It isnt easy to follow up an ace with a winner.
Its impossible in tennis (because you dont
have to), but its imperative if you harbour ambitions
of being among the worlds elite carmakers. Thats
the goal Tata Engineering has been speeding towards for
a while now, and the Indigo, the sequel to the trailblazing
Indica, is a big step forward in the companys quest
for motoring glory.
Indigo is bigger, stronger, sturdier and more sophisticated
than its predecessor. But there are two factors common
to this sedan edition and its hatchback sibling: Tata
Engineerings vision for progress, and the spirit
of a workforce that believes it has hit a purple patch.
a tremendous breadth of talent in Tata Engineering,
says V Sumantran, the whiz who heads the passenger car
division at the company. We also have an extremely
good depth of talent in most areas, but more than anything
else, theres this can-do spirit here. This is the
sprit that at the end of the day contributes more to success
than anything else.
Indigo has imbibed plenty of this vital force while drawing
on Tata Engineerings traditional strengths. This
has resulted in a superior product that has the potential
to cruise ahead of the competition in its segment. The
essential characteristics that make the Indigo stand apart
are many: enhanced comfort, increased space, improved
engine performance and smother handling.
buyers have discriminating taste, says Dr Sumantran.
They expect a more refined car and, whether its
petrol or diesel, they want more peppiness from the vehicle.
A lot of them have drivers, so they spend more time in
the rear seat. We lengthened the Indigos wheelbase
[the distance from the centre of a cars front wheel
to the rear axle] so that the rear seat gets more space.
New seat contours, fabrics and materials ensure that the
Indigo is as comfortable as they come.
cars suspension and its engine deliver further advantages.
We spent a lot of time developing and tuning the
Indigos three-link independent suspension, in India
and in Europe, for high-speed handling and better low-speed
drive. We upped the engine horsepower to 85bhp and we
added a turbo charger to the diesel version.
The coup that Tata Engineering pulled off was in managing
to craft all this quality into the Indigo while bringing
it to life at a price that many independent observers
consider a steal. With a starting price tag of Rs 4.35
lakh and the highest-end diesel model priced at Rs 5.20
lakh, this is the most cost-competitive vehicle in the
Sumantran insists thats incidental. We havent
gone into the market with the price difference... It just
so happened that we have done this at a very attractive
price, but this is a product that doesnt need price
alone to make a mark in the market.
its seal on the market is what has Tata Engineering and
its people all charged up. The sedan space occupies about
15 per cent of Indias car market. The Indigos
arrival means that the company now has a presence in roughly
70 per cent of the countrys automobile market. But
theres more to this equation than numbers and size.
Indigo has taken us into an area we havent played
in before, explains Dr Sumantran. The sedan
segment in India is a very pop market segment. Beyond
the volume itself, theres the visibility. This is
a car for a lot of corporate people, and it is a car for
families looking for more premium transportation. For
all of these reasons it is an important segment for us
to be present in.
The initial reactions to the Indigo from industry watchers,
the media, dealers and ordinary motoring enthusiasts are
packing in the positives. Everybody has been favourably
impressed: with the space weve provided, the ride
and handling, the suspension, the engine, in fact all
the parameters we were targeting. And our dealers are
thrilled by the price.
significant reason for this glad state of affairs is the
effort Tata Engineering has put in to guard against the
kind of problems that affected the earliest avatar of
the Indica. All of our development activities [with
the Indigo] were far more structured. We ran this project
through what we call the new product introduction
process, which has a vastly better development methodology.
entailed a programmed regimen involving the testing of
different prototypes over about 2.3 million km and through
all of the cars phases. Tata Engineering placed
a whole team of its people at the Motor Industry Research
Associations specialised test facility in Britain.
We rented this place and had our team stationed
there for seven months. We were running our cars 24 hours
a day, seven days a week in extremely abusive test conditions,
with test driving both in India and Britain.
Does this mean the Indigo is ready to head down the highway
taken by the Indica, for which Tata Engineering has recently
signed a landmark deal with Rover for sale in Britain
and continental Europe? This is perhaps the first
time that an Indian-engineered automobile is going back
overseas, and will actually be used by an upscale European
manufacturer using its badge.
one thinks about how India, post independence, developed
its own cars by borrowing from foreign designs, we really
have turned things on its head. This is an enormous vote
of confidence in the capabilities and the systems of Tata
Engineering. As far as the Indigo is concerned, it is
built on the same platform and has the same plant source
as the Indica, so we have the option, whenever we choose,
to do something similar with this car.
piggyback on established global brands to accelerate the
penetration of Western markets is a strategy quite a few
companies, Japanese in particular, have adopted in the
past. Mitsubishi, as a fledgling carmaker, did it with
Chrysler and Suzuki with General Motors. For Tata Engineering,
that heaven is still some distance in the future. With
all modesty, we must say that there is a lot of work ahead
of us before we can aspire to those kinds of volumes and
that kind of success. Theres plenty to do, but I
think we are headed down the right road.
Dr Sumantran is quick to emphasise, the Indica and the
Indigo, impressive achievements as they are, comprise
the building blocks in the edifice that will help Tata
Engineering realise its car-making dreams. We want
to be a world-class auto company with a tremendous breadth
of products. This is a nice start, but theres much
to do. Happy driving.