We spoke to Mr. Ashesh Dhar, head of the Tata UV division, during the launch of the Safari Storme and we focused our discussion on the future plans for Tata's utility segment. This is what he had to say to our questions.
For the Safari Storme, would you have variants higher than the current range? Is there room for a more feature-rich Safari Storme variant? Also, is there a possibility for the Storme to feature an automatic transmission?
Yes there is definitely a market. Many premium features can be incorporated in the Safari Storme. The next models can have features incorporated to make the Storme even more luxurious. And yes, I'm not denying any of the rumors. More and more features will get added. Maybe an automatic transmission as well.
The Aria's been on the market for a while now. Do you think it is time to make some cosmetic changes?
We just launched the LX Pure variant. We'll keep on refreshing the Aria and make it more and more attractive. It has done well but we want to increase the sales though. We want to make it a much more mass brand than it is now.
Do you think having a shorter wheelbase version of the Aria could prove to be beneficial? Say for competing against the Maruti Ertiga?
It's a different market altogether. The Aria is a crossover and it can go well off-road as it can on road. It has its own value and its a luxurious product. It appeals to a different market and is positioned for that. As a company we're working on many options and I'm sure in days to come you'll hear of them.
You have shown a concept vehicle of the Aria AT at the 2012 Auto Expo. Can we expect to see this model this year?
You'll see it in days to come. I'm not giving a timeline though. We've the capability. We're just waiting for the right time. Whenever the right time comes we'll launch it.
There's a sudden rush of mini SUVs in the Indian market, we may have only a couple now, but over 2013 and 2014, more players are entering the fray. Considering you were the pioneers of the mini SUV in India (with the Sierra back in the 1990's) are you looking to make a comeback here?
Every product has its own position. With Safari we've got Storme. We'll come with a refreshed Venture very soon. We've got many projects that will take care of customers needs. Our plans are sustainable. Some are in design stages, some are in production stages. In days to come you can expect to see them. We're looking at dominating the SUV market.
Tata Motors were also the first with respect to making a sub-4m product apart from a hatchback. Do you see any opportunities with the current UV portfolio to be kind of wielded or transformed into a sub-4m product? Maybe a short wheelbase version of the Sumo?
We'll have some product to address the need. If you look at it, the Sumo addresses a particular consumer need. If there are new needs, then we need to get new products. It may or not be a sub-4m Sumo, but we're monitoring the various trends in the market. We want to have a dominance in the SUV market, so whatever has to be done will be done for Tata to be the numero uno in this segment.
Will you be exporting the Safari Storme? Even for LHD markets?
It will be exported. For that matter, any of our products can be exported. Even LHD's can be done. When we're designing products, we're doing it for the world market. The Safari Storme even complies to the European crash safety norms.
We've seen the test mules of the Indica XL. Will it be a 3-row car to impress upon the idea of extended practicality?
We've lots of projects so we do a lot of things. Its a part of innovation. There is a potential for 3rd row seating in this market and we're evaluating the market.
Will you consider using bits and pieces of Land Rover's mechanicals in your SUV's?
Keep your fingers crossed! Thats all I can say. We'll work closely with them. If we have the best SUV in our portfolio, we're giving our customers something good as well. I think the Indian market has evolved a lot. We'll give more contemporary products.