NEW DELHI - India's largest truckmaker will bring two new cars to the Geneva auto show to begin its assault on Europe's volume markets.
Telco, or Tata Engineering & Locomotive Co., will show the cars it introduced at the New Delhi auto show in January: the Tata Safari sport-utility and an as-yet-unnamed supermini.
The 4800mm-long, seven-seat Safari has just gone into production. Power comes from either a 2.0-liter, 90hp turbodiesel or 2.0-liter, 137hp gasoline engine.
The supermini, known by its nickname Indicar, will go into production later this year at the rate of 5,000 units a month. The 3660mm, five-door hatchback will have a choice of three 1.4-liter engines: a 60hp or fuel-injected, 65hp gasoline and a 53hp diesel.
The Safari is expected to be sold in France, Italy and Germany, starting this year. The supermini will arrive in Europe in 1999.
Telco said the Safari was designed and its tooling provided at a cost of just Rs3 billion ($75 million). Design, engineering and development accounted for a third of this sum.
The new small car was not much more expensive. Design and development cost $65 million, of which $17.5 million went to I.De.A for its styling contribution.
The total cost of developing the small car and building a new factory was $425 million. Planned capacity at the plant in Pune, about 120km east of Bombay, is 200,000 units a year.
The two cars' engines were also developed by Telco, whose giant industrial complex in Pune includes its Engineering Research Center, which employs more than 1,000 engineers and designers. Telco is part of the huge Tata conglomerate. It built 195,783 trucks and light commercial vehicles last year, as well as 8,495 cars.
India goal: 25 percent
Telco aims to take 25 percent of the Indian car market by 2000. Total sales in India were 425,332 last year, and are estimated to rise to 800,000 in 2000. Telco's planned production next year is 60,000 units.
Telco's main competitor is Maruti Udyog, the joint venture between Suzuki and the Indian government. Telco's supermini is aimed at the best-selling Maruti 800, which took 43 percent of the market last year, and the Maruti Zen, which is sold in Europe as the Suzuki Alto.
A sedan version of the supermini will appear in India next year. Its target is the Maruti Esteem, currently the best-selling medium-sized car in the market.
Soon after, Telco plans to unveil a new sedan. The car will be Ford Mondeo-sized and powered by the same engines as in the Safari.
Telco still produces its first sport-utility, the Sierra, which is sold in the UK as the Gurkha.
A pickup, called the 207 Tatamobile, is also sold in several European markets. But a station wagon, called the Estate, and the Sumo utility vehicle were designed only for the Indian market. Around 100,000 Sumos have been sold in three years, and it currently accounts for half its segment.
In addition, Telco has a 26 percent stake in a joint venture with Daimler-Benz, which assembles 2,000-3,000 Mercedes E-class sedans a year at a separate plant in Pune.