"Right now customers over-index on the range" - says Vivek Srivatsa, Head of Marketing, Sales Service Strategy, Tata Passenger Electric Vehicles
Range and charging infrastructure are the two main challenges for electric vehicle adoption in India says Vivek Srivatsa, head of marketing at Tata Motors. “They don't need to over-index on that, because daily usage for most people is not over 100-150km at best.”
In a freewheeling conversation on the sidelines of the Tata Curvv concept unveil Vivek talks to editor Sirish Chandran about the challenges with EV, the reaction to the Nexon EV, the importance of ICE powertrains and also what happened to the Sierra concept shown at the 2020 Auto Expo.
EVs are very important for now, but even more important for the future
“We are kind of the only player right now, which is good and bad also. We enjoy monopolistic dominance in the market, but we’re the only ones really pushing in that market. For the future, for many reasons, including environmental and CAFE compliance and also in terms of the way the whole ecosystem is moving, I think EV is a very important pillar for us in the future.”
ICE of course is important
“We see ICE being the major choice of customers, at least for the rest of this decade. But we have to firmly focus on the transition now, start understanding what the customers want on the EV side, and how we can really satisfy their demand. EV customers are not looking at just the powertrain, they’re looking at a completely different experience of what an EV is. Overall as an industry, we need to first understand the changes that the customer wants, and then start delivering it, which you know is a very long and exciting amount of work. So it will be a challenging few years but all of us don’t really have an option but to live up to that.”
The number one concern EV customers have is range
We did not [anticipate reaction to Nexon EV], to be honest
“But very quickly we realised what is the potential. The waiting list is long because we’re not able to make enough. But it also encourages us to start expanding the market, like what we did with the Concept Curvv, in terms of giving more and more options to the customers, and more importantly, customers should see EVs as something which is long-term. Many people ask us why have we done this today. It’s to show that companies are investing in the future, which is very important. Just like consumer electronics and mobile manufacturers show a clear definition of the future, I think we need to start treating EVs that way to build customer confidence.
“Usually cars that are shown in Auto Expo get launched before the subsequent Auto Expo. So that’s largely our thinking. But it also kind of pegs a milestone on the road, both for us and for the customers in terms of what they can look forward to. So it’s like challenging ourselves, and also giving customers something to look forward to.”
Sierra did give us a lot of positive response
“Hopefully you will hear something good about that in the future. As for the name Sierra, I think this [Concept Curvv] doesn’t do true justice to what a Sierra is, so we can’t call it the Sierra. With the Curvv, we’ve gone ahead and said we’ll be doing it. Sierra, we’ve always said that customer response was great and it is also in our wish list, is all I can say.”
This is the future of where SUV design is going
“In terms of purely a mass-market customer point of view. Customers are very open in the SUV category for new shapes, and new use cases and we think this will go down well. We are already seeing with premium manufacturers that coupe body styles are doing well, one because it offers all the looks and performance of an SUV but also greatly enhances design, and I think customers will take to it. We think they have a very good role in the mass-market segment as well.”
It is about being ahead of the curve
“The ‘curve of evolution’ is what we had in mind, It so happens also that the roofline is a nice curve on this car. That’s what came in and there are also elements of semantics that we look at such as how easy it is to pronounce, in India with so many languages does it have any negative connotations and all that. It just found a sweet spot everywhere. The way it is written, with two ‘Vs’ also looks more modern and new age as well."
It [the Curvv] is an expression of design
“It is an expression of technology, and some of the material finishes, especially in terms of the EV point of view. It is a trend for Tata Motors, our concepts are very close to what comes out and with this car also we are very confident that we’ll get a lot of this character, these elements, this expression of design as far as materials [go] into the EV version of the Curvv.”
We are looking at expanding the SUV portfolio
“We are trying to create new designs, new body shapes, new use cases so that customers can align with the product. That’s the way. Having said that, I think hatchbacks are still 45 per cent of the market. There are certain segments we are not present in, and we’ll continue to try to be there, in case there’s a possibility. But SUVs today are 40 per cent of the market as we speak, and it continues to grow, so they’ll be a big part of our portfolio.”