* New MD faces sluggish Indian business, falling car sales
* Eyes U.S. launch if Nano in 3 years
* Nano underperforming, no new car model for 2 yrs
* Slym to focus on improving customer image of carmaker
By Henry Foy
MUMBAI, Oct 16 Indian carmaker Tata Motors Ltd
will look to ratonalise its product range and overhaul
its image, the head of its domestic business said on Tuesday, as
he sets about reviving the firm's sputtering local business in a
fiercely competitive market.
Karl Slym also said the company would look to launch a
next-generation version of its Nano, the world's cheapest car,
for the U.S. market in about three years.
India's biggest carmaker by revenue is increasingly
dependent on its UK premium car subsidiary Jaguar Land Rover for
growth to offset weakness in India. Net profit at the domestic
business has fallen for three straight quarters, and the company
has not unveiled a new mass-market car for two years.
"We will continue to look for segments where there is
growth, and there's a likely pruning that will happen over time
as we do that with our portfolio," Slym told reporters at a
company news conference on Tuesday.
"The foundations and the capabilities of an organisation
that can do much better than what you've seen in the results are
there," said Slym, who was appointed Tata Motors' managing
director in August and took charge last month.
The 50-year-old Briton ran General Motors' Indian
unit for four years before moving to China as executive vice
president of the U.S. company's venture with SAIC Motor Corp
and Wuling. He worked for just eight months in China
before taking the job with Tata.
Tata's Indian car sales fell by 9.9 percent in the three
months to June, its fiscal first quarter, the company said,
despite a 5.2 percent increase in the size of the overall Indian
market. Profits from the Indian business fell 31 percent in the
year that ended in March and accounted for less than 10 percent
of Tata Motors' consolidated profit of 135.17 billion rupees
Tata, which is also India's biggest truck and bus maker,
faces strong competition from global firms such as Ford
and Volkswagen AG as they build up local operations.
"It's being able to provide the customer with the kind of
experience that is now expected in the marketplace, that maybe
his perception is he has not received in the past from Tata
Motors," said Slym, who runs Tata Motors' Indian operations but
not Jaguar Land Rover.
The Nano, hailed on its launch as the world's cheapest car,
has not met early expectations. Tata has sold just 215,000 Nanos
since its debut in July 2009, far fewer than the 20,000 a month
initially targeted and has failed to convince millions of
Indians that they should switch from their motorbikes to the
"We want it to be global and obviously the U.S. is a market
that we would like to be in," Slym said.
Ratan Tata, chairman of the parent Tata Group, told the
Automotive News that the Nano for the United States would have a
bigger engine and more features, and sell for under $10,000.
In its home market, the Nano starts at around $2,685.
A pioneer in India's SUV market, Tata now trails local rival
Mahindra & Mahindra, which sold around four times as
many SUVs as Tata in the last fiscal year.
"We have a wide portfolio, and we have some cars in segments
that are not necessarily growing how we would have expected,"
Slym told reporters. "For us as a high volume manufacturer it's
important for us to have a variety of offerings in those key
segments as we go forward."
($1=53.0275 Indian rupees)
(Editing by Tony Munroe and Greg Mahlich)