Tata Motors looks to tap growing trend for personalisation in cars and SUVs

The car and SUV maker expects the trend of mass customisation to transition into each car being a unique product, enabled by technology-driven manufacturing and production planning processes including an end-to-end software that integrates its supply chain, sales strategy and production planning activities in line with market demand.

By Mayank Dhingra calendar 15 Jun 2024 Views icon2987 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
On June 7, Tata Motors launched the Altroz Racer, the high-performance version of its premium hatchback, which gets several cosmetic and performance upgrades to woo car aficionados.

On June 7, Tata Motors launched the Altroz Racer, the high-performance version of its premium hatchback, which gets several cosmetic and performance upgrades to woo car aficionados.

Tata Motors, which is among the fastest growing passenger vehicle manufacturers in India and currently (April-May 2024) the No. 3 carmaker with sales of 95,058 units after Maruti Suzuki (2,81,954 units) and Hyundai Motor India (99,352 units), is looking to tap the growing potential of the new ‘white space’ in the car and SUV market.

The company, which retails seven models – Nexon, Punch, Harrier, Safari, Altroz, Tiago and Tigor – foresees a growing trend for personalisation in cars as well as an increasing demand for made-to-order vehicles. This trend is seen even in the mass-market category, which typically relies on standardised manufacturing techniques to roll out products in high volumes.

Tata Motors expects this made-to-order trend to catch up in the country, and attributes it to primarily to rising consumer aspirations and a growing younger  car buyer parc which is increasingly demanding high-on-personalisation, unique products that stand out from the crowd, and also reflect an individual’s personality.

Mohan Savarkar, Chief Product Officer, Tata Motors PVs: “Made-to-order will catch up in India. Today, it is perhaps at the level of mass customisation but going forward, it will evolve into the phenomenon of every car being a unique product.”

Speaking exclusively to Autocar Professional, Mohan Savarkar, Chief Product Officer, Tata Motors Passenger Vehicles, said, “Made-to-order is something that will catch up in India eventually. Today, it is perhaps at the level of mass customisation but going forward, it will evolve into the phenomenon of every car being a unique product.” Savarkar spoke to India’s leading automotive B2B title on the sidelines of the introduction of Tata Motors’ latest offering – Altroz Racer – the high-performance version of its premium hatchback that offers several cosmetic and performance upgrades to entice enthusiast buyers.

End-to-end software enables customised production
According to Savarkar, a number of technology-led manufacturing, sourcing, and production planning processes are enabling the company to meet the growing consumer expectations when it comes to product personalisation.

Tata Motors relies on ‘Anaplan’, an end-to-end software that integrates its supply chain, sales strategy, and production planning activities in line with market demand. While on one side, the digital solution taps into the ground data from the scores of Tata Motors dealerships across the country that regularly feed customer walk-in, inquiries, and order placement (booking) data into the system, on the other hand, it translates this data into usable insights for the company to plan its production.

“Instead of having a rigid Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) plan, we have one that is revisited multiple times a month, and that feeds into the Material Requirement Planning (MRP), as well as the Manufacturing Engineering System (MES) that takes care of pulling in the desired parts from vendors, and scheduling cars on the assembly line,” said Savarkar.

“All this is choreographed in a way that allows us to meet the customer requirements. We also measure ourselves as to how well we met the monthly demand by achieving a fine balance, and neither overproducing or underproducing any model. We have been able to implement it very well,” he pointed out.

Tata Motors, which is deploying a unique ‘persona’ strategy to differentiate  trim levels within a single model, is now offering customised features to appeal to a varied range of consumers keen on standing out from the crowd. 

Made-to-order versus made-to-stock
The company which has adopted a unique ‘persona’ strategy to differentiate various trims within a single model, by virtue of clubbing features that would appeal to a certain set of customers, categorises cars under two sets – made-to-stock and made-to-order. For instance, while a white-coloured Tata Nexon 1.5-litre diesel manual XM variant would typically fall under the first category, a Tata Harrier with a ‘Sunlit Yellow’ Tata Harrier would fall into the latter, and according to Savarkar, the company would fulfil such an order within a maximum lead time of around 30 days by leveraging its strong digital systems.

Moreover, Tata Motors also emphasises on rigorous operator training, traceability, and fool-proofing mechanisms on the assembly line so that despite the growing customisation in models, the correct parts are fitted as per the vehicle’s trim, and option.

“Each person is trained to undertake at least three operations, and there are around 3-4 associates for each operation. Therefore, such a level of flexibility is maintained on the line. Moreover, wherever there is too much complexity, there are systems such as sequence-supply and pick-to-light installed on the assembly line, thereby ensuring minimum difficulty for the operator in searching for the right part,” Savarkar explained.

The company says by leveraging several digital tools, and feedback systems on the line, it has improved its production efficiency by 15-20 percent over the years, and going forward, is geared to serve more diverse customer requirements when it comes to customisation of products. 

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