Tuesday, 5 October 2010

TATA Motors acquires Italian design company

If a carmaker has aspirations to become a global player, it needs to be able to either have in-house capability that encompasses all aspects of the business or it acquires that capability by buying over specialists. Companies that rely on other carmakers for their platforms and designs will find that they are disadvantaged since they will have limited ability to adapt the models to suit their own marketing strategies and it is likely that their partners won’t provide them with the very latest designs anyway.

TATA is among the world leaders in trucks

TATA Motors, India’s largest carmaker and among the top 20 in the world, has been around for over 50 years and though it is one of the leading truck companies in the world, its passenger car business is still largely confined to its home market. Nevertheless, it is aiming to become more active in export markets and to do this, it will need competent, well designed products.
Like many manufacturers with decades of experience, it has strong manufacturing capabilities but design and styling are a specialized area which is not easy to develop in-house. Even the top players have commissioned Italian styling houses to come up with designs for some of their models when they have wanted something more impactful.

To get such design expertise, TATA Motors took a stake in Pininfarina two years ago as part of the initiative to establish a research, design and engineering centre in India. The centre, which is owned by Pininfarina, is not just for TATA Motors but is available to offer services to other carmakers as well. Of course, with TATA Motors having a stake in the Italian company, there are also separate links where collaborative efforts are carried out.
The first of such efforts was the TATA Pr1ma concept car displayed at the Geneva Motorshow last year. The model was designed by Pininfarina on an Indigo wheelbase and presented as a luxury saloon.
The TATA-Pininfarina connection is important because the Indian carmaker now owns Jaguar and Land Rover, two premium marques that will need the sort of design expertise that Pininfarina is famous for.
To enhance its R&D capabilities, TATA Motors this week announced that it spend 1.85 million euros (about RM7.9 million) to acquire 80% of Trilix Srl, an Italian design and engineering company based in Turin. The acquisition is said to be in line with the company’s aim to gain world-class styling and design capabilities.
Though Trilix may be an unfamiliar name to the general public, it has an active ‘behind-the-scenes’ role in offering services in the automotive sector. These services range from styling to packaging to preparing manufacturing process feasibility studies. Trilix has also worked with TATA Motors on several projects before so they already have a close working relationship.

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