Talks with GE for engineered plastics body; first lot of cars will be made of steel
It will be a rear engine, 4-5 seat, four-door carThe market for the small car has been estimated at one million
MUMBAI: Tata Motors' new small car project to make India's first car to be priced at around Rs. 1 lakh will be launched in early 2008.
Addressing shareholders here at the company's annual general meeting on Tuesday, Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Motors, said, the company would initially launch a petrol version of the car, which would be followed by a diesel version.
The styling and design of the car had been completed and prototypes were being tested within the plant. It would be a rear engine, 4-5 seat, four-door car with about 30 hp (horsepower) engine, Mr. Tata said.
While admitting that the company had lost some time in developing and launching the vehicle, Mr. Tata said, "it is probably for the best because we will have a better car.''
Further, Mr. Tata said, the company was keen to explore the possibility of making cars from engineered plastics made by General Electric (GE). "Experiments will commence to see if it is possible. GE's effort will be to see if it can be made cheaply and see if they can participate with us to make a car using engineered plastics. It is part of our endeavour to make a car that is cheap to operate and maintain. The `addressable market' for such a car, will be around one million vehicles annually at a `mature stage'.'' However, as of now the car to be launched in 2008 would be made of steel.
Alliance with Fiat
On the company's alignment with Fiat, Mr. Tata said, Fiat's operations in India are very small compared to Tata Motors. But, according to him, the alignment will include Fiat introducing its other successful vehicles in the Indian market like Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Ferrari. "We are also looking at joint manufacturing of products at Fiat's Ranjangaon facility.''
The strategic alliance would explore opportunities for mutual benefit, including possible sourcing of technologies, power trains and major aggregates from Fiat, sharing of common vehicle platforms between the two companies and even possible joint development of models which could be badged and sold by both companies in different geographies.
The discussions also included the possible sharing of defined manufacturing facilities at the manufacturing plants of both companies.
Tata Motors had in place an agreement with Rover of the U.K. and was supplying vehicles which were being sold as Rover in Europe but since Rover had gone into the red, the Tatas were looking at alternative arrangements to market cars as Tata cars in Europe.
On the future, Mr. Tata said, "we can look forward to strong demand for commercial vehicles and passenger cars but we are also seeing tremendous push in prices of inputs like steel, tyres, aluminium and copper.