Tatas launch range of vehicles in South African market

Tuesday, 22 June 2004, 07:00 Hrs
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JOHANNESBURG: Tata Motors has launched a range of passenger cars, utility vehicles, pick-ups, trucks and buses, especially built for the South African market, at a gala at Midrand, north of here.

The pick-ups, light trucks and buses will be immediately available for sale, while the other products will be launched in the coming months, senior officials of the company said Monday.

The products are being launched in collaboration between the Tatas and the Imperial group.

While the Tatas and the Imperial hold a 40-percent stake each in the company, the remaining 20 percent is held by Ukhaba - which comprises 15,000 employees of Imperial from the previously disadvantaged black communities in South Africa.

Bill Lynch, chief executive officer of Imperial Holdings, said that the partners hoped to sell at least 5,000 vehicles in the short term.

"We are very conscious that a sophisticated vehicle producer in a low cost environment such as India would have a very big place in South Africa," Lynch told IANS.

"We have a massive population here of 45 million people, the majority of whom have yet to experience vehicle ownership. We think that Tata vehicles, coming in with an attractive price, would be very attractive in this market."

The vehicles, officials said, have been manufactured based on feedback from various countries, including the wider African market, and are suited to perform in diverse weather conditions.

The initiative is part of an ambitious plan for Tata Africa, which has a presence in the region for the past 30 years, they added.

"As far as these vehicles are concerned, a lot of dealers have come to India, seen the vehicles and decided what kind of things they would like to have," said Ravi Kant, executive director, commercial vehicle business unit, Tata Motors.

"We are quite confident with the response so far that we will have great success."

Essop Pahad, minister in the office of the South African president and chief guest at the event, said he was happy that the Tata group was renewing its commitment to his country and hoped for its increasing presence here.

"What we have today is maybe just the first step towards what may be a long and intensive view of coming closer to South Africa," said Ratan Tata, chairman of the group, who flew in especially for the launch event.

"We're also looking at playing an increasing role in the power sector in this country and perhaps an involvement in hotels. What we would like to do is be a good corporate citizen in this country and grow with it," he said.

Tata, who was also here as a member of the International Investment Council that advises President Thabo Mbeki, also spoke about the group's partners in the venture.

"No company can come in here thinking that it knows everything and we are very pleased to have the Imperial Group as our partners in this particular venture," he said.

Tatas and the Imperial each hold a 40-percent stake in the company, while the remaining 20 percent is held by Ukhaba - which comprises some 15,000 employees of Imperial from the previously disadvantaged black communities in South Africa.

According to a fact sheet circulated at the event, $3.5 billion Tata Motors is the world's sixth-largest commercial vehicle manufacturer, with more than 150 models in light, medium and heavy trucks, buses and tractor-trailer categories.

Over three million Tata vehicles currently ply on Indian roads, making the company a dominant player in the country's automobile industry.

Source: IANS
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