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Indian giant Tata renews Australian push

On the march: The Tata Xenon is already sold here, in Queensland, but will be pushed nationwide through a new distributor.

Tata plans return to Australian budget ute market by the end of 2013


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23 Jul 2013

INDIAN manufacturer Tata Motors will mount a fresh attack on Australia’s ultra-competitive light commercial vehicle market from late 2013, armed with a national dealer network selling a range of cut-price utes.

The subcontinental auto giant – which owns Jaguar Land Rover and claims to be the world’s fourth largest truck and bus-maker – has appointed Fusion Automotive as its new factory-backed official distributor, and will commence local sales by December.

Based in Melbourne, Fusion Automotive is run by managing director Darren Bowler, a former Walkinshaw Automotive Group director, HSV general manager of sales and Audi Australia regional manager.

The distributor is keeping quiet on exactly which ute model it will sell first, but GoAuto expects it to be the Nissan Navara-sized Xenon XT, which launched overseas in 2007 and is sold in Spain, Italy and Turkey. Pricing will range between $20,000 and $30,000, depending on body style.

“The light commercial segment is now the third largest segment of the Australian new-car market, with 13 major brands in the 4x2 and 4x4 categories,” said Mr Bowler.

“We believe there is demand in Australia for a utility range of vehicles with the toughness and value-for-money equation that Tata Motors products deliver.

The vehicle range, starting with light commercials, will be competitively priced and offer a greater level of value than what is currently available in the market.

“There is no tougher place on earth to test vehicles than on the tough and demanding roads of India, and we believe this will give the Tata Motors products a competitive advantage within the Australian market.”

Tata sells a wide array of vehicles globally, perhaps most famously the sub-$3000 Nano, otherwise known as the world’s cheapest car. It also previously sold the Telcoline ute here between 1998 and 2005.

Queensland dealer Upton’s Motors has been selling the Xenon here in low-key fashion for several years, priced between $21,500 and $30,000 driveaway.

However, it is understood Fusion has taken over the exclusive marketing and distribution rights. GoAuto is awaiting comment from Upton’s.

Fusion says its range will comprise single- and crew-cab body styles with two- or four-wheel-drive, all fitted with a Euro 5-emissions compliant 102kW/320Nm direct-injection 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine matched with a five-speed manual gearbox.

Full pricing and specifications are yet to be revealed, but GoAuto understands the Tata utes will continue to be priced above models from China’s established entry brand, Great Wall, which kick off at $17,990 driveaway for the V240 single-cab petrol manual and climb to $25,990 for the flagship dual-cab diesel.

“We are definitely not targeting being the cheapest product in the market, but what we’d plan to offer is exceptional value,” said Fusion Automotive chief operations officer Oliver Lukeis.

“Our pricing will be higher than Chinese product and we’ll be targeting the value side, with lots of specification. Our target would be a retail price between $20,000 and $30,000.

“The Tata brand itself is going to be a lot different to the Chinese brands and the other brands that have already come into market.

“Tata already has a very large global presence, with this vehicle in particular, which is available globally in many different markets. We’ve got the upper hand because it’s an established product and already a global player.”

Mr Lukeis told GoAuto this week that Fusion plans to have 13 dealers around Australia from launch, with the intention to grow this to 25 inside 12 months.

Tata Motors managing director Karl Slym said in a statement that the move back to Australia “marks an important milestone in the continued expansion of our global footprint”.

“As we launch products tested and validated across some of the toughest terrains into the Australian market, we are happy to partner with Fusion Automotive, who brings to the table their tremendous experience in the Australian market,” he said.

Tata will join a range of brands from China and India in Australia’s light commercial market, the most prominent of which is Great Wall, imported by Sydney-based Ateco Automotive, but also including Foton, ZX Auto and Mahindra.

Great Wall experienced steady growth in its first few years on sale, but has crashed back to earth this year. Sales of its V-series utes are down between 24.8 and 57.2 per cent this year, something Ateco has attributed to sharper dealer prices from established Japanese rivals, and its own ageing line-up.

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