Setting at rest speculation over development of a micro-hybrid version of the Tata Nano, Tata Motors Managing Director and Group CEO Carl-Peter Forster said that it will not be feasible because of the costs. “A micro-hybrid version of the Nano now is probably a too expensive proposition,” he said, when asked to comment on reports that a hybrid variant of the Tata Nano would be unveiled later this year.

In a hybrid vehicle, both the combustion engine and the electric power train had to be installed. This would jack up costs for the consumer and hence, was not a viable proposition for small cars. “We believe the hybrid solutions will be introduced in larger vehicles…To introduce hybrid in such a small car [Nano] the price would end up being increased by 50, or even, a 100 per cent of the current price,” he said.

Mr. Forster was here on Saturday to attend a function organised to launch Tata Nano and five new commercial vehicles in the Sri Lankan market. Asked about the group’s work in the electric car segment he said that Tata Motors was testing electric vehicles in Europe. “The problem with electric vehicles is – they have zero emission – but the battery technology is still very expensive. We are working on this technology to reduce costs to make this vehicle affordable for customers. There is still quite a bit of work to be done before these vehicles are made available to a larger market,” he said.

Mr. Forster predicted that even 10 years from now, most of the vehicles sold across the world would be powered by a “conventional combustion engine…but much more sophisticated, much more high tech.”

Soon after he took over the reigns of Tata Motors, Mr. Forster had said that ramping up product development capacity by 50 per cent at Jaguar-Land Rover was among his growth-focus areas. Asked about this, he said: “You cannot switch on product development overnight. Product development is all brain power, connected brain power. We are working as fast as we can without sacrificing quality. So we are hiring engineers in the U.K., working extensively with young engineers in India… We are very pleased with the ramp up. And we will be coming close to [US $] 1.5 billion. That is our target for this year,” he said.

‘Detroit is not ahead of us’

Looking at the range of offering from Tata - low-end cars to super-luxury cars; buses that cater to the first world and the third world; electric, hybrid and other frontier technologies apart from cutting edge research in combustion engine technology, Mr. Forster asserted that Detroit, the US automotive capital, considered the world capital in many a sense, was not head of Tata Motors. “Detroit is certainly not ahead of us,” he said.

Tata Motors has begun offering electric vehicles to customers in the United Kingdom and had sold hybrid buses to four European cities. The new hybrid Jaguar was the best in its class of vehicles.

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