Indian truck manufacturer Tata intends to introduce heavy duty trucks into the Australian market in the next few years. Reports are appearing in the car media about statements from Fusion Automotive, the organisation, which currently imports the Tata ute range into the country, talking about introducing a couple of models within three years.
The two models mentioned are the Prime and the Ultra. The larger Prima is sold in India as a heavy rigid and prime mover, but on release here is more likely to concentrate on the heavy rigid market, due its relatively low power rating. The Ultra is a model in the light duty range, in a sector currently dominated by trucks like the Isuzu NPR and NQR.
How the Australian truck buying market will take to a new truck like the Tata is anybody’s guess, but the Tata organisation is becoming a global power with the development dollars to tailor trucks to any market. However, the relatively small numbers sold in Australia, compared to some of the large economies where Tata already operate, suggests we are a test market to assess the trucks’ ability to compete in the developed world.
Looking at the specifications the current Tata range have in their domestic market shows just how far away from normal Aussie preferences the trucks are. The heavy duty Prima does have a Cummins engine, but it is the 6.7 litre ISBe, putting out just 270 hp and 870 Nm of torque at 1700 rpm. These are not the kind of numbers the industry is looking for at this end of the market.
When the Ultra is considered, its figures of 126 hp and 400 Nm is not so far from the market preferences. However, recent years have seen a number of higher horsepower models hit the streets, with 200 hp plus now on the market. The issue is likely to be one of build quality and finish. They will be competing with three strong Japanese brands whose reputation in these areas is peerless.
Tata will have to be on top of their game to even get a look in. In fact, they will probably enter the market at a price point where they are competing against second hand Isuzu, Hino and Fuso trucks. Even at this point quality of finish will be an issue for them. It will certainly be interesting to see just how they go.