The new Australian distributor of Tata Motors hopes to offer a full range of passenger and commercial vehicles over the coming years, but says the Tata Nano isn't headed our way in the foreseeable future.
Fusion Automotive managing director Darren Bowler told CarAdvice the brand had ambitions to expand its line-up following the launch of its first model – to be revealed as the Xenon ute – in October this year. But he confirmed the pint-sized Nano, known widely as the world’s cheapest car, was not part of its plans for the Australian market.
“I’ve driven the Nano and seen the line-up and it’s the perfect car for Indian road conditions and consumers in India but certainly for Australia it wouldn’t work,” Bowler admitted.
“It’s just not the car, and where they have that car positioned in their portfolio… they’re working on a number of different things with that brand at the moment. For us the Nano is not in our plans in the near future.”
The first Tata passenger could in fact be a long way from reaching local showrooms, with Bowler admitting there are currently no models in the Indian manufacturer’s global portfolio that would satisfy Australian standards.
“I’d like to say yes, [but] today no,” he said.
“We did look at a number of the passenger cars but where we believe those vehicles would be positioned safety-wise… they have not been designed to meet ANCAP safety ratings and Australia has not been on that radar when those vehicles were developed and produced.”
Bowler confirmed, however, that the brand’s launch into Australia meant the demands of our market would now be considered in the development of future Tata passenger models.
“Surprisingly we have a bit of input now and that’s one of the things that really gained my attention,” he said.
“I gained the respect of the Tata people very quickly because they wanted to know about Australia, about our market, about our consumer, about what the product needs were, what the feature content would be, and especially about safety.
“They were very focused on that and very much value our input on that, so going forward we do have input on that and from a product planning point of view they certainly value our input as well.”
Bowler said Tata’s ownership of premium British pair Jaguar and Land Rover also promised to have a significant impact on its next-generation vehicles.
“The ownership that Tata have of Jaguar and Land Rover and [the] technology sharing that is now taking place from an engineering point of view [and] from a design point of view, the opportunity in the future with Tata product is tremendous.
“It’s amazing to walk into the Tata factory and see the amount of engineers from the UK and listen to their Pommy accents around a vehicle assembly plant.”
A more likely starting place for Tata’s Australian expansion appears to be in the heavy-commercial and bus segments, with Bowler believing there is opportunity in our market for those larger vehicles.
“I certainly think there is room for heavy-commercial to come into that market at some point in time and I also think there’s room for buses at some point in time.
“I think the bus availability is very limited in choice. There is an opportunity in the future to look at the bus market and head down that path, but again it’s certainly some time away and it’s once we establish the brand and our dealer network and where we go with our light-commercial vehicle.
“We have a number of conversations going on in all of those areas but until we have a vehicle that we believe meets the needs of the Australian consumer in each of those segments we won’t bring anything in until it meets our requirements from a safety point of view and from a consumer demand point of view as well.”
Fusion Automotive plans to have 13 Tata dealers across the country by the end of this year and double that number in 2014.