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Caterham's India plans revealed

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Caterham India, a subsidiary of the Burman owned Dabur group is setting up operations in India. In an exclusive tete-a-tete with BS Motoring, Ansar Ali, Managing Director, Caterham Cars and Matt Cummings, CEO, Caterham Cars India said that the brand would be officially available in India, come 2012.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

BSM: Caterham is a relatively unknown brand in India. How easy or difficult will it be for you to establish the brand?

Ansar Ali: Given the scale and size of the country, yes it will be difficult and we are not underestimating the job at hand. Our association with F1 (Lotus F1 team - Tony Fernandes owned), the internet and with drivers like Karun Chandhok being part of the team, we think will also aid us in our growth.

BSM: Your compatriot, Lotus Cars believes in going upmarket and becoming a 'cool' brand. Does Caterham harbour such a future?

Ansar Ali: We don't foresee a change in the way we do things. We follow Colin Chapman's policy of being lightweight and focussed. This is exactly what you find in the Caterham 7 and will find in our future products as well. The cars are engaging for the driver, pure in their responses and there is a strong interface between driver and the road. All of this presents an opportunity for us to be different and we plan to be this way.

BSM: Caterhams fall under the sub USD 40,000 and sub 3.0-litre category which requires homologation. When do you plan to begin the process?

Ansar Ali: By early next year (i.e. 2012), Caterham India will import a car for just this purpose. The homologation process will begin immediately.

BSM: With CBU plans for the near future, do you envisage assembly in India at some point? Would you use India as an export base for, say the Asia-Pacific region?

Ansar Ali: We plan to use the whole experience as a learning process (India will be the third assembly point for Caterham globally after the UK and US). There will be changes made to the Indian cars pertaining to Indian road and fuel conditions. We've just learnt that Ford's Duratec engines are also manufactured here in India so we could look at some sort of sourcing strategy. Not just for engines, but even tyres and batteries. This will be done before we can get type approval. We will begin assembly of the first Indian cars by Q1 2012. We don't plan to use India as an export base for other markets.

Matt Cummings: We plan to price the cars in the range of Rs 28 to 90 lakh. Our entire product range will be offered, including all gearbox, engine variations and combinations. Our cars will be EU5 compliant with both road and road & track cars being offered right here.

BSM: Tell us more about your future products and future lineup

Ansar Ali: We are currently developing an all-new car that will be launched in 2014. This car will be priced in the range of GBP 30,000 to 50,000 in the UK (we at BSM guess it will be positioned next to the likes of the BMW Z4 and Porsche Boxster). It will be quite different from the Caterham 7 but will continue to be based on Chapman's ethos of being lightweight and involving to drive. A lot of technology will be derived from our F1 programme.

BSM: With the Buddh International Circuit in place and two more tracks down south, do you harbour the dream of a one-make race series like the one you currently have in the UK?

Ansar Ali: We are seriously contemplating a one-make series in India and it will be on the lines of our current programme in the UK. We are setting up a Caterham academy for novice drivers in India and it will be a progression programme. We do realise motorsport is still fairly nascent in India but we expect it to grow substantially in the coming years. Since we already have an F1 programme, it will be tied to it in one way or another and who knows, some of our drivers could make it to F1 someday. We will run the series in a manner that will make things transparent for the drivers, whether it's pricing or sponsorship.