What does the market roll-out of the Punch look like in light of the semiconductor shortage?
First off, we’ve been very overwhelmed with the customer response. But it’s a struggle in terms of how we manage our production. So, to be very upfront, we don’t have enough supplies of semiconductors to manage the demand. We’re kind of doing ‘carousel management’ with our other products so that no one product is in shortage for a longer period of time. The Punch has added to the stress, in a good way. But we would prioritise the Punch over other products in the coming months so that we get a few on the road and keep customers happy. We don’t see the semiconductor issue easing off anytime soon, because markets across the world are picking up in terms of demand. The shortage is going to be around for some time, and it’s up to industries and manufacturers to really work out how best they can manage.
The Punch has achieved 5-stars on Global NCAP for crash testing and safety. Do you think we’ve reached a stage where safety really impacts the customer’s decision?
We believe so. Firstly, if you look at data, safety as a reason to buy has dramatically gone up in the last 2-3 years. I think Indian customers were not aware that cars can actually be built to save them. And I think that realisation is coming in. Safer cars do protect passengers. And we’re very happy that some manufacturers are also taking the lead, along with us, to start highlighting the need for safety and highlighting these ratings. And I believe it’s good for the industry and good for the customer. So, yes, safety is going to become a far more important reason to buy in the future.
You’ve announced a number of new EVs for the near future. How do you see the market evolving over the next couple of years?
EVs obviously are the future. The only question is how fast it’s going to come upon us. I think customers initially bought EVs for the low cost of ownership. But what we’re seeing now is that they’re starting to appreciate the ride of an EV – the kinds of benefits it offers in terms of better torque availability and silence. And with charging infrastructure going up strongly, the government is also speaking the same language. With all the pressures heading in one direction, customer adoption will surprise us in the coming years. India has shown that, in many different areas, it actually starts slow, but then goes very fast. And we’ll see the same in EVs.
Real Driving Emissions (RDE) regulations kick in from April 2023. So what happens to diesel going forward?
It’s very tricky, with so many things changing. Obviously, diesel cost in India is going up. But, having said that, the drivability of diesel continues to be good – especially in the larger cars. We don’t have large displacement petrol engines in India, so we have to go with turbocharged versions – and the fuel efficiency of these engines is never good in larger cars. In the next 4-5 years, how EVs are going to change the game is something to look out for. However, I think the drivability and fuel efficiency of diesel in larger cars will continue to be a selling point. It’s not going to disappear, but how EVs develop will have an impact on how diesel evolves.
'How EVs develop will have an impact on how diesel evolves,' says Vivek
In the past, the 4x4 space is something that Tata’s been very strong in. So, can we see a re-entry from Tata Motors in that space?
We were committed to 4x4 for a very long time. In fact, the Hexa came with a range of 4x4 options, and it had a lot of tech behind it. But, to be honest, the market is shrinking. There are no takers for 4x4. It’s not a very cheap technology either. For the same money, customers prefer other features instead. And data has shown us that the market has been shrinking. When the market is there, we’ll definitely do it. Or maybe we’ll have to look at approaching 4x4 in a slightly different way, not a conventional way. This kind of off-road driving for entertainment at a large scale has not picked up in India yet. We will look at 4x4 more from a safety point of view. It’s much safer on the highways when you have all-wheel drive. So, there are different ways to look at it, but right now we don’t see the market.