Tata Pick Up Thai Debut in March 2008 - Sure!

Tata Motors is India's biggest motor company, and although you might not have heard much about them in the global market, they are a big player given that the local market in India is massive. Long time readers at bkkAutos.com will also be used to hearing about Tata about once a year!

Xenon rear image

Every year there are rumblings in the industry news of Tata making moves towards entering the Thai market. In 2005 there was information about a deal between Tata and Thonburi Automotive Assembly Plant Co. for local assembly of a Tata truck. Then in December 2006 there was more concrete news and it seemed that 2007 would be the year that Tata would start distribution in Thailand......

Now, as 2007 draws to a close it's that time of year again, and here is the update on the Tata story. First, Tata were at the 2007 Thailand International Motor Expo, and although there were expectations that they would have something interesting to show us (as was the expectation for the previous 2 years), Tata had little more than a few posters, and a car door to show us.

But 2008 is going to be different. Tata Motors Thailand Co. Ltd. is going to launch at least one vehicle in Thailand by March 2008! I'm starting to feel like a broken record, but this must surely be the time for Tata to finally make real on their promises and actually deliver.

Large investment

The Indian giant has invested THB 1.3 billion in a 70:30 investment split with Thonburi Automotive Assembly Thailand. This should pave the way for Tata to bring their "TL Sprint" to Thailand. Although the model line-up has yet to be confirmed, and there are some who think that Thailand might get the Tata TL, rather than the newer, 2008 Tata TL Sprint (will be called Xenon in some markets perhaps including Thailand), I believe that Tata will have to bring their latest and greatest to the market to have any hope of success here.

2.2 - 3.0 litre fuel efficient diesel

Tata claim that their diesel engines will offer superior fuel efficiency to anything currently on the market in Thailand. This is actually a reasonable claim and one I have no trouble believing given the thirsty nature of the current models in Thailand, but let's wait and see.

Although the Thai market will receive both the 2.2 and 3.0 litre diesel units, it will be the 2.2 that will be the biggest seller for several reasons. First, it will be the smallest diesel engine in a Thai pickup with 2.5 litres being the base engine on offer by all other manufacturers. Second, it will be cheap to buy and should be cheap to run. Third, it's got a decent spec given it's size.

Tata Xenon Front

The Engine is a newly developed unit and develops 140hp. The 2.2-litre DICOR (Direct Injection Common Rain) engine currently powers the recently launched Tata’s 2.2L Safari, and maximum torque is 320 Nm. In the Tata Xenon can reach 0-100 km / h in less than 15 seconds and capable of reaching a top speed of 160kmph.

The 3.0 litre DICOR will produce around 157hp, as the engine currently used in South Africa.

Lifestyle truck? .... no

The Xenon will be launching into one of the most competitive pick-up markets in the world. Thailand is world's 2nd largest pick-up market after the US. Thailand is a production hub for 1-ton pick-ups and the competition is very strong. Although there is a lot of talk about 4-door 4x4 "lifestyle" pick-ups, they actually make up a very small percentage of the overall market, with most trucks being small cab, large cargo bed work horses.

Tata Motors will probably trying to avoid going into market directly against the "lifestyle" trucks, and stick to the utility and function of the pickup and promote the Xenon as a workhorse as opposed to the luxury/lifestyle image many of the Japanese brands attempt to project. This could work well for the Indian company.

Tata trucks might not be exciting to look at, but over the years they have proven to be reliable and cheap to buy and run. If the Xenon can demonstrate the same traits in the Thai market, Tata could manage reach the goal of 5% of the Thai market within 5 years.

Local production capacity

Under the joint venture with Thonburi Automotive, Tata will have a production capacity of 35,000 units annually. Given their expectations of just 5,000 sales within Thailand, Tata will be exporting the Xenon to other markets.

This is good news for Thailand, with the generation of 500 jobs, the establishment of 20-25 new dealerships, and the additional competition that will be brought to the market.

Specification and Pricing

Well... pricing hasn't been announced, but expect the Tata offerings to be extremely competitively priced. Similarly, specification hasn't been announced, but here are some details that might help us make some assumptions.

The Xenon is 5.125 meters long, 1.86 meters wide and 1.77 meters tall. The cargo space is (1.40 x 1.40 x 1.40 meters) can carry 1,000 kg.

The Xenon could see options for features like power windows and seats, air conditioning, four-wheel drive, electronic change on the fly, alloy wheels, power steering and a CD player.

Tata Xenon Interior

Safety features on the Xenon also hosts a set of safety and security features that includes power locks with remote control, immobilizer, ABS and dual airbags.

Although some of these features will not be available in the Indian market, and therefore it is unclear at the moment which of them will make it to Thailand.

Hopefully the next time I write about Tata it will be to announce a launch, rather than to speculate.

View the Tata Xenon Image Gallery.

Update: The Xenon is currently available in Spain, so here is a video (in Spanish) of the Xenon to give you some idea of what the thing looks like on the move. There is also some more interior detail about 1/2 way into the video.