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Tata Motors rolls out first CityRover

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Mr Kevin Howe, Chief Executive, MG Rover, with Dr V. Sumantran, Executive Director, Tata Motors, during the rollout of CityRover at the Tata Motors plant in Pune on Tuesday. — Paul Noronha.

Pune , Sept. 16

IT'S sleek, it's stylish, it's made in India and it is the CityRover, which is all set to take on competition in the UK's highly competitive city car segment.

The Tata Motors Executive Director, Dr V. Sumantran, can be excused then, for looking unusually pleased with himself Tuesday morning when he handed over the keys of the first CityRover car made at the company's facilities to MG Rover CEO, Mr Kevin Howe, who seemed to have caught some of the excitement too.

As one member of the media team who was heard remarking to another at the event, it is not everyday that a local product actually wings it abroad to be part of the product portfolio of a globally known car manufacturer.

The bright red CityRover that rolled off the assembly line was welcomed with a number of audible gasps, which is not surprising if you consider the fact that the car has been stylized by the design guru, Mr Peter Stevens, who is now head of design for MG Rover. But there is more to the car than just its snazzy exterior, says Mr Howe.

"Our product plan did not have a small car for city use and this fits the bill perfectly. In the UK market it is not brand loyalty but value and price that swings purchase decisions and the CityRover is aggressively priced against competition, has more power than existing products and is a whole lot bigger for that much money."

The car will go on sale in the UK market from November in four versions, designed to suit various lifestyles and sporting price tags of between 6,600-8,500. The car is currently powered by a 1.4 litre petrol engine; but replying to a specific query, Mr Howe said discussions were on with Tata Motors for a TCIC (turbo-charged inter-cooler) version in keeping with the shifting consumer preference for diesel-powered vehicles.

The relationship with MG Rover and Tata Motors, which took off in 2002, now seems all set to expand to include partnerships across a spectrum of activities.

Subsidiaries of Phoenix Venture Holdings Ltd, which owns MG Rover group, will now be the distributor for various Tata Motor vehicles including the Safari and the pick-up and also distribute parts for the latter.

Mr Sumantran said, "We have a good synergy which will help us confront the realities of the auto sector today by tapping opportunities in our respective markets." While both Rover and Tata Motors refused to be pinned down on whether the partnership will include other cars for both parties, Mr Sumantran did admit that among the topics discussed at various points was the possibility of importing cars suitable for the market, as an when the demand arose.

The CityRover will be sold across UK and Europe through the Rover network while Tata Motors will independently sell Tata branded Indicas through its network in Europe. The CityRover and the Indica will pitch for a slice of the 4.5 million units market in Europe for small cars. In the UK the Indica is not on sale currently and the CityRover will compete for a piece of action in the annual 1.5 million units market for small city cars.

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