Exclusive! Tata developing mini-Aria
Don't write off the Aria yet because Tata has an ace up its sleeve. We have learned from sources that a mini-Aria is being developed. The MPV is expected to be in the same league as the Quanto, Ertiga and Innova in terms of size and price. Tata Motors has realised the potential of the budding MPV market under Rs 10 lakh where the Ertiga's scripting its success story. The Innova hasn't been hit by the Ertiga with both models selling an average of 6,000 units approximately per month in the period of April to September. The Aria on the other hand, priced at the wrong side of the Rs 10 lakh sweet spot, has managed just double digit sales despite being the most technologically advanced Tata ever. Reducing the price by about Rs 5 lakh means Tata may find it difficult to use the latest but expensive hydro-formed ladder-frame chassis. The company may trade the extra stiffness and weight advantage for the cheaper old Safari platform to keep the price competitive. The benefit of ladder-frame construction compared to a monocoque is that it is easier to modify. From the rear, the boot could be reduced to either fall flush with the third row or even fit in a set of jump seats like on the Mahindra Quanto. If the shortened ladder-frame chassis from the Safari is used, the length could reduce by another 200mm to fall under the crucial four-metre mark.
But that's not the only criteria to qualify under the 12 per cent excise duty bracket. The diesel engine needs to be under 1500cc. For this, the only option for Tata is to dump the 2.2-litre DiCOR block for the tried and trusted 1248cc Fiat Multijet engine. The challenge for Tata will be to reduce weight. The Aria is 2.2 tonnes, one tonne more than the Ertiga. Will the same engine powering the Ertiga suit the heavier Tata? It depends on whether Tata goes ahead with a new engine which seems like the logical step forward to price the shortened Aria aggressively. If not, the 2.2-litre unit will deliver better performance but will push up the cost. That's one mistake Tata doesn't want to repeat. If the 5,000 bookings for the Quanto in its first three weeks since launch is anything to go by, ungainly proportions are easily forgiven if the price is right. And that's exactly what the shortened Aria will be all about, delivering a value-for-money proposition.
Mini-Sumo Gold coming too
A new sub-four metre Sumo Gold is also being developed which could come as early as next year. Prices will start from Rs 5 lakh approximately making it tremendous value for money. Sources reveal that the exterior design of the 'mini' Sumo is ready. It has been jointly designed by the Tata Motors European Technical Centre in Warwick and the design team in India. It will also be a seven-seater using a pair of jump seats.