Tough fight for Tata’s Xenon
|• Xenon on the assembly line at
Thonburi Automotive plant
Tata has entered the pickup war zone in Thailand as part of its drive eastward to the emerging markets in Asean. The indigenous commercial giant from India seems undaunted by the long-established, well-entrenched Toyota and Isuzu, the top two Japanese powerhouses that for years have held the lion’s share.
Tata could not have been ignorant of the fact that there are such global big names as Mitsubishi, Nissan, Ford, Mazda, and General Motors which have tried and are still struggling to get closer to the two front-runners.
Thus it surprised some market watchers when Tata made a bold move and enlisted the Xenon to join the pickup war in Thailand, the second biggest market in the world for the one-ton work-horses.
Tata Motors did not rush into Asean’s pickup hub. It has been studying the market since 2003 when it talked to Thairung, a local pickup modifier for a joint venture, which didn’t materialise.
More than two years had passed when Tata announced in late 2006 that it set up a joint venture with Thonburi Automotive Assembly Plant Co, the Thailand-based independent assembler to manufacture, assemble and market pickup trucks.
The joint venture, in which Tata Motors holds 70 percent of the equity with the balance held by Thonburi, planned to start rolling out pickups from Thonburi’s manufacturing facility in a year’s time.
The joint venture, said Ratan Tata, Tata’s chairman, at the agreement signing ceremony, would make meaningful impact in the most competitive market for pickup vehicles.
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Known as Tata Motors (Thailand) Limited, or TMTL, the joint venture revealed its 1.3 billion baht investment in its facility and its plans to start rolling out pickup trucks in March 2008.
Ajit Venkataraman, CEO of Tata Motors (Thailand) Limited said the JV would annually crank 35,000 pickup trucks designed and built with the Thai customers in mind, adding that, in the long-term, TMTL would leverage its presence in Thailand to address other Asean markets, taking advantage of the 5-to-zero tariff concessions offered by Asean Free Trade Area.
TMTL plans included sourcing more than 50 percent of vehicle content from 40 plus Thai supplier partners who were given the opportunity to become Tier 1 suppliers to Tata Motors India as well, and the manufacturing of an entire range of pick-up trucks including single, stretch and double cab versions.
Starting with 20-25 3S outlets: sales, service and spare parts at the time of launch, TMTL began to identify channel partners. It set a target to sell 5,000 units in the first year (2008) and plans to curve out 5 percent of the Thai pickup market within the next five years.
Last July, the joint venture obtained a grant of tax incentives from Thailand’s Board of Investment to produce the so called ‘eco cars’.
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