Tata Motors has or had two big launches slated for 2016. The first was the Tiago whose launch date kept getting deferred since 2015. The second is the HexaÂ whose expected launch, as indicated to us by Mayank Pareek, president, Tata Motors,Â was supposed to have been the second half of 2016.
We have recently learnt that the Tata Hexa launch is also deferred indefinitely. While the Tiago was plagued by the Zica virus, a name it shared before being changed to Tiago, the Hexa is being plagued by the National Green Tribunal’s call to ban diesel engines above 2-litre capacity in the National Capital Region and Kerala. OVERDRIVE has now learnt that there are strong indicators the ban may extend to a few more cities and that is raising doubts whether the Hexa will make it to showroom floors or not.
The problem is that the Hexa is powered by the Tata Varicor diesel engine, a direct injection variable geometry turbocharged diesel motor displacing 2,179cc. That is a 179cc more than the hotly debated 2,000cc engine displacement mark that is attracting the ire of the National Green Tribunal. Tata Motors does not have an engine in its line-up under 2.0 litres that is capable of powering the Hexa comfortably.
A similar problem also affected Mahindra but it wasÂ quick to respond and drop engine capacity from 2.2 litres to 1.99 litresÂ or just a shade under 2.0 litres. Tata Motors, however, hasn’t been able to respond quickly enough to the NGT’s demand, as a result the Hexa may suffer. It would seem prudent at this time for Tata Motors to defer the launch of the Hexa. Even if the NGT levies an environment cess on vehicles powered by engines larger than 2.0 litres, word on the street is that the percentage increase in cost may ruin the Hexa’s chance to succeed in the market.
The Tata Hexa is based on the same platform as the Aria, but it’s slated to be the flagship premium SUV in the Tata Motors stable. Tata Motors has been betting heavily on the Hexa, which made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show in 2015 followed by a showcase at the 2016 Auto Expo in India. The Tata Hexa would be positioned above the Tata Safari Storme. In addition, the Hexa will offer a variety of off-road driving modes similar to sister concern Land Rover. In fact, the selector panel on the centre stack seems to be a direct lift-off from Land Rover. It offers driving abilities on grass, gravel, snow and other harsh conditions where no 2WD SUV would be able to go. That, of course, increases the appeal of the Hexa. It would have also helped the manufacturer gain a lot of confidence before itÂ comes out with a slew of new products aimed at the SUV segment in 2017-18.
Worse, Tata Motors may be unable to sell the Aria, Safari Storme and even the Xenon in these markets. All these three vehicles are also powered by the same 2.2-litre Varicor diesel engine. Tata Motors is having a tremendous run of bad luck â€” all of it from various market factors but not fromÂ itsÂ own making.
Tata Motors has been working on re-engineering its existing engines to reduce their displacement to below 2 litres,Â confirmed by Girish Wagh, senior vice president of programme planning and project management, passenger vehicle operation. The same would be the powertrain choice for the Tata Hexa and the companyâ€™s upcoming heavier and larger offerings. However, considering that the development of these engines will take time and wonâ€™t appear in the companyâ€™s portfolio anytime soon, there is no certainty on the same appearing on the Hexa.
We did try reaching out to Tata Motors for an official comment on the same. However, the only response we received was that there is no timeline finalised for the commercial launch of the Tata Hexa. Safe to say that as soon as the whole diesel engine ban issue is cleared up, we would hear more from Tata Motors on the Hexa.