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Tatas working on new LCV; production likely from Jan 2007

Sudha Menon

A file photo of the Ace mini-truck, which is seeing rising demand. - Paul Noronha

Pune , Jan. 3

INDIA'S largest commercial vehicle manufacturer Tata Motors is powering up its commercial vehicles business and is right now in the process of developing a light commercial vehicle, which is expected to build on the success of its Ace model that was launched last year.

The company is also simultaneously working on a range of new generation engines using common rail direct injection (CRDI) that will be ready to power its light commercial vehicles over the next 12-18 months, top sources told Business Line.

Sources said the new vehicle, learnt to have been acquired from French auto manufacturer Renault a couple of years ago, is being redesigned to suit Indian conditions at the Engineering Research Centre (ERC) in Pune. The company is firming up plans to start commercial production of the new vehicle, code named Panel V, being developed as a light intra-city people mover, by January 2007, sources told Business Line. The move is in keeping with Tata Motors Managing Director, Mr Ravi Kant's plans, who is recently learnt to have identified passenger moving vehicles, including buses, as the next big thing for the company.

Demand for Ace: "As the infrastructure in cities come under increasing load, the company foresees demand for such vehicles much like the demand for its small Ace model," sources said. The new vehicle, which will be built along the lines of others like the Mahindra Voyager, is also expected to create demand in rural and semi-urban markets.

The company is reworking the design for India and is expected to power it with one of the many new engines on its drawing board, sources said.

The company's spokesperson declined to comment on the new vehicle.

"It is not our policy to comment on future launches," he said.

The company's Pune facility, where it manufactures a range of heavy, medium and light commercial vehicles, in addition to its passenger cars, is meanwhile witnessing hectic action with new assembly lines and a paint shop being set up exclusively for the Ace, which is proving to be a money grosser within months of its launch.

Increasing capacity: "We are doubling capacities from the current level of 30,000 units annually and expect to complete this by end 2006," the spokesperson said.

"With the current capacity we are able to service just the four south Indian states and Maharashtra," he said .

Tata Motors is simultaneously stepping up production across all its commercial vehicles segments in Pune, according to sources who said the company expects to go up from the current level of 750 units/day to an estimated 1,150/day over the next year.

The company annually produces 2,25,000 commercial vehicles.

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