Tata Motors believes that the Intra, the new light commercial vehicle it will launch soon, will replicate the success of the Aces in India.
One of the most famous advertising campaigns in the Indian commercial vehicle (CV) industry is ‘Tata Ka Chota Hathi’, which Tata Motors used as a branding for the Ace light CV (LCV) launched in 2005. The campaign connected well with the product—a reference to its compact size, yet superior strength to carry goods—and the customers. Because of the inherent strengths of the product and because there wasn’t an equally good last-mile transportation LCV in the market, the Ace was a runaway success—the Ace family, comprising of eight models, has sold over 23 lakh units.
Now, the company wants to replicate the success of the Ace with the Intra—the two-tonne-plus LCV it will launch by end-May. It fills the gap between the Ace and Tata 407.
RT Wasan, vice-president, Sales & Marketing, Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, says that the Intra—branded as a compact truck—is built on the company’s Premium Tough philosophy for CVs, “which combines visual richness and sophistication, with robustness and reliability.”
The Intra is unlike most LCVs running on Indian roads. Designed to transport water bottles, fruits & vegetables, industrial goods, foodgrains, construction material, hardware items, etc, the Intra has an AC cabin, gearbox with gear-shift indicator, power steering, tubeless radial tyres, and low NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) levels. Its loading deck measures 8.2 feet by 5.3 feet, and its turning radius is 4.75 metres. With the Intra, the company is targeting the ‘performance segment’ within the ‘livelihood segment’ of the LCV industry.
But do LCV operators want an AC, a comfortable cabin, or do they aspire only for lower buying and running costs? “An LCV should be able to do the job it is bought for, and with low operating costs. At the same time, especially when it comes to intercity trips, the operator wants to do a certain number of trips in a certain time period for maximising profitability. For that, speed, acceleration and comfort (when you’re driving for longer hours) are important,” says Wasan. “A comfortable cabin leads to fatigue-free driving and that can translate into more trips undertaken.”
The Intra, Wasan adds, might not be the first LCV a person will buy; rather, it’s for someone who is already in the business, is aspirational, and wants to graduate to something better. “Like passenger vehicle (PV) customers, even LCV operators want to be seen in a vehicle that is more modern, in which they can perhaps take their family out,” adds Wasan.
Of the eight models of the Ace, three are also available in CNG as an option, but the Intra will be powered only with diesel—the 1396cc direct injection engine that produces 70bhp, which is far higher than the Ace family.
While the PV market is shifting to petrol and CNG, Wasan says diesel will remain the fuel of choice in the CV industry, even LCVs, which saw 19.46% growth in FY19 over FY18 (according to industry body SIAM). “CNG is a promising fuel, but can it be practical or not depends on the way the CNG network grows. LCVs don’t always ply in a localised area, and outside metro cities the CNG network is still work in progress. Also, considering the high mileage of LCVs and the current and expected diesel fuel prices, running economics will continue to favour diesel,” Wasan adds.