It is Tata Motors’ 11th year as an exhibitor at the Geneva Show. Group chairman Ratan Tata feels an emotional attachment to the event, the first in Europe to accept his Indian-built cars and commercials for exhibition. This year Tata Motors had the new Indica - a heavily re-engineered version of the car immortalised in British minds as the CityRover - plus its remarkable Indian-market micro-car, the Nano, but it was as the probable new owner of Jaguar-Land Rover that Ratan Tata gained most attention. He spoke exclusively to Autocar and answered our questions with considerable candour…
Why do you want to own JLR? Is it the excitement and challenge of developing two famous car marques or is it more of a business decision?
What attracted us was the fact that these are two iconic brands, global in nature and highly respected for their products. We believe it is the duty of whoever owns them to nurture the image, to retain their touch and feel, and not to tinker with them. They are British brands, and they should remain British. Who actually owns them should not be very important in the way they work.
What is your main motivation? Is it to supply components from India or to build links with your existing business?
Our motivation is not based on outsourcing and it is not based on taking technology from these companies. The synergies we see are the fundamental ones of having in our midst two brands that we greatly respect. The world should look at brands like these for what they are. Who owns them is almost immaterial. Our challenge at Tata, if our bid is successful, would be to nurture them and make them thrive.
What is your view of Jaguar’s and Land Rover’s forward model programme? Do you like what you see?
The teams from Ford and Tata are deep in due diligence work at present and I have not heard of any problem from that area. I have seen proposals for new models that look very exciting and impressive. We would not be arrogant enough to think we could arrive at this stage and bring something better.
Could you tell us about your love of cars?
I have always had a personal passion for cars and so I have the credit and notoriety for getting Tata Motors into this business. The car business takes up a fair bit of my time, and rather more of my interest. It’s a more exciting business than others because the products have a far greater emotional attachment for their owners.
As a car enthusiast, do you believe Jaguar should build a new sports car?
I really can’t express a view because we don’t own the company. But if the day comes when we do own it, I shall have pleasure in answering you, because I do have strong views on the subject. I look forward to answering your question...
How does Tata go about about injecting its own management ethos into the companies it owns?
We satisfy ourselves, early on, that the people in the company share our values and ethics, and that we can have good human contact with the management, because we would want the management to continue to be there. That is how we have worked with Daewoo, with Corus, with Tetley Tea and other companies we have acquired. We aim put our imprint on the company through a negotiation board, but the existing managers continue to run the company.