Tata's Sprint christened Xenon in India

by 05 Jul 2007

Tata Motor’s new one-tonne pickup, popularly referred to as the Sprint, will be launched in India this month. The vehicle will be christened the Xenon and sport Tata’s 2.2 litre Dicor engine. Tata aptly named this project Sprint since the entire process from conception and design to development took only 18 months.

Tata has developed the vehicle completely inhouse. It is yet to decide on the exact variant of Xenon – be it single, double or space cab – in India, but industry experts believe it will be to Tata’s advantage to have more than one variant in the market. After the India launch, the pickup will debut in Thailand possibly in the first quarter of 2008 through its joint venture with Thonburi Automotive Assembly. Tata has developed both the 2.2 litre and 3.0 litre engines for the Thai market.

At present, it is conducting customer research to help it decide on the engine. The company will stick to the utility function of the pickup and promote the Sprint as a workhorse as opposed to the luxury/lifestyle image of many Japanese pickups in Thailand. However, it cannot be ascertained if this is going to be the same strategy for the India market too.

The pickup will be subsequently launched in Argentina, where Tata has an agreement with Fiat to use its Cordoba facility from 2008 onwards. It is likely that this product will be a little different from the models to be introduced in India and Thailand. Although the company has the option to badge the Sprint as either a Tata or Fiat vehicle, it will most likely be branded a Fiat product in Argentina. South Africa is also another potential market.

Sources also say that Tata could be launching the new Sumo (codenamed Phoenix) by October-November this year. It will take a final decision on this in mid-July. The 13-year-old Sumo did over 32,000 units last year and made up 67 percent of Tata’s utility vehicle sales.

According to sources, Tata is working on an 18-20 seater called the Panel V. Based on the 207 platform, it is tipped to be along the lines of the recently launched Winger Maxi-van. The Panel V will be fitted with the 2.2 litre engine that Tata acquired some time back from Renault.