When Tata Motors’ turnaround drive for its passenger vehicle (PV) business unit began in 2016 with the Tiago hatchback, design and styling was the key draw for the product. Similar was the case for other models that followed. That was much needed as Tata Motors wanted its cars to be looked at, and attract customers to the showroom. However, of late, safety seems to be the bigger draw.
Evolution of the PV market, with rising safety awareness levels, and the improved performance of Tata cars in Global NCAP’s crash tests are seen as the main factors. “When we checked with our own customer the reasons to buy, a year back safety came at maybe number two or number three, but today a huge number of our customers put safety as the number one reason why they buy a Tata car,” Vivek Srivatsa, head – marketing, PVBU, Tata Motors Motors, tells Autocar Professional. He adds that customers cite design and driving pleasure (ride & handling) as second and third factor influencing their purchase decision.
Making the con-Nexon with global safety standards
In December 2018, the Tata Nexon compact SUV became the first made-in-India model to score the top five-star rating for adult occupant safety in a crash test by the global safety watchdog. A stark contrast to the zero star rating for the now discontinued Nano small car in January 2014, which was part of Global NCAP’s first-ever independent crash tests of India-made cars.
After the Nexon, the Tata Altroz premium hatchback also scored a five-star crash test result rating for adult occupant safety. These models, and their crash test results, are also playing key roles in Tata Motors’ performance in the PV market, where its share has climbed up from 4.6 percent during April-November 2019, to 7.7 percent during the same period this year, which is the OEM’s highest share since FY2013.
“Combined with the fact that our sales have gone up, you can say that awareness of safety across the industry has gone up, and hence it’s a benefit for Tata Motors. Quite a direct correlation,” says Srivatsa. Tata Motors was the first OEM in India to set up an in-house crash test facility, in 1997. The investments seem to be yielding good results now.
Tata Motors picked up the theme of safety as part of its campaigns during the pandemic as there was a heightened sensitivity towards safety. “I think it was the right time for us to show the customer that the human life matters, whether it’s through Covid or on the road, human life is very important,” says Srivatsa while highlighting India’s dubious distinction of still topping the list of nations with the highest number of road fatalities. Over 151,000 lost their lives on Indian roads during 2019. The figure incidentally is higher than the number of deaths till date due to Covid in the country.
As Tata Motors looks to return to profitability in its PV businesses, it wants to play the safety card in every segment. Along with it, periodical product interventions are being planned with an objective to keep the portfolio fresh in the market.