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`Indigo is not Indica with boot space' - Dr V. Sumantran, Executive Director, Tata Engineering

R.Y. Narayanan

COIMBATORE, Dec. 27

ONE of the most eagerly awaited automobile story of the year is out with the launch of Tata Engineering's Indigo car, with the Tatas seeking to re-define the C segment of the car market by launching a product loaded with features and pricing it aggressively.

There have been comments that the new product is a look alike of Tata Engineering's mid-size Indica with only a boot in addition and that the price is not a factor that would influence a buyer in the C segment who looks for value, for advanced features, for refinement, etc.

Indigo's launch has been a smooth affair and its competitive pricing has come at a time when many other car manufacturers are preparing to hike the prices of different models.

In an interview to Business Line, Dr V. Sumantran, Executive Director, Passenger Car Business Unit and Engineering Research Centre, Tata Engineering, Mumbai, shares his thoughts about the product.

Excerpts from the interview:

Can you explain the mandate Mr Ratan Tata gave to the team that designed and produced Indigo - in terms of design, the segment where he wanted to place it, etc. Did he mention any specific time-frame by which he wanted the product to be on the road?

The brief was given to the Tata Engineering team about two years ago. This brief called for designing and delivering to the C segment in India a car that would offer more space, more comfort, better ride and handling and improved performance than any other C segment competitor. This, the team has more than delivered and Mr Tata has been pleased with their work and the reception of the car in the market.

You have been very aggressive in the pricing of Indigo. Have you made any compromise on margins for the purpose of achieving volumes or do you still make a profit at this price? Will it go up after some time?

We do not comment on our margin, but suffice to say that we are not doing anything foolish. The careful execution of a manufacturing and platform strategy coupled with disciplined project execution has allowed us to offer a better car for the money than many had predicted was possible in the C-segment.

What steps have you taken to see that the initial problems of Indica are not repeated in Indigo?

First of all, this project was executed using a much more rigorous product development process (NPI - New Product Introduction process). The project leader, Mr Hiray, ran this programme with more frequent and more structured project reviews with senior management. The Indigo prototypes have covered more than 3.6 million kilometres using even more aggressive durability tests - more than we have done before.

We have used more prototypes during this phase and apart from all our extended testing in India, we also stationed a team in the UK at a specialist test facility (MIRA) for almost seven months to add to all the tests done in India.

There have been some comments - uncharitable, probably - that you have only added a boot to Indica to make Indigo. What is your reaction to that? What are the differences in the fundamental attributes of the two vehicles?

Such comments do not consider the ground reality. This is particularly so, remembering that the Indigo uses new suspension (3-link independent), longer wheel base (by 50 mm) and new engines (85 hp petrol and for the first time in this segment, a turbo-charged diesel).

Many competitors offer much less differentiation between their products. We have taken the decision to offer these updates to address the needs of the customer in the C segment with more emphasis on space, comfort, ride and handling and power.

Are you focussing on aggressive pricing of Indigo as a marketing tool or would you like to highlight the fundamental values of the new vehicle to drive your sales?

The Indian customer is extremely intelligent and knows when he or she gets exceptional value. This car possesses superior attributes and with its pricing, offers the customer the best they can get in this segment.

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