Tata Motors is India's largest commercial vehicle maker, but has so far lagged behind in the pickup truck segment (2.0-3.5 tonne), which has grown at 40% in the last three years. Tata Motors aims to make it big in the segment with the Xenon pickup.
Tata Motors was already selling the Xenon XT as a passenger pickup version, but has now launched it as a commercial vehicle product. It has been priced at Rs 5.44 lakh ex-showroom Mumbai for a single cab version and Rs 6.34 lakh for a crew (dual) cab version.
It will be competing head-on with Mahindra & Mahindra, which sells the Genio pickup among other products and commands a strong 60% market share in the segment.
Apart from the Xenon, Tata Motors also sells the Super Ace, RX Pickup and Telcoline 4x4 in the segment and has around 20% market share. Ashok Leyland, which launched the Dost last year, has a similar share.
Around 1 lakh pickups were sold in India in 2011-12 and Tata Motors expects that to go up to 1.5 lakh this year.
Ravi Pisharody, ED - commercial vehicles, expects with the launch of Xenon, Tata Motors' market share can go up to 25-30% "very soon."
Currently the Xenon pickup has been launched in three diesel engine variants (two common rail direct injection and one turbo), and a fourth variant will be launched by the end of December. The company started selling Xenon in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu last month, and it will be gradually launched nationally, according to Sandeep Kumar, Head, Sales Commercial Vehicles Business Unit.
Tata Motors has already sold around 35,000 Xenon pickups internationally in the last three years, with Southern Europe, South Africa and Thailand among key markets.
Around 200-250 Xenon's were produced last month, and this month it plans to produce 450-500, Kumar said, adding production will be increased as per demand.
Xenon has features like longest load body in its class, 3 lakh or 3 year warranty, metallic colours, radial tyres, and many passenger vehicle features like power windows, central locking, mobile charging point, which Tata Motors feels will help drive sales.
Tata Motors has also recently launched a refreshed version of the Super Ace. The refresh includes new metallic colours among other features. Currently 2,500 units of the Super Ace and Venture van are produced at Pantnagar plant and the output will likely go up to 5,000-6,000 units by Diwali, Kumar said.
Apart from the pickups, which are expected to see a 50% growth this year, Tata Motors said, it continues to see strong growth in light commercial vehicles and steady (around 10%) growth in buses. However, Pisharody said there had been a correction in medium and heavy truck sales. The MHCV segment saw around 35% growth in 2010-11, which he said was not sustainable.
Over the last few months, all MHCV companies have reported sluggish growth, as fleet operators postponed purchases amid the overall slowdown in the economy and expensive loans.
Pisharody said the company is seeing slight improvement in trucks, but it is no where close to last year's levels.
Tata Motors had cut production in April and May due to the slow growth, but it may not have to cut production going ahead, he added.
September-November is a peak season for auto makers, including CVs and companies are hoping there will be some pickup in demand.
Tata Motors shares closed at Rs 230.90, down 1.5% on NSE on Monday.