Six-year warranty, mobile racing game and ipads for dealers; Tata Motors goes whole hog for the Zest

Written by Roudra Bhattacharya | New Delhi | Updated: Jul 22 2014, 21:44pm hrs
Tata MotorsTata is also giving free 24X7 roadside assistance.
A decade and a half after witnessing success with the Indica/Indigo twins, Tata Motors once again seeks to revisit that formula with the Zest compact sedan and Bolt hatchback that will hit the market starting mid-August. From an industry first six- year warranty, to a mobile racing game and pre-launch test drives for bankers/financiers, Tata is going whole hog for the Zest and Bolt, which together herald a new beginning for the company and are only the first leg of an entirely new model line-up.

Several Tata cars in recent times like the Nano, Aria and Vista have seen little or no success, so for the Zest and Bolt, Indias largest automaker by revenues is leaving no stone unturned. Ahead of the launches, the automaker has spent about Rs 50 crore on just showroom upgrades for its around 250 passenger vehicle dealers in the country. Every sales personnel has also been given a tablet with a pre-installed Tata Motors app to visually explain the various features of the car to the customer.

The ceilings, floor tiling, display area and the customer lounge, everything has been re done as per the companys new guidelines to give the brand a more upmarket feel. About 20 tablets have also been given per dealer. I believe the cost was about Rs 30 lakh per dealer, of which a large chunk was paid by Tata, a major Tata dealer said, while requesting anonymity.

A Tata spokesperson said that the company has hired BCG consulting to get its launch strategy right. The Zest will be launched first, followed by the Bolt. In the run-up to the commercial launch of Zest there are various activities planned. We have undertaken an aggressive revamp at our over 200 dealerships. We along with our channel partners have hired over 3000 staff nationally.

We are also helping our channel partners in enhancing their process. Special focus will be put on enhancing the HR practices at Dealership to improve the recruitment, training, rewards and retention process. We are also upgrading our existing dealerships. This exercise should be complete by August, the Tata official said.

To get rid of perceptions of poor quality, Tata Motors is believed to be planning a lot of goodies for customers as well. Included in the price of the car, Tata Motors is expected to offer three years warranty - plus three years extended warranty for the first few months. While warranty will only cover manufacturing defects, there is also additional three-year annual maintenance coverage for any other problem that the customer may face. Added to this, Tata is giving free 24X7 roadside assistance.

Gaurav Vangaal, automotive analyst for light vehicle forecasting at IHS said, With these offers, Tata aims to show the confidence it places on its new product range and wants to pass it on to its consumers. The move will allow an edge to compete aggressively with other manufacturers offerings.

Similar to the Indica, which brought diesel car ownership to the mass segment, the Zest also promises a lot of firsts. It will be the cheapest diesel automatic in the market on the back of the Automated Manual Transmission technology made popular with Marutis Celerio. On the petrol variant, Tatas new 1.2 litre Revotron engine is the cheapest turbo-charged petrol engine in the market that means high fuel efficiency and power. The Zest also features three drive modes for different engine performance Sport. Eco and City, a feature till now seen only in luxury cars from the likes of BMW or Mercedes-Benz. The Zest, for which bookings are expected to begin on July 18, is likely to be launched at an aggressive starting price of around Rs 4.6 lakh.

To further create excitement ahead of the launch, Tata has also launched ringtones and a mobile racing game app for Android users called the Tata Revotron Challenge. Meanwhile, it is offering pre-launch drives of the Zest to all stakeholders who will facilitate dales this includes dealers and financiers. Campaigns have also been Twitter and Facebook, while Tata also took up title sponsorship for IIFA this year to showcase the Zest.

For Tata Motors, improvement of its brand image - that has been tarnished on perceptions of poor quality, is very important. Passenger vehicle volumes for Tata have been sliding for over two years - 15% in FY13, 37% in FY14 and 37% again in April-June FY15, and the company has seen a major management churn with several key officials leaving and ex-MD Karl Slym, who was spearheading the turnaround under Tatas Horizonext business strategy, passing away in an unfortunate accident overseas. The brand transformation is largely being handled by Ranjit Yadav, ex-Samsungs mobile business head for India and currently Tatas president for the PV business.

A reversal of fortunes for Tata starting with the Zest, which has largely been surviving because of the strong global success of its British luxury marquee Jaguar Land Rover, is important for the next rung of new products that the company is speedily working on. This includes a new small car Kite priced around Rs 4 lakh due next year, a compact SUV Nexon that will debut around 2016, besides major revisions for the Nano and Safari Storme. Like the Zest, which for the first time has been developed across Tatas engineering and design offices in India, Italy and the UK, all future Tata cars and engines will see extensive global collaboration.