The age of the mini SUVs in India is dawning in a few days with the showcase of Duster, EcoSport and a Maruti concept at Pragati Maidan on the 5th and 6th of January 2012. Unconfirmed reports in the media talk about hungry Hyundai, aspiring to compete across segments, working out a compact SUV. We had SRK predict the outcome if such is the situation last month.
Mahindra's S101 and S102 are in the pipeline to enter the same ring. Nissan is closely watching the performance of its alliance partner's Duster to take a call on its participation. Honda's staying mum, whether or not the Brio's underpinnings is suitable for a sedan and SUV remains unanswered. Toyota's third product on the Etios platform has to be either a MPV or an SUV. It has confirmed its interest in filling the gap left by the Qualis in the future.
Have we left out any important names?
Oh yes, Tata Motors!
The company that was once sitting pretty with Indica, Sumo, Safari and Indigo carlines is not having the best times since the competition decided to change gears. In the last two years, apart from the existing models that have changed clothes, the entry of Volkswagen, Ford and Nissan in the volumes segment has not made life easy for the Vista.
Plenty of additions provide buyers new and perhaps better options. The Etios and re-positioned Fiesta Classic did not steal the Manza's thunder, but the new Dzire ready for an early 2012 launch should be giving it the creeps. While the well-equipped, more-comfortable, better-handling Aria struggled to cross three-digit sales on several months, Mahindra exercises freedom to revise prices upward and tell customers to wait for the Aria's competing model.
The Safari is in a better position now as it prepares for a complete makeover. The Grande received cosmetic updates and new ad campaigns, the results will soon be out. The little Nano almost suffered a heart attack before Tata set things in order with a 2012 edition car. The Indica eV2 has pushed up Indica sales and the Sumo Gold promises to do the same. The bottom line is some of these operations can bring only short-term benefits.
Which brings us back to the title - Will inserting a product into a relatively untapped segment revoke long-term interest in Tata's passenger car lineup? Can they bring back the Sierra dressed as a smart SUV using the parts bin of the Indica Vista? That's the kind of product that's in sync with competition, isn't it?
A 1.3L diesel-engined sub-4 meter long SUV with a sporty stance, suspension sorted by Lotus, interiors finalized by JLR and priced a notch below Manza sounds doable. Tata's not had problems in designing good looking cars, and if it hits the mark it could set the cash registers ringing. The crowds are back in the showroom and Tata can show the world it can design cars that can challenge overseas OEMs. This can lead to a new generation of Tata models that stay on the same page as the competition or customer tastes.
What they need now, before the competition grows to another level, is a point prover.
We like to know what you feel about a possible Tata Sierra revival.