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Driven: Tata strikes back with $22,990 Xenon ute

Indian giver: Tata has returned to Australia, entering the fiercely competitive bargain ute sector with its Xenon.

Another budget-oriented tradie lands as Tata pitches in with Xenon ute range

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Tata logo22 Oct 2013

INDIAN brand Tata Motors has relaunched in Australia, bringing back the Xenon utility range as part of a cut-price assault in one of Australia’s most hotly contested sectors.

However, it will face a stiff challenge, with cheap-priced rival Chinese brand Great Wall suffering a sales slump this year – down more than 40 per cent to the end of September compared with last year – suggesting buyers’ appetite for budget-oriented workhorses is on the wane.

The Xenon will launch in Australia priced from $22,990 for the cab-chassis version – matching Great Wall’s entry pricing.

This starting price represents an almost $3000 premium over what the Xenon was selling for when it was imported in small numbers by Queensland-based dealership Upton’s Motors three years ago.

That said, the heavily upgraded Xenon gains driver and passenger airbags and Bluetooth phone connection – an essential for the well-connected tradie – as standard equipment.

Another big change is the company behind the importation of the new Xenon, Melbourne-based Fusion Automotive.

Fusion managing director Darren Bowler is a former Walkinshaw Automotive Group director, general manager of sales at HSV and a regional manager for luxury brand Audi Australia.

The company was set up under the Walkinshaw Group umbrella to “redefine vehicle distribution throughout Australasia”.

The importer will vie for sales in the third largest segment of the Australian new-vehicle market, dominated by the Toyota HiLux – a regular top 10 contender on the monthly sales chart.

Toyota recently plumped up the HiLux’s appeal to fleet buyers by stepping the ute range up to a top five-star safety rating.

The Tata Xenon is aimed right at the heartland of ute sales.

Under the bonnet is a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine mated to a five-speed manual gearbox (no auto is available). Rated to the Euro 5 emissions standard, the Xenon’s powerplant produces only 110kW of power but a useful 320Nm of torque with a few revs onboard.

Combined-cycle fuel consumption is rated at 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres, while carbon dioxide emissions come in at 198 grams per kilometre.

The Xenon range will be available in cab chassis, single and dual cab variants, and with either a 4x2 or 4x4 driveline.

Gross vehicle mass is about 2950kg, giving the Xenon a 1.0-tonne payload capacity in aluminium-tray cab-chassis guise and 880kg with the dual-cab tub.

Fusion Automotive says buyers will be able to accessorise the Xenon with features such as reversing sensors and a reversing camera, and even satellite navigation.

“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,” Mr Bowler said.

“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.”

Fusion says the Xenon was specially configured for the Australian market and was extensively tested in Australia. It will be sold initially through 15 Tata dealers.

So far, the strongest dealer presence is in Victoria and Queensland, with six outlets in Queensland – ranging from the Gold Coast to Townsville – and five in Victoria.

Only two dealerships have been appointed in New South Wales to date, in Dubbo and Penrith, with central Sydney and large coastal cities such as Newcastle and Wollongong still to be settled.

One dealer has been announced in each of Western Australia (Rockingham) and Northern Territory (Darwin), but there is no representation yet in Tasmania or the Australian Capital Territory.

Mr Bowler said Fusion Automotive was negotiating with a number of dealers in major regional centres around Australia to expand the footprint in 2014.

“Our objective was to have between 10 and 15 dealers in strategically placed locations by the end of 2013,” he said.

“Whilst location was a key component of the selection criteria, we were also looking for partners who were enthusiastic about the potential of the Tata Motors brand in Australia and were willing to invest in that.

“We have been overwhelmed with the expressions of interest in the program and we believe we have carefully chosen partners who tick all the boxes.”

The ute range will also come with a three-year, 100,000km warranty including roadside assistance.

Tata Xenon pricing*
4x2 Single Cab Chassis $22,990
4x2 Single Cab Pick Up$24,990
4x2 Dual Cab$26,990
4x4 Single Cab Chassis$25,990
4x4 Single Cab Pick Up$27,990
4x4 Dual Cab$29,990
*Excludes on-road costs.

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