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Mumbai: Tata Motors Ltd has laid high hopes on sport-utility vehicles to sustain the sales growth of its domestic passenger vehicle business, said a senior company executive.

The Mumbai-based automaker introduced the Safari SUV model on Monday, resurrecting the brand name, which was discontinued in 2019 after a 21-year run. The new model will be sold in six and seven-seater versions and it will be the flagship vehicle of Tata Motors.

“It (Safari) will be the flagship product for sure. Then you have the Harrier and Nexon which serve very different requirements and we are coming with Hornbill, which will be a size lower than the Nexon," said Shailesh Chandra, president, passenger vehicle business unit, Tata Motors. “So, we will have a very wide portfolio of SUVs serving very different requirements for different budgets and different utilities that people are expecting from their vehicle. The movement is more towards SUVs starting from Hornbill," Chandra said.

The Hornbill will be the smallest SUV in Tata Motors’ portfolio when it goes on sale later this year. The company also sells the Nexon compact SUV in petrol, diesel and electric versions. The Safari is based on an extended platform of Tata’s Harrier SUV model.

The Hornbill will be the smallest SUV in Tata Motors’ portfolio when it goes on sale later this year.
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The Hornbill will be the smallest SUV in Tata Motors’ portfolio when it goes on sale later this year.

Tata Motors is among the companies reaping the benefits of a booming domestic SUV market. This has led firms like Kia Motors, MG Motor India and Citroën to choose SUVs as their first models for launch in India.

Sales of Tata Motors’ passenger vehicles surged 32.4% in the nine months through December to 139,399 units, as per Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.

The new Safari has a starting dealership price of 14.69 lakh with the top-end version at 21.45 lakh. The vehicle is powered by a 2-litre diesel engine and is offered with options of manual as well as automatic transmission.

Chandra said that while there is a clear segment for a seven-seater SUV like Safari, the company is also expecting the new vehicle to attract buyers of five-seater SUVs.

The unlocking of economy and overall pent-up demand, as well as consumer preference for its new models like Altroz premium hatchback and Nexon and Harrier SUVs, have helped drive sales of Tata Motors. “The demand momentum has not only sustained but is actually growing for each product. We have ensured to have strengthened the performance of every product in our portfolio," said Chandra.

He said the immediate focus is to sustain the growth momentum, even as Tata Motors has announced plans to carve its passenger vehicle business into a separate unit, which will help bring in a strategic partner eventually.

“Our immediate focus will be to ensure scaling up our operations growth faster than the industry. Collaboration is something which would be a more long-term imperative looking into the areas of architecture, powertrains, new technologies, where all of us have to invest. As and when we see that there is a matching of win-win for both and there are synergetic advantages, we will go for it," Chandra said. “We are not setting any timelines. But we will keep on engaging with different OEMs who have interest in the spaces where we are present, and see if they can be a mutual benefit for both," he added.

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