SUVs and more SUVs. Be prepared for them. This successful formula has been adopted by even new incoming manufacturers like MG as well as Kia and look where are they now. Kia has catapulted to the top five automakers in India while MG, on its part, is dealing with an overflowing order book. In fact, the latter is planning its second SUV and nonetheless, an electric for the Indian market this December. It shows the faith customers have placed on this manufacturer.
Now, all this brings us to the topic of discussion. Tata Motors, last night, announced the name of their 7-seater Harrier. The Tata Gravitas, as it will be called here, is bound to be a Mahindra XUV500 competitor. They say, “What’s in a name?” Must be true. Except that post 2009, manufacturers have been very careful about naming their products for the Indian market. You see, a certain foreign automaker happened to name their car after a lady. Only that the name translated to a man’s nether regions in Hindi. The Gravitas, sounds like a repulsive name right from the word go. We mean, Tata has got Safari, Tiago, Indica nameplates. Even the Harrier is an affable name.
Name aside, the Tata Gravitas might have a hard time in our market. Come to think of it. The Tata Gravitas is based on the Harrier. Unfortunately as sales numbers suggest, the Harrier within a year is managing to move out just under 1,000 units per month. The aforementioned Kia as well as MG products, in the same segment, are selling more than 12,000 and 3,000 units each month, respectively. The Harrier, we believe, is losing out probably because of its lesser features, diesel-only lower-spec powertrain and no automatic option. Harping on just a legendary chassis, unfortunately, isn’t doing the SUV any good. After the launch of the Hector and Seltos, the Harrier seems quite overpriced too. This, when the powertrain is still BS-IV compliant. From what we hear, BS-VI compliance will push the price easily by around Rs 70-80,000, if not more.
The Tata Gravitas then has its work cut out. It not only has to seat seven in decent comfort but also provide a plethora of new features. Something like an around view monitor, front parking sensors, sunroof, wireless charging and the likes. Not only does it have to add all these features but also package them in such a way that the cost should not be more than Rs 80,000 over that of the Harrier. Currently, the top-spec Harrier, and we aren’t counting the Rs 1 lakh+ optional sunroof fitment, costs a shade under Rs 17 lakh, ex-showroom. The on-road price is almost a lakh more. If the Gravitas comes in, and if its priced around Rs 1.2 lakh more, then it remains to be seen how many people will want to pay Rs 20 lakh plus for a Tata vehicle.
Instead, Tata Motors will want to think out of the box with this one. A turbo-petrol powertrain, at a lower cost than the existing Harrier, builds a case for itself. How about throwing an automatic transmission with it? Perfect competitor to the upcoming Hector 7-seater? You bet. On the same note, bringing in an electric 7-seater SUV will be a masterstroke. After all, Tata Motors has the expertise and its new Ziptron technology should be able to take care of a 350km, 7-seater SUV brimming with features, right? In the same vein, turning up the service quotient a couple of notches higher will definitely do the trick. Price the vehicle above Rs 20 lakh and you will still have takers. Look at the Hyundai Kona EV, for example. It is not even a proper 5-seater or has SUV-ish looks, for that matter.
You know it and Tata Motors does too. Their forte is in having value-for-money vehicles which offer lots of space, a decent kitty of features and a good design. The Harrier currently has the last quality in its favour. What the Gravitas can do is combine the other two aspects and make for an appealing all-round performer. The Gravitas has the potential to become an aspirational product and one we hope Tata Motors gets it right from the word go.
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