BOLOGNA, Italy – Tata Motors Ltd. will start customer clinics next year and decide as early as 2013 on whether to expand its volume brand's product portfolio and market presence in Europe.
"Our design and engineering centers in Europe are outlining a potential range of Tata models designed for the European market," Naveen Mishra, Tata Motors' regional head for Europe, told Automotive News Europe at the auto show here.
Tata Motors, India's second-largest automaker, gained immediate credibility in Europe after it bought Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford Motor Co. for $2.3 billion in 2008. The company's core Tata brand, however, is a minor player in Europe. The Tata brand's private importers in Italy, Spain, Poland and Turkey sell just a few thousand units a year. In Russia, Tata only sells trucks.
Mishra said Tata is preparing minicar, subcompact and compact segment models for the customer clinics because it believes these segments will see the most growth in Europe.
Mishra said Tata brand's range of new cars for Europe could be ready by 2013, allowing Tata to move quickly if it decides to expand.
Last year, Tata sold about 7,500 passenger cars and light commercial vehicles in Italy, Spain, Poland and Turkey. Tata's sales volume is expected to decline to about 6,000 units this year, mainly due to Spain's sale slump.
Tata relies on private importers in Europe such as Melian Italia Srl, which is based near Bolzano, northern Italy. Melian is Tata's oldest importer in Europe. It debuted Tata commercial vehicles at the Bologna show 18 years, Melian CEO Julia Wilson said.
Tata sales in Italy peaked to 4,500 units in 2009. The volume is expected to decrease to about 2,000 units this year due to the delayed introductions of the Aria large crossover and a replacement for the Safari large SUV.
Tata has been operating for about 15 years in Spain, where the brand is now imported by Nissho Motors, a subsidiary of the Berge Group, which is one of the largest dealer groups in the Iberian Peninsula.
Diesel from Austria
The Aria, a seven-seat large crossover similar in size and features to the Fiat Freemont, is powered by a Euro 5-compliant 150-hp 2.2-liter common-rail diesel built in India by Tata and designed by AVL List GmbH, an engine specialist based in Graz, Austria.
The 4780mm-long, 1895mm-wide and 1780mm-tall Aria will go on sale in Italy starting in February at a base price of 21,580 euros for the rear-wheel-drive version. A four-wheel-drive Aria variant also will be offered.
Tata will launch the new Safari large SUV in Europe in the second half of 2012. Based on the Aria platform, the new Safari switched to a unibody construction from body-on-frame.
No Nano for Europe
Mishra reconfirmed that Europe will not get the first-generation Nano, which is the cheapest car in the world at about 2,000 euros.
At the Geneva auto show in March 2009, Tata unveiled a Nano variant that it said complied with European emissions and safety standards. Plans to build that car, however, were abandoned.
"Below the minicar segment, in what we call the sub-A segment, we could create something inspired by the Pixel concept," Mishra said.
Unveiled at the 2011 Geneva show in March, the Pixel is a three-door sub-minicar that uses some components and systems from the Nano.
Powered by a 1.2-liter three-cylinder diesel engine, the Pixel promises CO2 emission of 89 grams per kilometer, equivalent to fuel economy of 3.4 liters per 100km. Tata aimed to sell 100,000 Nanos a year in India, but annual global sales of the model have not climbed above 71,000 since its debut in 2008.