Tata’s Rs 1 Lakh Car And An Old man’s Unethical Prophecy

The wait for the Rattan Tata’s Rs 1-lakh car is going to be over soon. Many auto-enthusiasts have been eagerly waiting for the car for various reasons. In January 2008, they will be able to see and perhaps test-drive it. Most of the queries and worries about the concept too will come to end with it. The car will get exhibited for the first time to the general public in Auto Expo 2008 in New Delhi. The car will get its name, perhaps before the exhibition itself.

As reported, it will be a safe and full car with due consideration for the taste and pocket of the consumers and Indian roads. Tata and his engineers have done a great job to take up such a challenging job to work under the constraints of cost for the target price. And with available information, it appears they have succeeded. If the car driving people in India accept it enthusiastically, it will set a benchmark as a product and also for the business management for the auto industry globally.

If it wouldn’t have been a viable project, a person such as Carlos Ghosn would not have asked the engineers of Renault Nissan to develop a similar car for its proposed venture with Bajaj Auto.

Why is then the old Japanese pioneer of small cars, Osamu Suzuki has gone on talking against the project right from the time when Tata first announced it? It is but sure that the Japanese don’t want any Indian company to go ahead of them with such an innovative product as Rs 1 lakh car. Perhaps even the idea of an Indian company taking a lead in car manufacturing is something difficult to digest for them. Though Japanese have pioneered many tools and techniques for the product development, quality engineering and management, why can’t they appreciate that the Indians might have learnt and assimilated them better? After all Japanese learnt and copied everything from Americans but improved upon them to go ahead of US.

The recent remarks of Suzuki on Tata’s Rs 1 lakh car were astonishing. “We don’t know the details about the $3000. Is it the part cost? Is it the retail cost? We don’t know about the safety norms, carbon dioxide or environmental performance of this car. Does it include air bags?” Until these things were clear, he said, it was difficult to comment on how Maruti would deal with the competition from the new car. “In case there is sacrifice on safety and emission norms, the manufacturer does not truly shoulder the responsibility of an auto manufacturer.” Should Mr.Tata would have gone to the old man and given him all the cost figures and sought his blessings?

Even if the Tata Motors spokesperson would not have commented on Suzuki’e remarks saying that the company was conscious of its responsibilities, should Suzuki assume that an established auto manufacturer such as Tata Motors doesn’t understand the social responsibility and put in production a product that doesn’t meet the mandatory requirements and competitive specifications besides providing the pride of ownership to the buyers? “As an auto manufacturer for over 60 years, Tata Motors is conscious of its responsibilities, and all its vehicles have met all the norms and regulations of the countries where they are marketed,” the Tata’s spokesperson said.

When Suzuki was coming in India with its Maruti 800 in early 80s, the then auto manufacturers also had similar apprehensions and kept on thinking in the same manner. And then Maruti Udyoga made a history. Suzuki succeeded in India, though it had not been able to do that in any other country.

For Mr. Suzuki to make such remarks against an established manufacturer and that to when the car is going to be launched soon is unethical. Either Suzuki is talking because of his psychological complex in mind or he is trying to hold his forte till end. A couple of years ago, Mr. Suzuki, the chief of Suzuki Motors had doubted the very feasibility of such a car and wondered if the product would be a three-wheeler.

Can I believe that Suzuki has not got the information about his queries on Tata’s car through corporate intelligence system? Why does he underrate the capability of Indian engineers and managers, when he himself has started working on many Suzuki’s global models from India? It is the same SMC that never agreed to indigenously manufacture even gears for the transmissions in India till very late.

Let us wait till January and the auto world will judge the reality in Suzuki’s prophecy and pass on the right opinion about Tata’s car. However, BusinessWeek has termed its Rs one-lakh car as one of the trendsetters of 2007, while naming Ratan Tata among the world’s Most Important People of the year. A journal like BusisnessWeek doesn’t do that without solid evidences and verifications in whatever way it must be doing it.

As it appears, Suzuki himself intends to get his engineers go for a car in the class of Tata’s Rs 1 lakh car. Suzuki’s queries during his press conferences in Tokyo and New Delhi are perhaps exploratory. Or I too assume as Business Week’s reporter says, “given the amount of attention that Nissan and Tata are getting for the cheap car, critics might argue Suzuki’s remarks smack of sour grapes.”

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