Features/ Interviews/ TG Talks | In Conversation With Martin And Vivek | Tata Nexon Drive

TG Talks | In Conversation With Martin And Vivek | Tata Nexon Drive

Tata Motors has come a long way, not just in terms of safety and mobility solutions, but also amplified its character with its design language and product positioning. Ramesh Somani, Ed of BBC TopGear India, took Mr Vivek Srivatsa, Head of Marketing, Sales and Service Strategy, Tata Passenger Electric Mobility Ltd and Mr Martin Uhlarik, Head of Global Design, Tata Motors, on a drive in the facelifted Nexon EV to understand what goes behind the scenes into product planning, sales, design and a lot more.

Ramesh Somani: The lifecycle of new-age cars is shrinking, and consumers are demanding changes far quicker, so how do you deal with the market demands and approach such demands?

Martin Uhlarik: Our job is to be futurists, so this car was designed essentially two years ago. So whenever we design, be it a Nexon or any other product, we do trend analysis, and it’s not just design trends but also social trends. I firmly believe that if you want a design to remain relevant and timeless, you have to make it simple to understand and as modern as possible. The simpler the design, the better it will age and the more contemporary it will look.

RS: We have seen so many concepts from Tata Motors recently; how much percentage of these concepts will be made into reality?

MU: Quite a lot. The track record that the design team has at Tata Motors is pretty exceptional, whether it was the Nexon concept ten years ago, and it translated very well in the first-gen Nexon. We have seen this with all subsequent models, whether the Punch, Altroz and so forth, so I am pretty confident with the concepts we showed in the last 12-18 months. I have already seen the production versions of them, and the difference is actually very small.

RS: What are the challenges you have faced in EV marketing, and what are the challenges you think is still an uphill task going ahead with EVs?

Vivek Srivatsa: People are hugely concerned about battery life. Initially, we went and gave an eight-year warranty, and it was so good that people thought that eight years was the life of the battery. So it’s actually too good to be true, which was working against us. So, a lot of education in terms of the fact that battery life is actually more than 12 years. There’s an internal saying that batteries will outlast the car, and you have second life and third life for batteries, so this is something we are trying to address. Secondly, there is a question about resale value. Earlier customers want to upgrade now, so that is something which will pan out, and they will realise that resale value is actually better on EVs than ICE. Charging infrastructure is a big challenge, and the time taken to charge is a concern. We are working on it. Customers also need to strike a balance between what they really need and what they want.

RS: What’s your favourite design element of the facelifted Nexon EV?

MU: Steering wheel. That was a big, bold move on our part. We originally were going to design just a standard steering wheel. But then, we said it’s part of the refresh, so we need a new corporate wheel, and the designer came up with a bunch of sketches, but the argument was that the steering wheel should be seen as the game console, so then we just drew a rim around it. And as far as the exteriors go, it’s the X-factor that the rear lights are now illuminated. I think the car looks very modern and sharp.

RS: What do you think of the future of car sales? Do you think digital sales will take over, or do you still think the traditional system will work?

VS: I think direct-to-customers is going to increase. We have seen with e-commerce companies how convenient it can be. Also, EV cars do get commodities quite a bit. You do not need to drive the car. It is more like a gadget; every iPhone is the same, no matter where you buy it. Customers will have a lot of peace of mind to actually buy directly. We just need to get the infrastructure right in terms of the ability to deliver. I see a hybrid kind of system coming in place, where customers can do the bulk of buying activity digitally. We might need our dealer partners to do a little bit. India is such a big country, so you will still have traditional stores as many consumers still want to experience them physically. Direct-to-customer definitely will increase going forward, especially on the EVs side.

RS: What might work in foreign countries might not work in India, so how do you maintain uniformity in design language?

MU: To be honest, we never look at it like that. We look at it as a global product even when we are designing for India. There are some specifics in general. As a philosophy, we always design globally because we have an international team; we have 12-13 nationalities in Tata Motors design and 180 people working across three studios, and they are constantly travelling. Projects are being moved around from one studio to another, depending on resources. These programs are always seen as globally competitive from a design point of view.

RS: How to become a designer at Tata Motors?

MU: You need to go to a good design school first; it is a good gateway. I studied Industrial design, but then afterwards, I had another degree in car design in transportation design. So there’s a specific course that specialises in automotive design, and even automotive design is split into exterior, interior, colour materials, UI UX and more.

RS: What do you think of ADAS? What’s your take on it?

VS: If you had asked me a year back, I would have said - no way it will work in India. But now I have started believing that ADAS will probably get Indians to start driving better. Sometimes, the tail has to wag the dog, and it might just happen in India that because of ADAS, people will drive better.

TopGear Magazine July 2024