Eight refreshed cars and a fresh gameplan: Can Tata make a comeback?

Tata launches EIGHT refreshed cars as part of its comeback “Horizonext” strategy

Let’s face it. Somewhere along the way Tata lost the plot and slipped from being India’s number two carmaker, down to number five. And it let arch-rival Mahindra zoom to the number three spot. Both companies are really quite similar, but Tata boasts of a larger portfolio of cars. Tata concedes it did screw up somewhere, but now it’s time to make amends.

Karl Slym, managing director of Tata Motors, and the former MD who gave General Motors India a much-needed boost is the man on the job now, having joined the company in October 2012. He’s trying to clean up the company’s act and “Horizonext” is the new mantra he’s coined to give the company a new “consumer focus”. Also read: All you wanted to know about compact sedans

Here’s how Slym’s new gameplan is playing out:

Eight refreshed cars

First, Tata wanted to breathe some life into its ailing product range and make its cars a lot more desirable – making sure they meet buyers’ needs. To that effect, it has brought out three cars with all new styling – the Tata Nano, the Tata Indigo eCS and the Tata Sumo Gold. The other four are CNG versions of the Nano, Indigo and Indica, as well as an Indica with more features. And then there’s the Tata Safari Storme Explorer edition – which has a lot of external kit added to it.

The Tata Nano is the most significant in this list, as it now comes with built in body-coloured speakers, a music system, parcel tray and two glove boxes. The car also has some minor external changes such as a refreshed rear bumper with additional air vents and chrome garnish. The steering system of the Nano has been improved and made even lighter – although it’s not a power-assisted steering system. Also read: Tata Indigo eCS, a penny-pinching sedan

The Indigo eCS gets a new styling package which includes smoked twin-beam headlamps, a new grille, new instrument cluster, improved dashboard, indicators on the mirrors, and ABS and parking sensors on the top-end VX variant. Mid variant LX also gets power adjustable mirrors. The car also features a chilled glove box and additional bottle holders. The LX and VX also have a Bluetooth-enabled music system as well. Watch video: Tata Indigo eCS VX video review

Mechanically the biggest changes are to the suspension and the gearbox. It features a new F-shift (supposedly feather-light shift) gearshift mechanism that is pretty easy to use and doesn’t feel as notchy or hard like the earlier gear shift. It also has improvements made to the suspension that have improved steering feel and ride quality. Also read: Tata Nano to get a facelift and new CNG variant

The Tata Nano CNG variant goes on sale in September officially and cars should begin shipping in the next few weeks. Expect Tata Nano prices to rise as the car is now being positioned differently – as a proper entry level car rather than a bridge between two-wheelers and four-wheelers.

Consumer focus

Karl Slym said Tata Motors has a gameplan that will continue to 2020. Although at the moment the company does not have any “all-new” product that it will start developing from scratch, it plans to do that over the next few years. Also watch: 2012 Tata Nano video review

It now wants to focus on service quality and dealership experience. The company plans to improve the sales experience and service experience at 150 dealerships by end of this year and is training its people for that. There’s a lot that needs to change at Tata, and this seems to be a start in the right direction.

Watch this space for more detailed views on the Tata cars listed above, as we got to travel around the plant watching the entire manufacturing process and experience some of the cars on a test track. And some snippets from a conversation we had with Karl Slym.

(CarToq was invited by Tata Motors to its plant in Pune on June 19, 2013)