Tata Motors to expand Land Rover sales in India (Lead)

August 25th, 2008 - 8:58 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 25 (IANS) India’s largest automobile company Tata Motors will expand sales of the iconic British utility vehicle Land Rover in this country within the next one year, a top company official said here Monday.“Land Rovers are already present in small numbers in Mumbai but within the next year, we will expand its footprint in India,” said auto major’s passenger car division president Rajiv Dube on the sidelines of a media meet to announce the launch of the Indica Vista models.

The move to expand Land Rover sales in India follows media reports from London Sunday that Tata Motors had cut production of the utility and sports utility vehicle due to a drop in sales.

The report said that at the main Land Rover production centre at Solihull, two shifts have been scrapped, while three shifts will be cut next month at the Halewood factory where the Jaguar X-type is assembled.

Dube refused to either deny or confirm whether production has really been slashed at its Jaguar-Land Rover facilities in the UK.

High oil prices have slowed down sales growth of utility vehicles, especially in the US and European markets.

In India, however, utility vehicle sales grew at a robust 23.63 percent in the first quarter this fiscal, according to figures put out by an industry lobby.

Sales growth of utility vehicles during April-July, however, was somewhat lower at 16.03 percent, figures released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) show.

In comparison, US sales for General Motors (GM) fell 21 percent during the April-June period, while Toyota’s dropped 7.8 percent, GM’s chief sales analyst Mike DiGiovanni said in a conference call recently.

GM and Toyota are the two largest automobile manufacturers in the world and are constantly vying to gain the top sales slot.

“There was not quite enough sales volume in emerging markets to offset weakness in North America, more specifically in the US,” DiGiovanni said.

Given this backdrop, expansion of Land Rover sales in India will help Tata Motors to better utilise its production capacity in the UK.

Dube, however, did not mention when or whether sales of the luxury car brand Jaguar will be expanded in India.

Early this year, Tata Motors acquired Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford Motors in an all-cash deal worth $2.3 billion (Rs.92 billion).

In May this year, the company said it planned to raise Rs.72 billion in the capital market to fund the acquisition.

In a filing with the Bombay Stock Exchange last week, the company said the financing plan of the deal, which was announced May 2, has been reviewed considering the current situation of the capital market and price changes in the stock market since May.

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