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Rediff News  All News  » Business » Tata walks the big promise

Tata walks the big promise

January 11, 2008 03:06 IST

One could be imagining it, but Ratan Tata's voice seemed to waver a little before he finished his speech at the launch of the Nano small car with 'A promise is a promise.'

The speech, short, crisp and delivered with feeling, saw Tata take head-on all the criticism targeted at him and Tata Motors in the four years that the car was under development.

Coverage: Nano - The World's Cheapest Car

It ended on a triumphant note as Tata emphasised that he had delivered on his promise to provide a car that was more affordable than any other in the world.

'Bigger day than Indica launch'

While Tata spoke, some statements made by rivals and critics flashed on a screen behind him. One of them was a quote of Suzuki Motor Chairman O Suzuki that Tata Motors would not be able to make such a cheap car.

Clearly, it was a big day for the entire Tata Group. And high-ranking executives of frontline companies Tata Steel, Indian Hotels and holding company Tata Sons were there to applaud the chief.

RK Krishnakumar, head of the group's hotels business, said this was bigger than the launch of the Indica, which had marked the entry of Tata Motors into the small passenger car segment. This, he said, was history being made.

'Less polluting than 2-wheelers'

Tata began benignly, a little loftily even, likening the car to breakthrough inventions in mobility – the aeroplane, bicycle and motorised two-wheelers, even computers.

Then he set about addressing criticism and concern over whether the car would meet emission and safety norms.

"This car is less polluting than a two-wheeler. It has passed the crash tests required in the country and will undergo side and offset tests required for European markets. It conforms to Bharat III emission norms and this engine will meet the Euro IV norms. Dr Pachauri need not have nightmares, and Sunita Narain can sleep at night."

RK Pachauri, chairman of the Inter-government Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and Narain, who heads the Centre for Science and Environment, had expressed worries over the impact of the car on the environment.

'Rating agencies are clinical'

"We had some unsolicited suggestions for the name of the car. Some said we should call it Buddhu Car. Some suggested Mamta, or Despite Mamata."

The first was perhaps meant to be a tribute to West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who has stood firm in his support for the Tata Motors' unit in Singur, where the Nano will be made. Mamata Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress leader, is opposed to the project.

At the press conference that followed, Tata was triumphant and defiant.

When some representatives of the foreign media expressed concerns over the country's infrastructure and the likely increase in traffic congestion due to the small car, he said: "If there is chaos today and our vehicle has not contributed to it, there are some other reasons. India desperately needs investments in mass transport systems and infrastructure. Unfortunately, these are areas my colleagues and I do not deal with."

Of late, some global rating agencies have downgraded, or are threatening to downgrade Tata Motors. Tata's response bordered on nonchalance. "Rating agencies have a clinical way of giving ratings based on the level of borrowings. That is the way they work and we have to accept it."

Recalling the struggle that the project has been through, Tata said, "The toughest part was continuing to believe that we could do it." Triumphant and defiant as he was, Tata would have also been a very relieved man today.

Short Takes:

  • South Korean carmaker Hyundai Motors on Thursday said it will increase the prices of most of its models by January 12. The company decided to increase the price of the 'i10' by Rs 5,000.
  • General Motors India unveiled five new products, including the all terrain Hummer H3 and premium luxury sedan Cadillac CTS, at the Auto Expo.
  • Honda Motor Co Ltd will launch its Civic hybrid car in India in 2008, said its head of India operations.
  • Yamaha Motor Corp will invest $178-$203 million in its Indian unit over three years, said its chief executive.
  • French auto maker Renault plans to invest $1 billion to set up a new plant near the southern Indian city of Chennai, the company said. The new unit will produce 400,000 cars, both Renault and Nissan models, annually, according to a statement.