Another emerging market manufacturer with global ambitions is preparing its European launch in a right-hand drive market.
The Tata Safari, made in India, is now under test in north Yorkshire in the UK. The Malaysian Proton chose Ireland for its European debut in February 1988.
The Safari is built by Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company, or Telco. It was shown at the Geneva auto show in March, Telco's first European auto show.
The 2.0-liter turbo-diesel is expected to go on sale in UK in April or May 1999. The car, about the size of a Maverick, is expected to sell for around $20,500.
India is also a right-hand-drive market, and Tata introduced the Safari in India at the New Delhi auto show earlier this year. Tata already sells two light commercial vehicles in the UK, the Loadbeta pickup and chassis cab, and a Ghurka sport-utility.
Motor Vehicle Imports Ltd. imports the Tatas to the UK. It used to import Lada.
David Bray, sales and marketing director for the importer, said he expects to sell 600 in the first 12 months.
'Tata has plans to become a world player in a world market,' said Bray, 'and it will be investing significantly.'
A 2.0-liter gasoline version will follow in mid-1999. Tata wants to launch left-hand-drive versions in other western European markets, but the timing is not yet fixed.
The five-door Safari is built at a new $300 million facility in Pune.
The Tata Safari is Telco's first vehicle with ambitions to reach the mainstream market in Europe, but not its only one. Also in development is an unnamed smaller car.
Bray said Motor Vehicle Imports expects to launch the five-door hatchback by the end of 1999, and a larger sedan in 2001.
Both are ambitious schedules. Telco wants to give its new cars at least a year on the Indian market before exports begin to Europe. Telco also plans to make left-hand drive versions for mainland Europe.
Telco employs 290,000 across the Indian sub-continent and has annual sales of $9 billion producing goods from lipsticks to hydro-electric plants.
It started commercial vehicle production in 1954 in collaboration with Mercedes-Benz.
It now produces more than 200,000 vehicles a year at plants at Pune, Jamshedpur and Lucknow, with a fourth facility under construction.
TATA trucks account for 70 percent of heavy and medium commercial vehicles and 60 percent of light commercial vehicles sold in India. Trucks worth $200 million are exported to more than 60 countries, and assembly plants have been established in Malaysia, Bangladesh and Kenya.
Joint venture partners include Cummins for the manufacture of diesel engines since 1993, and Daimler-Benz for the production of the Mercedes-Benz E-class since 1994.