The new Australian distributor of Indian automotive powerhouse Tata Motors says it's here for the long haul and will not waver in its commitment to the market despite modest early sales projections.
Fusion Automotive managing director Darren Bowler told CarAdvice he has signed a five-year deal for the distribution rights of Tata vehicles in Australia, and said both parties were planning for a long future together.
“Our deal is a five-year deal, with another five optional,” Bowler said ahead of the local launch of the Tata Xenon in October.
“We’re in this for the long haul. The people at Tata said when we signed the deal, ‘We’re now married’.”
During a round-table discussion with members of Australia’s automotive media in India, Tata Motors managing director Karl Slym described the appointment of Fusion Automotive as the sole Australian distributor of Tata vehicles as the ideal way to launch the brand.
“Do we want to ship 10 Indians and a British guy to a market and say, ‘Right, go and do business there’?” Slym mused.
“No, we want a professional partner that knows how to do business in the country. They take care of the local requirements; we take care of the vehicle and the Tata Motors piece.
“That’s why the partnership is so important. We don’t know how to do business in Australia; they do.”
Bowler says Tata’s commitment to the market and the duo’s shared long-term vision would help it avoid the unfortunate fate of Opel Australia, which closed its doors just 11 months after launching into the market after failing to sustain a viable business plan.
“We’ve worked on this for a little while and we’ve directly targeted a market that has an opportunity in it,” he said.
“The light-commercial segment [accounted for] 195,000 cars last year, [and is] up 11,000 this year.
“[There are] 13 manufacturers in that particular segment with 17 models. Most of those 17 models are over $35,000. Come under $35,000 and you really struggle to find good value for money, piece of mind and a good strong brand.
“So for us it’s [about] targeting that segment, coming in with the right product and building it slowly, not coming in and spending millions of dollars on marketing, crossing your fingers and hoping it’s going to work.”
Bowler said Fusion would be aggressive in spreading the word about Tata Motors in Australia to give the brand the best possible start in the market.
“We’re not going to hold back, we’re going to spend money, we’re investing heavily to do that,” he said.
“We’re going to invest in marketing; you’re going to see us in every state in Australia, you’ll see dealerships, you’ll hear us on the radio, you’ll see billboards, you’ll see some newspaper, you’ll see us online, you’ll hear social media with Twitter and Facebook and our website.”
Bowler said his team was acutely aware of how difficult it was going to be to launch the brand in Australia but was confident it had everything in place to make Tata a long-term success.
“There are no guarantees. It’s not going to be easy and we know that. It’s a challenge, and we all live for challenges,” Bowler said.
“We’ve built at team of six people with over 100 years of automotive experience in Australia. We know the backbones and we know the job that’s got to be done.
“Having said that, nothing’s easy. We’ve still got to appoint dealers, we’ve got to motivate dealers, we’ve got to build a brand that’s not in Australia – the brand perception is very different to a lot of other brands already in Australia so we’re behind the eight ball there.
“But if you come out and do it right, take a balanced approach, talk about what your offering is and provide a benefit to the consumer, then that’s going to work in your favour at some point.”