Ratan Tata says there’s no case — referring to the pejorative frequently used to describe the Nano’s sales at various fora.
“Yes, we made a mistake after we clocked sales of 100,000. We did not get our marketing act together after reaching that number,” Tata told editors at a breakfast meeting in New Delhi on Thursday.
“There is effort to discredit the vehicle. We never promoted it as a poor man’s car, but as an affordable car. But whatever stigma is there, we’ll work to overcome that. It’s not a flop, but sure we wasted opportunities,” said the 74-year-old maven.
“We had a role in emphasising the need for a frugal car. And I see resurrection of this car over the next couple of months,” Tata said.
On Jaguar Land-Rover, he said it would be “stupid” to merge it with Tata Motors. Both are great assets that need to be restored to their old glories, according to Tata.
But no, there will be no diesel version of the Nano “anytime soon.”
Ravi Kant, vice-chairman of Tata Motors, added: “It’s unlikely at least for a year, though we are looking at it.”
What about the criticism of Tata Motors cars? Tata was candid: “In the early days, the criticism was justified.” He alluded the company’s learning curve has been steep and it will get there in the course of time. The point to note, he said, is that it was all about indigenous efforts of a truck maker.
“Tata Motors has come a long way. When I took over, it was a commercial vehicle maker. We successfully added passenger cars. When we built the Indica, people said India couldn’t design a car. We proved that wrong,” Tata said.
Despite the additional expenditure of having had to shift the Nano factory from Singur in West Bengal to Sanand in Gujarat, Ravi Kant said there is no change in the breakeven timeline of the small car.
The call for Tata Motors is to establish presence in various markets in Asia and Africa, rather than the developed ones such as those in Europe, said the Tata Sons chairman.
What about a Nano for the developed markets? It’s in the works, but will take time.
Tata Motors is also not looking for a successor to former group chief executive Carl Peter-Forster, Tata said.
He praised West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for the way in which she handled the fire tragedy at Amri Hospital. Will he go back? “We’re keen – if an amicable reception is given,” he said.
In 12 months, Tata will be hanging up his boots. Will he continue with positions in the Fiat SpA board and on Tata Sons?
“That call will be Fiat’s, while I would continue on the board of Tata Sons’ overseas companies. That’s to maintain our international perspective,” he said.
On his successor Cyrus Mistry, Tata said he wants to give him a free hand. “When I took over, I was given that – it’ll be up to him to run the business the way he wants to.”