Karl Slym speaks about the Safari Storme, upcoming products and company plans

Gaurav

Gaurav Malik, A fellow wheeler who has been associated with Indian Autos Blog since December 2011 and a huge fan of SUVs. What's my favorite one you ask? It has to be the Range Rover!

In a conversation with Karl Slym, we discuss the facets of the old and new Safari, various upcoming facelifts or upgrades, and whether the Safari Storme will be a game changer for the company. Read on to find out Slym’s thoughts.

Karl Slym with the Tata Manza Club Class

Several products out of your portfolio, like the Aria, were not received all that well in the Indian market, so are you expecting the Safari Storme to be a game changer?

It is a game changer as far as the positioning is explained. It follows the pure breed of the old Safari and with the addition of the new features, it makes it more desirable not just in India but also globally. We have the DNA of the old Safari and now with international level of quality and looks. So with this new international product, we are believing it to be a game changer for us.

The old Safari had some quality issues so what kind of on road and off road tests have you performed on the Safari Storme?

We have covered hundreds of thousands of kilometers testing various aspects of the Safari Storme in various conditions. The Aria platform it sits on is much stronger and rigid and that reflects on the durability of the car. The hydroform technology used in the frame makes it much stronger and rugged which reflects on the drive the car. We have tested the Safari Storme more than any other SUV in our portfolio. Rest, you can judge the ability of the car yourself at the Safari Storme drive just after the launch.

Globally, people are shifting to buying more SUVs, very similar to a situation in USA. So are you going to have a small SUV under the Safari or a premium SUV to decrease the gap between the Aria and the Freelander 2?

What we are already offering are two models of this SUV, one being a pure breed off-roader and another one that looks the same but is meant to stick to the roads at a much lower price. It’s a growing market in India so the segment we bought this SUV in is the D segment and each one of us (automakers) is growing with the growing market and it makes sense to move according to the customer and offer a full range of SUVs.

What are your plans and strategies for the upcoming festive season?

If we talk about refreshing the portfolio there are different things that we need to do like facelifts, upgrades, etc. We launched the new Manza Club Class yesterday and we are launching this new Safari Storme today so as to brace ourselves for the upcoming festive season.

And then of course there are various other things that we need to do to refresh our portfolio like bringing in new products and improving the styling as well. Our job is to highlight the products, as you mentioned earlier, that are not doing so good which no doubt are great products but somehow couldn’t build up enough customers.

There has been a rivalry between Tata and Mahindra, so now that you have regained the number 3 position, and with these new launches, do you plan to just hold your current position or do you plan to move further up the line?

One or two products are just stepping stones. The one we launched yesterday defines luxury and takes it to a new level and today we launched the Safari Storme and even in its category, there’s nothing with this kind of styling or this kind of performance. As far as aspirations or numbers are concerned, we see ourselves as very strong competitors and beyond that there is no reason why we can’t challenge the ‘number one company’ given the capabilities in our company and the honest work put into each product it holds.

This is an important product for Tata given that UVs have been a major segment for the company for very long and there has been no new launches. Even the Safari Storme has been delayed too much. What are the sales volumes you are looking at given that SUVs are doing really good in India? Also the top end pricing is very close to Aria so will it affect its sales anyhow?

We are working on customer’s expectations and we have identified that the product that we had earlier and the product that we are selling now, there was a slight expectation mold with the Safari Storm coming in. So in my opinion, we will be able to make this product appeal to a larger customer base than the old model. This product should start appealing to a different category of customer for us to conquer more of the market.

Does the old Safari stay in your portfolio? What about the prices?

Yes, as I mentioned to you that newer customers will fancy this product and we have the die-hard loyalist for the older Safari also. So these two models will continue to sell parallel to each other. According to the market dynamics we will have to see what happens with time and will determine the position of this product in our portfolio.

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