TATA MOTORS HAS RESEARCH CENTER IN THE UK
Tata Motors is looking to the UK to direct the R&D for its operations, even for vehicles which it plans to never sell in Europe. Although Tata is synonymous with Indian industry, its international credentials are also strong. Its presence in the UK dates well back into the 19th century and it is now, by some measures, the biggest overseas investor in the country, owning Corus — the former British Steel and its Dutch counterpart Hoogovens, Jaguar Landrover and Tetley tea, the second-largest tea brand in the UK.
Although Tata Motors’ bosses are adamant that the commercial vehicles, buses and company-badged passenger models such as the Indica, the Indica Vista and the Nano — the world’s cheapest production car — are strictly for its home market and for regions such as Southeast Asia, Africa and South America, they still choose to locate the R&D for Tata Motors in the UK, the home of its premium automotive brands. In Spain it owns the Hispano Carrocera bus manufacturer, which sells its vehicles mainly in Europe, using chassis from local OEM’s. For sales outside Europe these buses are also built on Tata chassis.
Tata Motors has an international network of R&D, including engineers at the Warwick Manufacturing Group and a design studio in Turin as part of the Tata Motors European Technical Centre. In general, all the early-stage development is done in the UK, as well as overseeing overall R&D from there. For example, the Nano Pixel concept vehicle, a small-turning circle, regenerative braking-equipped city car based on a version of the Nano upgraded to EU safety and emission standards, was originated at Warwick, with design and concept developed there, with the final concept vehicle exhibited at the Geneva Motor Show built by a specialist firm in Frankfurt.
The connection between the Warwick Manufacturing Group and Tata with regard to commercial vehicles, was laid through South Korean manufacturer Daewoo who ordered a new line of trucks from Warwick. After dismantling Daewoo, this truck line was acquired by Tata.
Like the rest of the Tata Group, Tata Motors is setting into motion a business plan to take it up to 2020. ‘We’re looking at expanding in many markets all around the world,’ said managing director Karl Slym. ‘In fact, North America is the only region outside the scope of our 2020 horizon.’ Eastern Europe is a target market, he said, notably for commercial vehicles; the company is also considering expanding its defence vehicles business, which builds mine-protected vehicles and currently supplies the Indian army along with markets in South and Southeast Asia. This is, in part, a response to falling sales in both the commercial and passenger vehicle markets, as the global recession bites — somewhat later than it did in Europe, but still a cause for concern. Tata maintains a 68 per cent market share of the medium and heavy vehicles markets, but is selling half as many actual vehicles as five years ago.