Will Tata Zest Change the Game?

Can Tata Motors shed its low-quality tag and deliver a blockbuster with its new car?


The  big buzz in Indian motoring circles, over the past few weeks, has been the trial drives of the new Tata Zest. The reviews are based on controlled exposure and drives, and a high-pressure publicity campaign. An outpouring of praise, therefore, is to be expected. As of now, what the reviews don’t tell us, however, is this:

•     Price (and discounts) for this new sub-four-metre sedan. (Educated guess—much cheaper than the Maruti Suzuki D’Zire / Honda Amaze)

•     Warranty and after-sales service. (Based on today’s trends, this should be four years and 60,000-80,000km)

•     Improvements in after-sales and service. (Inputs reveal that this is a focus area for Tata)
We have been shown vast improvements in fit, finish and interiors. Naturally, this is due to Jaguar Land Rover, though colour choices seem aimed at clean-looking interiors in the long run, more than anything else.

Personally, I like Tata cars for one solid reason—safety. I look forward to crash test reports and inputs on the new cars from Tata Motors, because that is, in my estimation, the focus of the Indian automobile market of late—occupant safety.

Turbo-charger’s Role

What does a ‘turbo-charger’ do in a petrol engine (or for that matter, in a diesel engine)? To understand this better, an analogy can be found in marine engineering applications—where turbo-chargers were born. These fuel-saving devices were, and still are, known as ‘economisers’. Their configuration decides whether you get better fuel economy or better speed. On cargo ships, they are usually configured for fuel economy; but in cars, they have been configured for that extra boost. The best example of an automobile turbo-charger, in the low-priced car range in India, is the Fiat designed diesel engine, which is provided in the Maruti, Tata and FIAT cars—it behaves differently in each car.

Maruti Swift provides that turbo-boost which gets the heart racing, while in Tata Indica it is configured to provide fuel economy. In all cases, however, it adds to the cost of the diesel engine. That Tata Motors is now offering a turbo-charger/economiser option in the petrol engine of Zest can, therefore, mean only one thing—that the prices of the petrol and diesel versions will be close to each other. But, more interestingly, Tata Motors is reportedly providing a range of settings, from performance/sports versions to economy versions in their new Zest. These features, along with the automatic transmission options, should change the game in this car segment.

Battery Rickshaw

The three-wheeler battery-rickshaw revolution is rapidly evolving in all directions. From quasi public transport, providing last-mile connectivity in urban areas, to mini-goods carriers, and now personal transport configured for special needs. The great benefits are: no regulation, no registration, no parking charges and no adulterated fuel.

The latest example I saw, was from a caterer who, at an event for about 80 people, was using a cargo version battery-rickshaw to move food literally course by course. That included some desserts which needed to be handled very carefully. The body of the rickshaw had been converted into one huge insulated box and the springs had been tuned to ‘soft’.

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