| PUNE, India, June 19
PUNE, India, June 19 India's Tata Motors
on Wednesday launched eight upgrades of existing
models, including a CNG-fuelled version of its low-cost Nano,
but said little about plans for completely new vehicles to help
reverse sliding car sales in India.
In recent quarters, strong performance at its luxury Jaguar
Land Rover unit has helped compensate for weak passenger car
sales at home, where Tata is losing market share to rivals
Hyundai Motor Co and Maruti Suzuki, which
last year launched its successful Ertiga multi-purpose vehicle.
"There have been new launches by Tata's competitors every
year, but as far as the company is concerned, they have just
been launching refreshed or slightly modified versions of their
existing cars," said Yaresh Kothari, analyst at Mumbai-based
Tata Motors' passenger vehicle sales fell 15 percent in the
financial year that ended in March. It has also lost traction in
the sport utility vehicle (SUV) segment, where it was once the
market leader, to local rival Mahindra and Mahindra.
The Nano, launched to great fanfare in 2009 as the world's
cheapest car, has been a disappointing seller, with sales down
27 percent in the last financial year to 53,848. The company has
not launched an all-new Tata-branded passenger vehicle since its
Aria crossover in 2010.
Karl Slym, who previously headed the India operations of
General Motors, became Tata Motors' managing director in
October and has been tasked with reversing its market share fall
at a time when high interest rates and rising ownership costs
have forced many Indians to put off car purchases.
Annual car sales in India fell for the first time in a
decade in the financial year that ended in March and are
expected to rise just 3-5 percent in the current year.
"We are not going to come up with a brand new vehicle today,
after that short period of time," Slym told reporters on
Wednesday at the company's plant in the western city of Pune.
"We have a product portfolio plan through to 2020," he said,
adding that new products would be both in existing Tata Motors
segments as well as in new segments. "We don't play in a couple
of segments which have shown growth. We don't have a soft roader
SUV," he said.
SUVs, especially compact SUVs and soft roaders, or those
used mainly on city roads such as Renault's Duster,
have been a bright spot for the auto market in India, where
sales fell for the seventh consecutive month in May.
Earlier this week Ford Motor Co began shipping its
locally made EcoSport compact SUV. Tata Motors
also has plans to launch a mini-SUV.
Tata plans to invest more than 75 billion rupees ($1.28
billion) in its passenger vehicle business over the next five
years. Less than 30 percent of that has been earmarked for
facilities or upgrading hardware, leaving the rest for new
"The company needs to launch a new vehicle on an all-new
platform at a competitive price," Kothari said.