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At Sanand plant, Tata Motors crawls towards launching Tiago

The much anticipated hatchback Tiago from Tata Motors' stable seems to be maneuvering its way through unfortunate roadblocks; first a name change thanks to the deadly Zika virus, and now even as the company opens bookings for the car, the manufacturing site is yet to resolve the workmen strike issue.

The company commenced bookings for the car (earlier named Zica) that has been designed with inputs from Pune, UK and Italy's design studios from Thursday, March 10. Anyone above 18 years of age can book a Tiago either online or at any of the Tata Motors' authorised dealership with a payment of Rs 10,000, and grab an opportunity to go to Barcelona to meet the soccer sensation Lionel Messi.

Experts believe that as the company goes full-throttle with promotions around its new offering, the initial bookings are likely to be a healthy number. The car will sport a 1.2-litre Revotron petrol engine rival Maruti Celerio, Hyundai i10 and Chevrolet Beat in its category. The pricing too is expected to be competitive, below Rs 4 lakh for the entry-level model.

Abdul Majeed, partner, PwC India said, "This vehicle has many good features and with the attractive pricing should do well in the market places, the key is they need manage supply side constraints to speed up the delivery."

However, the Sanand manufacturing site of the company, which was earlier making Nano, is marred by worker trouble since the end of the last month.

Worker and vendor sources informed that before trouble brewed at the site, Sanand plant was making around 100 Tiagos in a day, and an inventory of at least over 1,000-1,400 cars has been built. However, once the workers (about 422 of them initially) went on a flash strike since February 22, the production has come down to around 50 cars per day.

The Sanand plant is thus crawling towards the much anticipated launch from Tata this year.

The company, however, has claimed repeatedly that the plant operations are continuing and that there has been no significant production loss due to the strike. When asked about the inventory built up for the Tiago launch, a Tata Motors spokesperson said,"As mentioned earlier, the plant remains operational and we are on track for the car launch. We do not usually offer details around car inventory etc."

Striking workers (a portion of them have already resumed work in the past week or so), however, seem to disagree. "The production of the car had touched its peak in January, when the plan was to make around 250-300 Tiagos per day. However, the pace of production is obviously down since then, as bulk of the permanent workers who are skilled are abstaining from work," said a worker.

The way things are moving, the issue of workmen strike looks unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. They have recently garnered support from organisations like Gujarat Khedut Samaj, and are planning to move the Gujarat High Court on the matter.

Raising the pressure on its workmen, the company has set a deadline of March 11, this Friday, for the striking workmen to join back, failing which it would take legal action. The labour department has prohibited the strike under clause 10(3) of the Industrial Disputes Act 1947 on March 2.