With India gaining fame for its core competency in small cars, the compact sedans Indigo CS and Swift DZire reveal a new side of the story
The world looked in awe as Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Motors, un-veiled the Nano at the 2008 Auto Expo. It was a demonstration of how frugally an automobile can be produced. Many criticised the car but many more admired the small wonder and the efforts that went into its development. Over a period of time, the Nano has come to be regarded as an example of how adaptable and agile Indian automotive manufacturers are. It also reflects the support of world-class suppliers, and their role as strategic partners in the project. Also, it is not for no reason that industry experts are referring to the Indian auto industry as the one which is more willing to listen to the suppliers rather than those in the developed markets.
Dr Wolfgang Hapke, President, Market and Business Development Asia Pacific at BASF, recently expressed this sentiment during an interaction with the media: "We see India emerging as core-competence for small cars. If the Nano costs Euro 1,600, the Logan, which is considered as the cost effective car in Europe, costs Euro 7,000."
The Nano is a small car; a hatchback. The Logan is a sedan and considerably bigger in size and more complicated in terms of specs than the Nano. So, if the Logan represents a cost effective car for Europe, a new trend of compact sedans in India is yet another indicator that promises to once again highlight the ability of the Indian auto industry to build highly cost competitive small cars. The compact sedans are the Tata Indigo CS and the Maruti Swift DZire. Both the cars are based on platforms that have sprung different variants. Based on the Indica/Indigo platform, the Indigo CS is a sub-4 metre sedan according to Tata Motors. The DZire at the other end draws heavily from the Swift platform. While the Indigo CS picks up bits from the same bins as the Indica/Indigo, the DZire does from the same bins as the Swift hatchback.
While the Indigo CS, which looks similar to the 'conventional' Indigo except for the compact deck at the rear (and a short overhang), is an elegant looking car, the DZire is a compact sedan, the looks of which are definitely sharp and enough to either hate or love it. There's nothing mild about it. The DZire, in broad terms can be described as a Swift with a boot, a job that was accomplished by Indian engineers stationed at Maruti in Gurgaon and Suzuki at Japan.
The high-ish deck job of the DZire seems to have been inspired by Chris Bangle's job of the BMW sedans whereas the design of the Indigo CS is said to be an in-house job. A look at both the cars and it is clear that Indian buyers prefer a sedan to the hatchback. It is also clear that Indian carmakers are more than keen to listen to the needs of the buyers than ever.
The interiors of both the cars are similar to that of their platform-mates. The DZire borrows the interior from Swift, and the Indigo, from the Indica. If the DZire offers more equipment compared to the Swift, the Indigo CS crimps on the equipment list. The prospect of cost cutting on the Indigo CS is so prominent; the basic model can be had without a power steering. Power windows and central locking, which are considered as 'standard' for sedans in India, are not standard on Indigo CS. While the DZire offers ABS and front driver and passenger airbags as an option, the CS does not offer any of these. Where both the compact sedans score high is in the amount of space they offer - cabin space as well as storage space.
The 1.4-litre, 70 bhp 16-valve common-rail (Dicor) diesel engine variant has recently been added to the range. The other engines that the car could be had with, is either the 1.4-litre, 70 bhp turbo-diesel in-direct injection diesel engine or a 1.2-litre, 65 bhp MPFI petrol engine. The DZire can be had with a 1.3-litre, 87 bhp, 16-valve MPFI petrol engine or a 1.3-litre, 70 bhp, 16-valve multi-jet common-rail diesel engine. Both these engines are also available with the Swift hatchback. Similarly, all the three engines mentioned above are available on the Indica hatchback. In both the cars, the drive to the front wheels is routed through a 5-speed manual gearbox.
A look at the suppliers of both these cars highlights an interesting exploration of bins by both Tata and Maruti. Those supplying to the Indica are found to be supplying to the Indigo CS whereas those who supply to the Swift are also found to be supplying to the DZire. In the case of the Indigo CS, Automotive Stampings and Assemblies (ASAL) India, a Taco group company, is a supplier of various body panels. Wheels India is the supplier of steel wheels. Asahi India is the supplier of glass. Tata Toyo is claimed to be the supplier of radiators. Tata Johnson is the supplier of seats. Subros and Behr are said to be the suppliers of HVAC. Taco-IPD is claimed to be the supplier of plastic parts to the CS like bumpers, dashboard, various trim parts, etc. Tata Ficosa is said to supply the mirrors and rear deck latch. Tata Yazaki is claimed to supply the wiring harness. Exide is the supplier of batteries and Apollo Tyres, the supplier of tyres. Bridgestone is also said to be a supplier of tyres to the CS. Electrica Engineers is the supplier of the courtesy lamps. Lucas TVS is the supplier of wiper motor and alternator. TVS is the supplier of braking system. Autoliv IFB is the supplier of seat belts. Lumax is the supplier of the tail lamp and headlamps whereas Minda is the supplier of central brake light. Delphi TVS is the supplier of diesel injection system on the TCIC Indigo CS. Behr India is claimed to be the supplier of aluminium radiator cum oil cooler on the TCIC. Turbo Energy is said to be the supplier of turbo charger on the TCIC.
The DZire is also supported by a battery of world class suppliers. Bosch is said to supply the injection management system of the DZire diesel engine. Mahle Migma is claimed to be the supplier of camshaft to the diesel engine, as well as the petrol engine. JK Tyres is claimed to be the supplier of tyres. Delphi is said to supply the McPherson struts and a number of suspension components to the Swift DZire. SKF is claimed to have supplied the strut bearings. Pricol is said to supply a number of components to Denso for the petrol DZire's injection system. VDO is claimed to supply the instruments. Purolator is said to supply the filter and canister for the DZire. TVS Lucas is claimed to supply the starter/alternator of the Dzire and Lakhani Rubber Works, the rubber hoses. Motherson Sumi Systems Limited is said to supply the wiring harness of the DZire. Krishna Maruti is claimed to supply the seating system. Stanley is said to supply the lamps and Amara Raja, the batteries. Asahi India is claimed to supply the glass and Lumax the door mirrors.
The high-end equipment and higher market positioning of the DZire reflects from its price, which is more than the Swift hatchback. The Indigo CS, at the other end, undercuts, the 'conventional' Indigo sedan and even some models of the Indica. The Indigo CS is also cheaper than a number of hatchbacks on the market! The Indigo CS and the DZire reflect an interesting side of the Indian auto industry - the desire to innovate and seek newer ways to woo buyers in a market that is fast maturing. The best part of the equation is arguably the way both the automakers are using their sourcing bins, and leveraging more business to their suppliers in the process.