Tata Motors plans low-cost composite material cars

Tata Motors is apparently planning to build a series of low-cost composite cars that will co-exist along with the Tata Nano. However, it isn’t clear when these cars will be launched, as the Tata team is divided over its overall viability. 

2012 tata nano

According to a report in The Economic Times, Tata staffers belong to two schools of thought on these new cars, with one lot saying that the existing car business needs to be stabilized before getting into newer segments and non-conventional technology (what no steel body from Tata?), while the others group thinks this would complement the Tata Nano quite well.

Nearly a year ago, Tata announced that its air car program of developing a car that runs only on compressed air had entered its second phase of testing. Tata was using light-weight materials for that project too. Also read: Coming soon, a Tata Nano that runs on air

Composite vehicles are usually made of carbon-fibre, which is quite an expensive material seen only in high-end sports cars and Formula One cars. To reduce costs Tata is apparently planning on using polydiallylphthalate (PDP), which is a lightweight plasticky material. This is quite strong and would reduce the overall weight of the vehicle, and reduce the number of parts required to assemble it, as each panel is a single mould.

The material is much cheaper than the conventional steel and aluminium panelling used in cars, and is apparently safe as well. The report states that the composite car has already been crash-tested at Tata’s Pune factory, although development is being carried out in Italy.

Tata has apparently bought the technology and design from Marcello Gandini, who helped design the materials that go into supercars such as the Lamborghini range. However, it will be a while before these cars hit the market in India.

In the meantime, what is likely is that Tata may first develop a new premium hatchback at a lower price point, built on an upgrade of the existing Tata Indica platform. Also read: Tata Nano to get facelift and new CNG variant

Cars that are not made from steel are not new in India. The upcoming Mahindra E20 uses a fibre-glass body shell, as does the niche San Storm, that didn’t quite catch on. Years ago, Sipani Motors used fibre-glass bodies for the Dolphin, Montana and D1 hatchbacks. Share your thoughts on this new development from Tata.

Source: The Economic Times