With little Zest in sales, Tata's Bolt launch delayed

Written by Rachit Vats | New Delhi | Updated: Oct 30 2014, 14:29pm hrs
Tata BoltTata Motors has delayed the launch of its Bolt hatchback by about three months to early next year. (CarDekho)
Slow initial demand and production issues for its comeback car, the Zest compact sedan, has led Tata Motors to delay the launch of its Bolt hatchback by about three months to early next year. Multiple sources close to the development told FE that the Bolt, expected to replace the Vista premium hatchback, will see start of production (SOP) from December and be launched in the market in January-February 2015, delayed from a previous SOP target of September.

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Tata, the countrys largest automaker by turnover, which has seen its passenger vehicle (PV) sales slide for almost three straight years, expects to sell about 2,500 units of the Bolt a month, as per targets given to suppliers. Incidentally, Tata had first showcased production-ready versions of the Zest and Bolt twins as early as February this year.

The Bolt has been delayed to sort out production issues with the Zest sedan. The response for the Zest has been lower than expected. A big problem was that the company did not have the key AMT (automated manual transmission) version (XMA variant) available from the launch as the production of that started only in September, a source close to the development said.

Responding to emailed queries, a Tata Motors spokesperson said, We have had an overwhelming response to Zest and have ramped up production as we currently have a significant waiting period for Zest customers. Our other product launches, including Bolt, are well on track, as per planned schedules and there are no delays in these.

Interestingly, numbers published by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers tell otherwise. Launched in August, the Zest sold just 3,331 units in September, the first full month of sales when most cars usually do very well both because of initial buyer excitement and stock build-up at dealers. This September sales volume was, in fact, 33% lower than the companys production schedules of about 5,000 units a month given to suppliers till January 2015. This was despite the company announcing that the Zest has received over 10,000 bookings in the first 40 days. Among Tata Motors other hatchback models, the Indica is currently selling 3,000 units a month, lower by 44% year-on-year and the Nanos volumes are down 38% year-on-year to about 1,000 units a month.

In the initial months the company has tried to fill up dealerships. The product is good but dealers are not excited with the sales. Tata Motors will have to work more to correct its perception in the market, said an analyst on condition of anonymity.

With a slowdown in the economy impacting commercial vehicle sales and low consumer sentiments affecting PV sales, Tata Motors has been struggling on the domestic front even as its British subsidiary Jaguar Land Rover is recording strong gains. In April-September FY15, Tata Motors PV sales were down 32% to 73,137 units. In the previous fiscal FY14, they were again down 37% to 1.98 lakh units and in FY13 they fell 15%.

JLR accounted for over 90% of the groups operating profit in FY14, a year when the company saw consolidated profits rise 43% to R14,104 crore, while revenues went up 23% to R232,834 crore. In Q1FY15, Tata Motors profits more than tripled to R5,398 crore again on the back of JLR.

The Tata Motors scrip closed 3.41% up at R525.95 on Wednesday on the BSE.