Financial Express: Tata Motors hopes cars produced in future stay trouble-free

A lot is at stake for Tata Motors as far as two new launches from the carmaker, expected later this year, are concerned. The company is pinning its hopes on Zest - a new sedan - and Bolt - a new hatchback - to revive its flagging fortunes in the passenger car market. Pratap Bose, head of design at Tata Motors, speaks to Geeta Nair, and says that chairman Cyrus Mistry is personally reviewing the new cars being designed, and his involvement is reminiscent of Tata Sons' previous chairman Ratan Tata's passionate engagement with the launch of the Nano, the cheapest car in the world, produced by the company.

One of the basic problems facing the Tata Motors brand is reliability. How much can design help?

One of the pillars of our ‘Horizon Next' strategy is world-class manufacturing quality. Quality is no longer something that one sprinkles towards the end of product development. It is now an integral part of the process from day one. How the car comes together? Will the fit and finish work? Will it fall apart? What do we do to make it look and feel solid? When you get into the car are there those little squeaks, buzzes and rattles? It goes down to that level now. These detailed interventions are all in place now and Zest and Bolt will show that to our customers. The cars are being tested for these aspects all over the country. The new petrol engine has undergone more than 10,000 hours of testing.

What have you done differently this time while designing Zest and Bolt?

We have made the designing system more robust. We have introduced an ‘engineering sign-off'. The head of engineering will not allow the car to be produced till he signs off after being convinced that everything is in place. So my immediate boss, Tim Leverton, will have to do this. We have been making cars for about 15 years. If you look at global carmakers many are 100 years old. Every company goes through a process of building capability and this has to be done within a compressed time frame. We have gone through the process of focusing on quality and getting it right. Our processes have changed, materials have changed and engineering itself has changed. Hopefully this will ensure that our cars to be produced in the future will remain trouble-free. The process has been path-breaking. We wanted to get the Zest right. You design a hatchback and follow it up with a compact sedan. Usually a boot is added and it looks weird. We decided to design a good looking compact sedan; once we were happy with the silhouette, we reversed the process to design the hatchback.

Are the Zest and Bolt built on the Vista platform?

A lot of features have been added to the cars but the basic styling remains the same. We have heavily modified the X1 platform, which is an in-house platform. It is thoroughly revised, modernised and future-proofed. We wanted Zest to have some real class-defining features. In the interiors, the main focus is on infotainment with the Human Machine Interface system from Harman; and brand new steering and instrument cluster. You can use most infotainment functions from the steering wheel itself. We want people to enjoy the driving experience and are promising dynamic performance in the way the car steers or handles itself. The seats have also been redesigned. Our cars were always rich in features but we are now presenting them in a more compelling way through design.

Will Zest and Bolt help Tata Motors revive its fortunes?

Tata Motors has made a huge leap in terms of design and quality. Once people drive the car they will feel the engineering inputs also. People will appreciate the jump we have made and I am convinced these products would do well in the market.