By : RACHNA TYAGI
In this interview with TURN OF SPEED, Vivek B. Srivatsa, Head, Marketing, Passenger & Electric Vehicles Business Unit, Tata Motors, tells us about the newly launched Tata Tigor EV – their second offering in a market where many car manufacturers are yet to launch a personal EV – and about how Tata Motors is inviting Indians to #EvolveToElectric. Excerpts from the interview…
TOS: Tell us about how the Tata Tigor EV launched today is different from the XPRES-T EV?
VBS: Tata Tigor EV has much better power, fast charging as well as the entire ‘Connected Car Suite’ for the customer which makes it a very ‘Personal Car Oriented’ kind of a drive and so, customers can get an optimal range in the mix of an economy drive or a sporty drive as he or she requires. Obviously, [it has] all the safety and connected car technology which is part of Ziptron. On the fleet, the brand name itself is different, it is called XPRES T and the car looks different in terms of how it is designed and it is more oriented towards a ‘Cost of Ownership’ kind of approach, including the cost of running. It charges through a different kind of charging technology which is easily available in many places. It can be charged even in a 15 amps socket but it doesn’t come with Ziptron, so obviously, the range is slightly lower. However, considering it is going to be used for fleet, the range is not a limiting factor in the sense that fleet operations are fairly predictable so the fleet owners can actually plan their journey in terms of when they drive and when they charge pretty efficiently. The car comes with a portable charger as well so that really helps the fleet to manage and run it at a very efficient cost and develop good returns for the investments. At the base is the Ziptron technology on the personal side and on the fleet side you have a charging technology and a powertrain oriented towards cost of operations.
TOS: What efforts are being made in the push for #EvolveToElectric?
VBS: #EvolveToElectric is a call to action, if I can call it that, which we have launched now, along with the Tigor EV. It is to say that the country and its customers are ready to move to Electric. There have been a lot of differentiating points [with regards to] the new electric mobility [and] a lot of people, from the customer point of view, [have] anxieties in terms of relevance to India, the range, the charging infrastructure and [this is] also from manufacturers as well. Each manufacturer has their own point of view. But #EvolveToElectric is our invitation to Indian customers that it is time to move on to Electric. Moving up to Electric… we use the word ‘Up’ very carefully because moving to electric signifies an improvement in all aspects. It is environment friendly, it is a drive that is much more exciting, in terms of how the car feels, obviously it is much more silent as well, the cost of operations is far lower, both in terms of the cost of fuel and also the very negligible maintenance cost, the maintenance efforts required and so, that is why we call it an evolution ‘Up’ward for Indian customers who are generally used to traditional Internal Combustion Engines. In terms of efforts, with the Nexon EV, when we launched it in Jan 2020, we took the first step and along with launching the car, we launched the entire Eco system, which we called the Tata Universe where it consists of charging infrastructure, connected cars and our supplier ecosystem in terms of manufacturing the car… that was the first step. But today, launching the Tigor which is our second offering in the Passenger Vehicle segment, we think it is a big democratization of Electric Vehicles in India. Also, developing markets and segments are characterized by fragmentation. What we have seen is that earlier there were people that just wanted an EV but now within the EV customers there are different kind of people. Some want an SUV drive, some want a spirited drive, some want a more efficient, smooth drive with boot space, so, the maturing of the market is welcomed by adding another body style and another type of driving experience for the customers, so these are our efforts. If you compare, many companies don’t even have a single personal EV product [while] we are getting into our second one, so, we believe, it is a big invitation to Indian customers to #EvolveToElectric.
TOS: How did you decide on a sedan for the next EV?
VBS: We’ve seen that if you look at customer needs in terms of driving comfort, in terms of cost of operation, in terms of the amount of space needed for the passengers as well as the boot space, the sedan EV sits in a very sweet spot which offers optimal space, optimal power, optimal driving comfort, optimal safety also. You must have heard that the Tigor EV has achieved a GNCAP 4-Star rating as well comes with an optimal purchase price. It’s an absolute no-compromise product and I also want to highlight that the Tigor EV, while it will be the most economical to drive will at the same time also be the fastest compact sedan under four-meters, both for 0-60kmph as well as for 0-100kmph acceleration. So, it is economical, comfortable as well as very spirited in its performance. We think it is a very good sweet spot for the customers.
TOS: The Tata Tigor EV isn’t exactly cheap. It still remains an expensive proposition…
VBS: It depends on how you look at it, actually. When we launched the Nexon EV we said that Indian customers have proved us right …Indian customers are willing to pay upto 25% premium over a normal Internal Combustion Engine vehicle… and at that point of time it was the Nexon diesel that we were comparing it with. Today, we have continued in the same way. When you look at the top end version’s ‘On Road’ price of existing compact sedans from competitors, many of them are actually petrol, so you will have to factor the difference between petrol and diesel as well. We are between 16-22% more expensive than the top trims of a normal Internal Combustion Engine compact sedan. So, we continue in that same kind of ballpark which we had imagined for the Nexon EV and it has been very well accepted considering that we have more than six and a half thousand Nexons on the road. So, we believe that continues to be a sweet spot where the customer is willing to pay and if you really look at the economics of driving the vehicle over the next four-five years, within three years we expect this gap to be made up and after that it is going to be savings for the customer. So, it makes great economic sense. Also, it makes a lot of sense in terms of enhancing your entire driving experience. Like I said earlier, better technology, a more enjoyable drive, plus a much more silent and non-polluting drive. So, we believe that it is priced in the absolute same philosophy that we started off with the Nexon EV.
TOS: What is the percentage of customers who’re looking for cars online considering there has been such a strong push towards digital?
VBS: The customers dependence on digital purchase points has really increased and there was a survey conducted which said that there are 26 different interactions which customers do before they buy a car and out of that 24 can be digitized, so there are just two parts which are digital, which is the test-drive and the delivery which the customers can’t avoid being physically [present] at those two points. Increasingly, many customers are opting for digital interactions in the remaining 24 points and if you see the origin of customers, I would say 98% customers begin the search for their car online. Searching online is the first place where people look for information and we as manufacturers have really upped our game in terms of discoverability online, in terms of the tools that we have to discover our cars, not only in terms of numbers and figures but also in terms of virtual reality. They can actually go inside the car and feel and touch materials, choose different colours as well and see how the car looks, so, the digital experiences have been significantly going up. If I can give you a number, 30% of our retails today comes from digital sources and I’m not talking about the initial search alone but people who have opted for a test drive online, people who have opted to speak to a customer executive on the phone rather than in person, and such kinds of sources amount to close to 30% of our sales.