will be upgraded and be used for next generation SUVs," this person said. “Land Rover’s expertise will be utilized more on the suspension side."

The first person quoted said that Aria is “a misunderstood concept" in India. “The positioning of it was not in line with the expectations. We are evaluating options for it."

Aria was launched in 2010 as India’s first crossover between a sedan and an SUV but it failed to boost Tata’s sales as it was seen as too expensive at 13.18 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai). A stripped-down version of the vehicle was introduced in 2012 for 9.95 lakh.

The cars to be produced with JLR are in line with Tata Motors’ plans to introduce a series of utility vehicles from 2015, including a compact SUV.

“Next generation SUVs will have a lot of learnings from Land Rover. We can give some learning back to JLR, in terms of bringing down the costs," this person said.

However, the compact SUVs will not have inputs from Land Rover.

“The smaller you become, the less you will be able to incorporate learnings from JLR. The idea is to understand their expertise in bigger vehicles and then find ways to introduce them in smaller ones," he said.

Mahantesh Sabarad, a Mumbai-based analyst with brokerage firm Fortune Equity Brokers Pvt. Ltd, said that while inputs from Land Rover will be helpful in improving the quality of Tata vehicles, the company may have left the launch a little too late.

“2016 is quite far away from now, and the utility vehicle space is getting far more intense in terms of competition. Tata may miss the initial appeal of the segment by then," Sabarad said.

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