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Tata dares rivals to fight in marketplace
Rakesh Pathak in New Delhi | January 10, 2008 14:08 IST
Saddened by a spate of 'unfortunate controversies' that his dream economy car evoked right from the conception stage, Tata group chief Ratan Tata on Thursday dared competitors to slug it out in the market and not elsewhere.
"In the marketplace, the best wins. I am quite willing to fight in the marketplace. I urge all players to fight in the market," Tata told editors before he launched 'Nano', popularly known as the Rs 1-lakh (Rs 100,000) car. He expressed anguish at the fact that all kinds of attack had been made on the project - from surface to behind.
Listing out controversies that had brewed regarding the car being a pressure on fossil fuel and not meeting emission and safety issues, he said, "I am somewhat sad that Indians are becoming the greatest critics. Why do we cut us down. Market will decide. Not you or us. If we succeed, we will have broken new ground."
Answering a wide range of queries from the controversies to the cost and the expectations during a free flowing discussion, Tata said though there was global visibility, but it was one of "disbelief and not of expectations."
What started off as a social issue to provide affordable safe transport as an alternate to two-wheelers, could become an attractive business with the Tata Motors [Get Quote] working on variants to the economy car for upmarket buyers, he noted.
"I don't think we are boxed into a corner. We never said that it will be a Rs 1-lakh car, but it was media speculation that we accepted as a challenge. The concept started as a social issue and not as a business or philanthropy. There will be a base model and several variants for upmarket (consumers) that will add up as an attractive business prospect," he said.
On whether a competitor could develop a cheaper car than theirs, Tata said it was quite possible as there can be others with more composite solutions in mind using different material. "Hopefully, we can break this barrier," he quipped.
Taking a dig at competitors, he said: "We set out to do what people said is not possible. It is the same people that are following. This is a vindication of our concept. I have the satisfaction that we are leading."
Tatas took Maruti [Get Quote]-800, the cheapest four-wheeler that dominated the Indian market for nearly two decades, as the benchmark for their project and the outcome was a car that was 8 per cent shorter in length but 21 per cent more spacious from inside compared to the once bread-and-butter car of Maruti Suzuki.
"This will give a fuel efficiency of fifty miles to a gallon which works out to more than 20 km to a litre," Tata said.
Dubbing the launch of the car as an important milestone in the history, the 71-year-old corporate leader, ranked among the most powerful business executives across the globe by Fortune, said that his biggest concern was the surging inflation in steel, etc.
"We don't know till what time we will be able to hold the price to the level that is expected," he said but debunked suggestions that the opening price would be just an invitation offer.
Giving details of the project, Tata Motors managing director Ravi Kant said the cost of the project, both product designing and factory, was in the range of Rs 1,500 crore (Rs 15 billion) to Rs 1,700 crore (Rs 17 billion), almost the same level of Indica.
"The cost of the project remains almost unchanged even after 10 years but the new facilities are also bigger," he said.