Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tata Motors affirms Thai eco-car project

Tata Motors Ltd said on Wednesday its 5-billion-baht ($147 million) project to produce an ''eco car'' in Thailand by 2012 was still on track.

Ajit Venkataraman, chief executive of Tata's Thai unit, dismissed local newspaper reports that the Indian car giant may be wavering on its Thai project.

Tata is one of six foreign carmakers applying for government incentives to manufacture mini passenger cars with at least an annual production capacity of 100,000 units, he told reporters.

''We have made long-term commitments to Thailand and are a part of its automobile industry with plans to extend our product lines to include commercial vehicles and buses as well as eco-friendly, affordable small cars,'' he said.

The Tata executive said its Thai eco-car would be an entirely different vehicle from the company's Nano model, billed as the world's cheapest car, that has attracted more than 203,000 bookings in India since April.

Nano production will start in early 2010 and full production will be achieved by late next year.

''Our eco-car project is going through its development process. We have several engine-size options, a decision to be dictated by market demand,'' he said, referring to a government requirement for the car to be powered by up to 1,300-cc engines.

Other companies applying to invest in Thai eco-car projects are Toyota Motor <7203.T>, Mitsubishi Motors <7211.T>, Nissan Motor <7201.T>, Honda Motor <7267.T> and Suzuki Motor <7269.T>.

Tata has sold nearly 600 one-tonne pick-up trucks since it entered the Thai market about a year ago. Venkataraman hoped to achieve, within five years, a 5 percent share of the Japanese- dominated segment in which 334,282 trucks were sold in 2008.

Tata and its local partner, Thonburi Automotive Assembly Plant Co, have invested in a 1.5-billion-baht joint venture to produce light trucks at Thonburi's eastern Bangkok suburban plant.

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