The End of an Era as Tata Motors Prepare To Sell Their Passenger Car Business
Updated at 4.45pm on 5 August 2020 to add clarification from Tata Motors.
The 15th of January 1998 was a red-letter day in India’s automotive history. On that day, at New Delhi’s Pragati Maidan expo grounds, several new cars were launched; but the, but the car that really grabbed the headlines was the Tata Indica, India’s first home-grown 'people’s car.' Even if all knew that the new Tata car “that would be as big as a Maruti Zen, yet provide the space of an Ambassador, at a price of a Maruti 800,” was going to be called the Indica (like in India+Car), they still hadn’t seen the car. 
Thus, the unveiling of the car was a much-awaited moment. Sure enough, expectations ran high and, at the unveiling, which had thousands of journalists, politicians and spectators crowding the huge Tata stand at Hall 11 of Pragati Maidan, the car did not disappoint. Here was a car that did deliver on the promise of space and size… and in a package that was, indeed, good-looking.
The Indica was launched in the Indian marketplace by the end of 1998, as Tata had promised, and initial bookings (about 115,000) and expectations were huge for a car that, though priced more than the Maruti 800, was still markedly cheaper than the smaller Maruti Zen. Sadly, early quality problems blunted that enthusiasm for the Indica; and, over the years, the reputation of the car and the car making abilities of Tata Motors took a downward spiral. 
Exactly 10 years later, almost to the day, on the 10 January 2008, Tata Motors regaled a thousand-odd spectators at Hall 11 of Pragati Maidan, once again, with the dramatic unveiling of the Tata Nano. The 'most expected' car in the history of the automobile in India had lakhs thronging to Hall 11 at Pragati Maidan, which remained crowded and jam-packed through the rest of the Expo. Outside, the eager crowds reminded you of a cricket stadium before a one-day match. Hundreds of security men formed uncompromising barricades with thick ropes. 
By 16th January, the last day of Delhi’s ninth motor show, some 1.8 million people had thronged the Expo, comfortably beating the Paris motor show’s record draw of a million-and-a-half, just to get a glimpse of the Tata Nano, the car which had grabbed headlines across the globe. They came in their thousands, from Delhi, Haryana and UP, riding cars, buses, even tractors and tongas, setting off traffic snarls that stopped Delhi at several places.
For what everybody had gathered to see at Hall No 11 in Pragati Maidan was not just another small car, but to see hope emerge on wheels. For this 'lakhtakia' car, in Hindi meaning 'the one-lakh rupee' car – as the man on the street had already named it – had enabled millions to dream of a life beyond the motorbike, of a life that would be safer and more comfortable for themselves and his (or her) dear ones.  
Less than two years later, a few months after the Tata Nano went into production, that dream came to a fiery end, as a few of the Nanos self-ignited inexplicably, and as the image of the 'cheapest car in the world' hardly helped find it buyers who could be proud of the car.  
In both cases, Ratan Tata had the right vision, the right idea, at the right time. And the Indian consumer and public were more than ready and happy to buy Indian and make the country proud. Yet design, engineering, and quality shortcomings each time had the consumer rethinking. These quality issues were eventually addressed, but years after the cars were launched. By then, the damage had been done.  
Both the Indica and the Nano projects were developed at less than $400 million each – peanuts in the international automotive development scale of things. But that was one of the main problems – in chasing the objective of 'frugal engineering,' as well as making a car 'for Indians, by Indians,' quality was compromised every time. Also, the hubris of the engineers and designers once the Nano had grabbed headlines worldwide, knew no bounds. 
The consumer wants the best product that their money can buy, and they do not care whether it was designed by Indians or by people from another part of the world. On the contrary, Indians would be more assured if the cars were, indeed, designed by Europeans. 
Finally, it was the attitude of developing in a penny-wise-pound-foolish way, as well as the obsession to do things in India with Indians, that has brought Tata Motors down to its knees, whence it's up for grabs, and will, in all likelihood, be grabbed by the Chinese. Is this the end of India’s car making story?  
In a media release issued on 5 August 2020, Tata Motors says news about ‘Tata Motors to sell up to 49% stake in PV Business’ (published by Times of India) and the names of potential partners or investors mentioned is incorrect and misleading.

"In March 2020, Tata Motors had announced the intent to subsidiarise its PV business as the first step towards securing mutually beneficial strategic alliances that provide access to products, architectures, powertrains, new-age technologies and capital. Securing a mutually beneficial alliance is a priority. However, it is not an imperative for today but an opportunity to be secured for tomorrow," the company statement says.
(Author of several automotive books, founder editor of many leading auto mags, Gautam Sen has also consulted with most of the Indian auto majors. He has also worked with several leading car designers such as Gérard Godfroy, Tom Tjaarda and Marcello Gandini, among others)
While Moneylife appreciate readers expressing their views on our articles, there is no place for abuses or orchestrated comments. Mr Sen, who is a respected name in automobile industry across the world had shared his views on the company preparing to sell its PV business. There is nothing wrong in this. Even a report from ToI says that the company is looking for hiving its PV business in a subsidiary where it wants to have a partner.
Mr Sen has nowhere mentioned that the business is sold. Yet, many 'orchestrated' comments are abusing Mr Sen over this.
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11 months ago
Most Recent Development UK bailout talks for Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Steel fall through -
Replied to s5rwav comment 11 months ago
I hope the Tatas have realised by now that the British govt is not easy to fool or purchase like the way they have been successful with Indian govts since Independence. Nationalism and other such BS won't help to pull the wool over the eyes of the govt over there because their leaders though corrupt know what is good for their country at large. In UK, there is no UP & Bihar to ensure that passionate orators & efficient event managers get elected instead of humble doers & true leaders.

In such countries, the citizens demand transparency, accountability & penalty. But, here in India, most of our educated classes demand mandir/masjid, 1 lakh car & banging of thalis, when 40 crore of our citizens go to bed hungry without a roof over their head and 2 of our brethren die every minute due to TB as per WHO figures. Not surprisingly, even the media funded by the moneybags since Independence has merrily joined the cacophony of nonsense.

Anyways, Let me take this opportunity to wish Mr.Ratan Tata, a very Happy Nowruz!

May the beatific & PR enhanced gentleman (Mr.Tata) continue to loot the country's resources & revenues in billions of dollars along with our other industrialist families especially the bania-brahmin lineage, while at the same time lending 2% of the loot in CSR activities (refer to the previous posts of Mr.Vaghela & myself below for more details) and distributing 8% of the loot amongst Tata Group employees (blessed with lifelong govt type employment and monopoly markets) and PR firms along with their social media agencies.

So, Mr.Tata and his ilk has to merely spend 10% of their loot to ensure that their crony capitalism is vehemently defended by his loyal employees (enjoying public sector working style at private sector salaries) & generously funded PR trolls, even though everyone with a little bit of common sense can deduce the secret sauce behind the monopoly of a few select industrial conglomerates (salt to software et al) who have been looting the country right from Independence for the past 70+ years along with the post-independence 'looteras' and modern 'Jagat Seths'. Any other country's citizens would have realised the 'con' in the conglomerates by now.

Sadly, where do our proud & patriotic citizens have time to spare from other more pressing matters like mandir-madjid v/s pathetic healthcare infrastructure, Sushant singh rajput's murder v/s farmer suicides, Kohli's captaincy v/s shocking NPA writeoffs in favour of corporate defaulters & lalas?

We get the government we deserve. 1% rationalists is no match for the 1% crooks combined with 98% idiots.

- posted by a powerless yet rational Indian.
12 months ago
Reportedly, Mr KV Kamath to Head RBI Committee on Loan Restructuring. He is Facing Criminal Complaint Case in Ahmedabad Court Filed by Babubhai Vaghela. He cannot Head Any Committee in India. In Criminal Complaint Case No CR EN 219 of 2019 against Mr KV Kamath and Mrs Chanda Kochhar and then Board of Directors of ICICI Bank Limited, Mr #HTPunjabi the Magistrate of Mirzapur Court at Ahmedabad to Pronounce the Judicial Order on Affidavit on Jurisdiction Issue Filed by the Complainant Babubhai Vaghela on 9th December 2019. I am Babubhai Vaghela from Ahmedabad. Thanks.....
Replied to s5rwav comment 11 months ago
Hats off to you, Babubhai for taking on the new goons of the 21st century - the pinstriped banker!

Earlier, before Independence, we as children were advised by our parents to beware of thugs in cities & dacoits in the villages. Now, wise parents advice their children to avoid getting entangled with 3 types of uniformed thugs in modern India - the black gowned lawyer/judge, the khaki clad police and the doctors in white overcoats.

After perusing your petition, I feel the thugs of yore had some shred of humanity unlike the 3 modern goons (lawyers/judges, cops & doctors). Now, we can add the pinstriped bankers to the Notorious 3.

The numerous cases of siphoning of public money by CEOs and their cabals, across both private & public sector banks over the years not only reveals the toothless nature of our laws against financial crimes but also the extent of collusion of these white-collar criminals with regulatory officials and political godfathers.

I sincerely hope that you find a resolution to your case soon, but on a practical level, i feel it is going to be a long and exhausting fight that will drain away all your physical, mental & financial resources slowly but surely, as is the prognosis in such type of cases.

Maybe you can use the good offices of MoneyLife Foundation to fast-track your case and add some heft to your side.

- posted by a powerless yet rational Indian
Replied to reachtom comment 11 months ago
Excellent Team of Respected Moneylife has Supported my Cause. I am Indeed Grateful to them. I Wish the AIBE Constitutionality is Adjudicated during my Lifetime.
Replied to s5rwav comment 3 weeks ago
12 months ago
Keep it coming...Babubhai! Let's give it back to the coordinated & well funded so-called
'right wingers'!

Every economist & grassroots social activist knows that there is no such thing as a right wing or left wing. It is either you are a worker/farmer/consumer or owner/landowner/producer. These theories of right wing & left wing hold no merit in a nation like India where 30-40 crore of our poor citizens go to sleep hungry and without a roof over their head. How can any system justify 9% of the population holding 99% of the wealth, be it right wing, left wing or a hybrid system.

Now, take for example, Mr.Ratan Tata's net worth. If this 'milky white' (doodh se nehla hua) gentleman's personal wealth and holdings are disentangled from the various trusts, wherein his real wealth is parked to avoid taxation & disclosure norms, then his true wealth is said to far exceed the not-so-milky white (thel se nehla hua) Mr.Mukesh Ambani (officially the richest Indian as per the Hurun List).

Thus, it is surprising that the Indian moneybags like Mr.Tata, Mr.Ambani et al try to portray themselves as bleeding hearts while plundering the nation's resources & revenues legally with full support of the rulers & laws of the nation. In return, they may deign to donate around 1-2% of their wealth to their pet causes as part of CSR so that they can lay a claim to corporate sainthood and tax benefits as well.

Now, as our friend - the tireless social activist Mr.Babhubhai Waghela has pointed out via numerous examples (in the comments section of this article) about the hypocrisy of Mr.Tata expressing his anguish over various social ills and especially the proliferating slums in our metros, while he (Mr.Tata) conveniently does nothing to alleviate the plight of the slumdwellers nor does he use his might & wealth to solve the malaise of rampant land grabbing and blatant property value manipulation indulged by the unchecked Real Estate sector in these metros. The builder lobby has been shortchanging and cheating the consumers for ages but yet no laws with teeth has been passed in order to penalise these daylight bandits that is mainly responsible for the increasing crime figures in our cities.

Instead of debating about the root cause of these grave societal inequalities and the total indifference of the ultra-rich to the ultra-poor right in their neighbourhood, caused by their own unethical wealth concentration techniques & legacy of installing figurehead rulers that give them a free hand to plunder the nation's resources & revenues, while the nation is busy debating mandir-masjid, triple talaq, sushant singh rajput, kohli's captaincy or the 1 lakh car.

One does not have any objection to the fierce passion for the 1 lakh car but where is the same ferocity of Mr.Ratan Tata or his acolytes to ensure proper, decongested urban roads or mass transportation systems that would reduce the vehicle burden on our narrow, encroachment infested roads & poorly maintained highways. It is but obvious that Mr.Ratan Tata loves the status quo, since poor public transportation systems ensures more sale of his vehicles. So, it does not make business sense for Mr.Tata to help the govt financially to overhaul the nation's road & highway infra.

On the other hand, the Tata group has been a big funder to the RSS and is considered to be very close to the RSS bigwigs. Earlier, JRD was close to the Nehru- Gandhi family. So, the Tata group coffers have been party agnostic and solely focused on pleasing the ruling regime to further their business interests right from our Independence. So, I am not surprised by Mr.Ratan Tata's nonchalance at the massive losses incurred by the group under his leadership, since he & his ilk (industrial families) have accumulated wealth worth 100 generations of the average Indian citizen.

But, strangely here on this online platform we have an army of Tata fans defending his glorious legacy and philanthropy. It just shows how disconnected the debating class otherwise known as the educated middle class/upper middle class is from the ground realities and true facts of our ruling & business class vis-a-vis the 'Weeping Class'. Forty crores (conservative estimate) of our citizens go to bed hungry without a roof over their head. Maybe it would have served the nation better, if Mr.Tata would have focused on a 1 lakh house rather than blow up precious funds on a 1 lakh car and end up failing at it gloriously!
12 months ago
Just Wonder at Comments of Some Readers on "Leftists" but Not on the Content of the Article. I am Babubhai Vaghela from Ahmedabad. Thanks.
12 months ago
These guys would do anything for views. Misleading headline and ever worse article. Looks like editorial is headed by leftists.
12 months ago
This is what a leftist/ selective journalism will do to de-motivate its countrymen..a brand it build over year hard work and dedication and HEADINGS like this will have impact on customers buying pattern..if this would have happend with any other so called MNC then the heading would have been changed to "dash-dash MNC is joining its hands with blah-blah company or something like that.." your justification in 2/3 para won't help..
Replied to savrikar.shantanu87 comment 12 months ago
When r v gonna learn to accept criticism sportingly instead of labelling it as leftist or rightist .
Replied to savrikar.shantanu87 comment 12 months ago
Dear Mr savrikar.shantanu8724 may kindly Suggest Apt Heading if it is Not Okay for You. I am Babubhai Vaghela from Ahmedabad. Thanks.
12 months ago
Right to Information Act was Enacted by Govt of India in 2005. The Act has the Provision to Set up CIC Benches in India. However, they have Not been Set up and Needs to be Set up to Improve Transparency and Accountability of the Public Administration in India. Those who have Access to Influential Businessmen of India, like Mr Ratan Tata or Mr Mukesh Ambani or Mr Uday Kotak or Mr Azim Premji or Mr Gautam Adani or Mr Kumar Mangalam Mangalam Birla or Mr Anand Mahindra...., may Kindly Request them to Support Legal Recourse for this Larger Public Interest Matter. I am Babubhai Vaghela from Ahmedabad. Thanks.....
12 months ago
Mr Ratan Tata is Active on Social Media Twitter. He Wrote about Fake News about him. I Publicly Request him to Comment on this Article by Respected Moneylife. I am Babubhai Vaghela from Ahmedabad. Thanks.....
12 months ago
For a moment, keeping aside the Corporate Social Responsibility of Mr Ratan Tata, I find nothing done by him, as a Citizen of India, to reduce the miseries of the helpless crores Indians seriously suffering for Want of Law on Timely Redressal of Public Grievances. I am Babubhai Vaghela from Ahmedabad. Thanks.....
12 months ago
Housing is a Universal Fundamental Right. From Media News, I Find Mr Ratan Tata is Perturbed at Slums. However, I don't Find Any Effort Made by Mr Ratan Tata to Provide Housing to Poor Citizens in Ahmedabad or Gujarat. I am Babubhai Vaghela from Ahmedabad. Thanks.....
12 months ago
As a Concerned Citizen of India, I am against Organizational Irregularities whether Committed by the Govt Companies or Private Sector Companies including Tata Motors. My Five Year Legal Fight a Decade Back. I was Objector in IBP-IOC Merger and in BRPL-IOC Merger. Also in Mahalek-SAIL Merger. Bureaucrat cannot Function in Capacity as High Court to Hear and Approve Govt PSUs Mergers Using GSR 238 of 1978. That was my Submission. Finally, PSU Mergers was Stopped then. I Filed Affidavits and Pleaded myself before JS MCA Govt of India at Delhi. No Advocate for me then. For Kind Information.
12 months ago
I am Babubhai Vaghela from Ahmedabad. I am Retired Senior Manager of Indian Oil Corporation Limited. I am RTI User, Writ Petitioner and PIL Petitioner. I am CVC Registered Whistle Blower. I am on Permanently Fixed Pension of Indian Oil Corporation Limited. I don't have Fund to Engage Private Advocates. I Filed PILs through Kind Hearted Pro-Bono Advocate. One of my PILs Challenging the Constitutionality of AIBE is Pending with Supreme Court of India for the Last Decade. I was Unrepresented at Supreme Court of India and still Unrepresented. Legal Aid by Gujarat High Court and Supreme Court of India is Denied to me. I, as Financiallly Poor Pensooner, Requested to Tata Trust. It was Acknowledged but Not given Any Help by Way of Advocate or Fund to Engage Private Advocates. My Experience of Mr Ratan Tata is that he is a Corporate Crook Supported and Protected by the Supreme Court of India Judges. Thanks.....
12 months ago
Tata Nano at Sanand is Misuse of Agriculture Land and Public Money and Nothing but a Cruel Political Joke with #WeThePeopleOfIndia. I am Babubhai Vaghela from Ahmedabad. Thanks.....
12 months ago
Happy to read that it could be a fake news. I am saying this because, I am proud owner of Tata Nano for the last 4 years. It is an amazing vehicle. Of course being small we will have less boot space apart from that you can't complain about anything. Sitting comfort, leg room, on top of all the superior AC which will beat even my Honda City at times. With its auto transmission we can zip through the crowded city just like that... I was so sad that last year Tata Motors stopped the production of Nano.

Actually it was mistakenly promoted as cheap / less expensive vehicle, instead if they had projected it as a comfortable pet car or cool 2nd car for the family it would have reached heights. What to do...:-(
12 months ago
It's really sad news for us because the most genuine person of India(Dr.Ratan Tata who donated Rs.100 crore to support our country in Corona pandemic)is loosing his hope in his car industry section.Also we should pray that this idea will be dropped and new hopes get back to stream.
Replied to devangthanvi10 comment 12 months ago
What is Called Donation by the Corporates, including the One by Tatas, seem Political Extortion. It is Collected by the Rogue Elements in Govts and the Usage of that Public Money So Collected by the Govt Functionaries Remains Total Secret. These Donations are Financial Frauds Committed by the People in Position of Power. It Primarily Helps the Political Parties which Dominates. I am Babubhai Vaghela from Ahmedabad. Thanks.
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