Managing director of Tata's Australian distributor Fusion Automotive, Darren Bowler, told CarAdvice while the company’s Indian-made vehicles would be well priced, it had no intention of engaging in a price war with Chinese rival Great Wall.
“No, not at all,” Bowler insisted. “We don’t plan to be the cheapest in market; that is not our mission. We’ll leave that up to the Chinese.
“Our plan is to offer value with a brand that is offering value and representing it as that.”
Tata will officially launch in Australia in October with the Xenon ute. Precise details of the vehicle are yet to be confirmed, though CarAdvice understands it will be significantly better equipped than the vehicle that is currently sold out of sole independent dealer Upton’s Motors in Yandina, Queensland.
The Xenon sold by Tata Motors under Fusion Automotive will trade the Euro 4 diesel engine of the vehicle sold by Upton’s Motors for a newer and cleaner-emitting Euro 5 diesel, and is also expected to improve on that car’s sparse interior and zero airbag count.
Bowler acknowledged that safety was one of the leading concerns of new-vehicle customers in Australia, and insisted it would be a priority for every car the brand brought to our market.
“Safety is certainly a high priority for us. Once we announce the specification, people will be pleasantly surprised with safety aspect of the car.”
Bowler said Fusion and Tata had great respect for Australia’s independent crash tester ANCAP and planned to work in a close partnership to ensure consumers had accurate information about the level of safety offered by its vehicles.
“I wouldn’t like to even gauge what star rating the vehicle would be.
“It’s certainly up to ANCAP to do that and test that and we’ll allow that to happen and work with them in making that happen.”
Bowler said while value and safety were priorities for Tata, the brand’s unique selling point in Australia would be the strength of its vehicles.
“[Tata has] been involved in commercial vehicles for many, many years and the product is just built tough,” he said.
“It’s built to cater for tough environments, tough conditions. It’s built to be treated in a tough manner, and I think the point of difference we’re going to do when we come into this market is we’re going to have a vehicle that is ready-made for Australian conditions – whether they’re driving on the road with the family or working out in the bush with a tradie or in a mine.”
Fusion plans to have 13 Tata dealerships across the country by the end of this year and 25 before the start of 2015.
Specific details of the dealership will be revealed in the coming weeks, though Bowler all but confirmed Upton’s would be among the initial network.
“He has applied for a franchise, as have a number of other dealers, so we will certainly favour him in terms of looking after him for a local franchise.
“He’s done the right thing by the Tata brand for a number of years so we’ll certainly support him in that aspect.
“Our focus is on the key markets, on what the vehicle is, on what we have coming in, and where we need to place that car, so we’ll focus on that market first.
“We’ve already had a number of discussions with many dealers and we’ve got handshakes in place with probably 15 dealers.”
Bowler confirmed Fusion was looking to expand beyond 25 dealership quickly from 2015.
“We obviously have volume aspirations for the brand on what we want to do and where we want to position it,” he said.
“That’s going to rely heavily on our dealer network, the representation of our dealers, and where they’re located.”
Bowler said while he had volume forecasts for Tata, he would not be bullish on hitting aspirational numbers but rather focus on the brand’s stability and growth.
“My key plan is to look after our dealer network and ensure that our dealer network represents the brand in the right way, and it’s not a brand that’s shoved in the corner of a caryard with a canvas sign hanging up.
“It’s got to be represented in the right manner.”