Tata is known for making cheap, rudimentary cars – including the Nano, the cheapest car in production today. However, some help from Land Rover will bring a premium modern feeling to Tata's upcoming SUV.
The Indian company, which bought Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford eight years ago, will use the current generation Freelander's platform to develop a new family SUV, primarily for the Indian domestic market. The new SUV will compete with Japanese, Korean and European rivals, meaning Tata has set the bar for quality and refinement very high.
With a new Freelander replacement due in 2015, possibly named Discovery Sport, the Tata SUV would use the outgoing model's architecture. This means that development costs for the platform will have already been amortised, and tooling would be readily available to be shipped to India, reducing Tata's development costs.
But despite the age of the architecture, Tata could benefit from a 5 star safety rated platform to produce what could be its most modern and safe family car yet. While the Tata may share many components with the outgoing baby Landy, it's likely the Tata will look and feel very different, as it will be specifically developed to suit Indian conditions.
The project is called the Tata Q5 for now, and is expected to feature 7 seats, placing the Tata SUV in competition of the likes of the Hyundai Santa Fe and Toyota Fortuner in India, as well as 5 seater compact SUVs. Tata is also likely to take advantage of some of Land Rover's ruggedness and capability to deliver a robust off roader for all terrain conditions.
The combination of a low cost, relatively modern structure, rugged capability and a premium feel should generate plenty of demand – particularly in India and other developing countries. Tata's ambition to become a truly global company and its presence in Australia means there is a small chance we will see the SUV in our local market. If so, the Tata could become Australia's cheapest 7 seater SUV, and become a credible alternative in the family SUV segment.