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Forster Unexpectedly Quits at Tata

Uncertain impact on plans for Jaguar and Land Rover.

by on Sep.12, 2011

Former Tata Motors chief Carl-Peter Forster.

Carl-Peter Forster has resigned as chief executive officer and managing director of Tata Motors, citing a serious illness in his immediate family. He will remain a non-executive director of Tata, the ambitious Indian automaker that purchased Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford Motor Co. two years ago.

Forster had joined Tata in February, 2010 after a long career with General Motors that ended in 2009 when he supported the sale of majority control of GM’s Opel subsidiary to a consortium of Russian Banks allied with Canadian automotive supplier Magna International Inc.  The deal was scrubbed after a series of executive changes at GM,notably including the ouster of CEO Fritz Henderson who, like Forster, had supported the sale.

“The board respects Carl-Peter’s personal circumstances that led to this move,” Tata Chairman Ratan Tata said following Forster’s resignation. “We would like to thank him for his contributions to the successful development of our company.”

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Tata is the largest of the domestic Indian automakers and arguably the most ambitious.  The Tata brand name is perhaps best known for its Nano model, the world’s cheapest automobile.  But Tata has struggled to expand out of its home market and has been counting on its two British brands to help it become a truly global player in the competitive automotive industry.  But things are clearly not going as well as Tata hoped.


GM Facing Labor Crisis in India

Plant management looking to replace striking workers.

by on Apr.08, 2011

Worker pushing a trolley at a GM Halol plant.

Seems like General Motors can’t run from labor unrest.

Some 1,600 workers have struck at the GM Halol plant in India, which produces Cruze and Aveo vehicles.

Workers paid 47 to 92 cents an hour are claiming they have been shortchanged on their overtime pay and that more than 269 workers have suffered spinal cord injuries due to unsafe working conditions.

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Meanwhile, GM’s local plant management has unilaterally imposed a mandatory 20 percent increase in daily production goals, which labor advocates claim will only result in more work injuries.  Managers reportedly also are attempting to replace strikers with non-union replacement workers.

So far, the workers have been out on strike for three weeks. They want their Gujarat Kamdar Mandal union recognized with a collective contract so workers finally have a voice.


Mahindra and Mahindra Goes Electric

Indian maker sees opportunity in mass market battery cars.

by on May.27, 2010

Mahindra & Mahindra's first entry into the U.S. is likely to be this pickup, but it isn't saying what models will eventually go electric.

The ambitious Indian vehicle builder Mahindra & Mahindra has entered the race to build a mass market electric vehicle by buying a majority interest in the REVA Electric Vehicle Company of Bangalore, India.

The new partnership, Mahindra REVA, will leverage Mahindra’s vehicle development expertise and open the door for REVA technology to be deployed in Mahnindra-designed vehicles, says the automaker, which has delayed its long-anticipated entry into the U.S. market as it finalizes work on a pair of light truck offerings.

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“The buyout makes the Mahindra group a strong global player in the electric vehicle space,” said Pawan Goenka, President Automotive & Farm Equipment Sectors, Mahindra & Mahindra, who will serve as the chairman of the Mahindra REVA board.  The board will include five nominees from Mahindra & Mahindra, two from the Maini family, the founders of REVA, and one representative from REVA’s  American partner. AEV LLC.

Renault-Nissan Aim to Produce $2,500 Car

Targeting Tata Nano.

by on May.04, 2010

Renault, Nissan and Indian partner Bajaj hope to undercut the price of the Tato Nano, shown here, with their ULC project.

The Euro-Asian Renault and Nissan Alliance will work with a third partner, India’s Bajaj Auto, to produce a super-low cost auto aimed at India’s emerging middle class – and targeting the Tata Nano, currently the lowest-priced model available on the subcontinent.

“We are aiming for a price of $2,500,” said Renault President and CEO Carlos Ghosn, a target that helps explain why the project has been delayed for several years.  The three partners announced the program in 2008 and were hoping to be to market this year.  Instead, it will now be delayed until 2012.

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Bajaj Managing Director Rajiv Bajaj has agreed to move ahead, though his eponymous firm originally opposed the idea of focusing on a rock-bottom price.  Instead, industry insiders say, his goal was to emphasize high fuel economy and low maintenance costs – even if the vehicle were to come in at a price higher than that of the well-publicized Tata Nano.


India Gears Up

New cars, new trucks, even some new roads.

by on Oct.16, 2009

This former Chrysler dealership, in the Detroit suburb of Mt. Clemens, will soon become one of the first American retailers to handle India's Mahindra.

This former Chrysler dealership, in the Detroit suburb of Mt. Clemens, will soon become one of the first American retailers to handle India's Mahindra.

For decades, the suburban Detroit showroom was a popular place, but when Chrysler decided to slash its dealer count as part of its bankruptcy reorganization, Mt. Clemens Dodge was one of the first to go.  No problem, however, as almost overnight, a new banner popped up in the sprawling retailer’s plate glass window.

In the coming months, the Mt. Clemens outlet will become the first in the Motor City to start selling the new Mahindra Pik-Up which, in turn, will mark the first time an Indian-made automobile will reach the U.S. market.

Eventually, Mahindra will add a sport-utility vehicle to its American line-up. (Click here for’s review of both models.)  And there’s a reasonable chance Mahindra eventually will be joined in the States by its chief home market rival, Tata Motors.

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But plans have a way of changing, and with the U.S. mired in an economic downturn, and little likelihood that the car market will recover from its worst slump in half a century, foreign makers, in general, are rethinking their plans.  For the Indians, in particular, analysts say, it’s leading them to make a more concerted push to build up their own market, on the subcontinent, with makers like Mahindra and Tata looking for guidance to what has happened in China.


First Drive: Mahindra Pik-Up

Indian maker hopes to curry interest of American truck buyers.

by on Aug.27, 2009

Indian automaker Mahinda plans to begin marketing two models in the U.S., including the Pik-Up.

Indian automaker Mahinda plans to begin marketing two models in the U.S., including two versions of the Pik-Up, and an SUV.

It’s been more than two years since we first heard Mahindra was bringing small diesel pickups to the U.S. During that time we’ve covered a steady stream of news about the Indian company and its American distributor Global Vehicles U.S.A., but we’ve most wanted to know: How will these trucks perform and can they live up to the high expectations of American truck buyers?

To find out we drove two foreign-market Mahindra trucks – a left-hand drive version of the recently updated Australian Pik-Up and a Scorpio SUV – down near Atlanta earlier this week.

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The two trucks aren’t identical to the rigs that will go on sale here – the two-door TR20 and four-door TR40 pickups (coming in February) and the SUV (due later in 2010) – but they’re close enough so that the single cab Pik-Up and “mHawk” diesel-powered Scorpio with a six-speed automatic give us a reasonable idea of what the stateside pickup’s powertrain will be like.