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'Impact' effect to fuel change at Tata Motors

JLR, commercial vehicle drive Tata Motors' growth

  A decade ago, National Institute of Design graduate Pratap Bose made a daring presentation to Tata Group scion Ratan Tata about what Tata Motors’ design stands for and what it should be.

At the time, Tata Motors was the country’s second largest car maker but its designs were not hot favourites. Bose, who’d by then worked with Daimler and Piaggio, rooted for a sharper and more aggressive change to Tata’s design in his vision statement. Ratan Tata disagreed with Bose’s understanding about Tata designs but believed he could be ‘a very helpful addition’ to the company. After five years at Tata Motor’s UK design studio, Bose was made head of design of the company in 2011.

In the past, Tata Motors had been accused of producing cars with boring looks, and outdated design. The Indica, Indigo, Manza, Vista and Aria carried the same design themes, which struggled to excite buyers.

This once even prompted a longtime shareholder to raise the issue at the company’s annual general meeting, also the last one for Ratan Tata. “Why do all Tata cars look the same? Why can’t you launch stylish models?” he’d asked.

Bose’s new design theme is set to change that. Earlier this year, he brought a new design language, ‘Impact’. The first launch under this was of the Tiago (formerly the Zica). Sculpted look, sharp lines running around the body, wraparound tail lamps and aggressive forward stance became standout factors, compared to the older Tata cars.

“You can either win or lose a customer within the first 20 seconds of his seeing the car. Impact design is exactly about creating an immediate and lasting impact. This journey of change has begun with the Tiago,” said Bose.  

At 22,000 bookings in a little over two months, the Tiago has become the most successful Tata car since the 2008 launch of the Nano mini car, which saw 203,000 bookings. A waiting period of eight to 12 weeks has not defused buyer enthusiasm.

Bose promises that what the Tiago started in design will be carried forward by all the launches Tata Motors has committed. Next is an SUV, the Hexa. Followed by a compact sedan, based on Tiago, and a compact SUV, the Nexon.

Unlike in the past, when Tata cars were largely confined to the domestic market, these next-gen models will carry globally appealing design and styling, ready to compete against giants like General Motors, Ford or Volkswagen.

“We are pushing for designs that are globally attractive and not only to one market. We have designers from eight nationalities working with us, who provide inputs. The challenge is to design futuristic cars with a global appeal and carry the Tata DNA,” added Bose. The buyout of Jaguar Land Rover helped Tata Motors gain global recognition. Therefore, a globally appealing design for its own cars is important. However, Tata Motors is not keen to have any influence of JLR products on the design or styling.

“Jaguar, Land Rover and Tata brand cars have individual and distinct personalities, and different customer profiles. While some process and best practices are shared and adapted to the Tata Motors design and development process, the three brands maintain separate design identities to strengthen their market positions,” said Bose.