The automotive industry is no longer run by the genius of engineers but by the calculations and schematics of number crunchers sitting in a backroom somewhere and the coloured-up visions of marketers. In an environment clearly dominated by numbers and brand recollect, it takes big balls to do what Tata Motors has done with Tamo.
A month ago, I was a bit sceptical of what Tamo could offer. Tata Motors offerings I digest with a pinch of salt, some spices, a dollop of cream and some more! But they threw up a curve ball at the Geneva Motor Show, unlike any curve ball ever thrown. For a manufacturer that's finding a new rung every day on its way back up from the pit it had dug itself into, the Racemo is, in my opinion, an escalator that could take them levels higher than any other Indian manufacturer.
Marching through the halls of the Geneva Motor Show I met David Richards, the former chairman of Aston Martin and team principal of BAR and Benetton Formula One motor racing teams. David is passionate about cars in a way few are, and he also loves India and all things Indian. In a flash, I just knew I had to ask him what he thought about the Racemo. And his succinct reply shook me to the core, "It reminds me of Mazda, and the MX-5."
My god! Here is one of the foremost automotive principals in the world, a man who crafted several highly successful race teams comparing the Racemo to the iconic Miata. For the unaware, the Miata is a legend in motoring circles, a legend that brought an affordable and yet highly thrilling sportscar experience to thousands. It's a simple sportscar, with a compact engine and transmission, simple chassis and a not-so-very handsome or striking design (depends on your perspective). But more than anything, it's the simplicity of the package that was its biggest appeal. Simply mentioning the Racemo in the same breath as the Miata evokes vision of unprecedented epicness. It got me asking if the Racemo could actually be seen in the same light as the Miata?
I believe the answer to that is yes, if Tata Motors can make sure the Racemo holds together, and I mean that very seriously, they have an incredible product on their hands that could very easily rock the automotive world. In so many years, manufacturers have tried to crack the code of the Miata, but none has come close. Where the Racemo could go even further is with employing more modern tech to the whole experience, though at the outset this does have the practicality or the everyday-ness of the Miata.
The motor is a tiny 1.2-litre Revotron unit, but one that pumps out an incredible 190 horses. It's low slung but yet has 165mm of ground clearance, is less than 4 metres in length and weighs just around 900kg! Those are absolutely incredible numbers. This is a car capable of hitting a 100kmph in under 6 seconds and therein lies the biggest surprise of them all. I never in my lifetime expected to see Tata Motors build a car that may just go like stink! I will talk about ergonomics and all when I drive the car but it's not exactly something to write home about. In that sense there are a few shortcomings but the strength of the Racemo's overall package is such it paints vividly, covering those shortcomings.
I believe there is one additional ingredient to that car and it is reliability. That is the million-dollar question - will the sum of all the Racemo's parts run again and again without a hiccup? It is not going to be enough to simply present an outstanding design, advanced technologies and an ingeniously tweaked powertrain. The Racemo simply has to run. There is no doubt in my mind any longer that Tata Motors has the capability to make something outstanding, but the devil is in the details. Has Tata Motors been able to eradicate all those nasty gremlins that have constantly plagued all of its products? Only time will tell.
Another question that I've been asked by several others is why? To that I say why not? At this juncture Tata Motors has nothing to lose and everything to gain. In the current environment where every manufacturer is working out equations to churn out cars that are more fuel-efficient and less polluting, hardly any has tried to bring back the pleasures associated with motoring. Consumers have been fed a steady dose of dieselisation, few more millimetres of space, better features and stranger-sounding colour names. It's numbed consumers to the fact that there is a lot more to engineering a car than just changing colour and trim.
The Racemo in a way brings a bit of that romanticism back to cars. Some years ago Tata Motors shook the automotive industry by acquiring Jaguar Land Rover and turning it into the success it is today. Now they have taken another giant leap of faith and rather than conform to the accepted, they have dared to walk on a path few tread. For Tata Motors this could be an epoch in their history, a turning point that can give them back the credibility they so desperately long for. But all of it hinges on the Racemo and the way it drives.
Having seen this car for me there is now that sense of heightened anticipation similar to what you would experience before having sex. I can't wait for that final act where I meet the Racemo, intimately!
I'm hoping for a great encounter; Tata Motors don't disappoint!