The decade and a half old Tata Indica is long in the tooth, with the car’s form factor staying true to the first-generation model that made its debut in 1998. With a flurry of new entrants in the Indian small car market, the Indica – in its second generation – is looking increasingly dated and in need of a replacement. A replacement will come next year and will be built at Sanand, the factory that is currently configured to build the world’s least priced car, the Tata Nano.
While Tata Motors has an installed capacity to build 20,000 units of the Nano from the Sanand factory each month, the car maker is barely able to utilize 10 % of this capacity. Sales of the Nano haven’t breached the 3,000 monthly units mark for a few months now and this sales slump has led to the Sanand factory idling. The addition of a brand new hatchback is expected to result in better capacity utilization at Sanand.
Why is Tata Motors planning to re-configure its Sanand factory?
The Sanand factory was set up to primarily build the Nano hatchback, and Tata Motors envisaged yearly sales of about 240,000 units of the world’s least priced car. Although Tata Motors has big plans for the Nano including a variant with a larger, petrol engine and an AMT variant, sales of the hatchback isn’t expected to hit the 20,000 monthly units mark anytime in the near future.
With the Nano Diesel also being shelved for the foreseeable future, Tata Motors is in need of an urgent course correction to cut its losses and improve utilization at its Sanand factory. That many vendors have set up ancillary units at Sanand, on the promise of the Nano doing big volumes isn’t helping things either. Therefore, the pressure on Tata Motors to come up with a new product from Sanand is very apparent.
The new hatchback that Tata Motors is developing to replace the Indica eV2 is code-named the Kite. This platform will also play host to a compact sedan, which will replace the Indigo eCS. Both the Kite hatchback and the compact sedan car models will be launched next year. Since the Kite compact sedan will share most parts with its hatchback sibling, the compact sedan will also be built at Sanand.
Expect the Kite hatchback and compact sedan to feature petrol and turbo diesel engines. The 1.05 liter-3 cylinder turbo diesel (65 Bhp-140 Nm) motor that Tata Motors showcased in the Manza Hybrid is a possible engine option for the new hatchback and compact sedan. Expect a turbo petrol motor and automated manual transmission technology (AMT) to play a prominent role in the upcoming Kite range of cars.