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Safari drives to UK with Rover
- Auto majors prefer the company of old friends on the high road to expansion

Mumbai, March 11: Phoenix Venture Holdings, owners of MG Rover Group, will retail Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company’s (Telco) Safari Off-roader and Loadbeta pick-up trucks in the UK and Ireland.

The tie-up was formalised in an agreement that will enhance Tata brand’s presence in the two countries. Rover has the largest dealership network in England, though the Tatas also sell Safari through their own dealers.

A similar pact was signed last year to sell Indicas made at Telco’s Pune factory with Rover-specific features. The models chosen this time will be sold under the Rover brand-name through Rover’s own dealers in the UK and continental Europe by the second half.

Telco said the franchisee would be managed by Phoenix Distribution, a newly formed subsidiary of Phoenix Venture Holdings, given the fact that Safari and Loadbeta require a high degree of technological prowess.

The upgraded versions will boost the value proposition of these vehicles, which will be sold by MG Rover and former Tata dealers. The new distribution arrangements should be up and running in a few months.

Tata’s vehicles have carved out a niche for themselves in the UK, helped largely by their value-for-money proposition. V. Sumantran, Telco’s executive director (passenger cars), said: “The sale of Tata products through Phoenix Distribution is another expression of Tata’s commitment to building long-term brand presence in the UK and Irish markets and ensuring the satisfaction of both current and future Tata consumers.”

Pursuant to the agreement entered into last year with Rover, Tata Indica, the country's only indigenously built car, will cruise along foreign roads through the marketing network of the foreign car manufacturer in an industry that is dominated by the developed countries.

It will also bring Tata Engineering sharply into focus in the automobile industry just three years since its launch of a car model. It is believed that the hatchback cars will be sold at the Indian equivalent price plus a premium for using the Tata name.

Recently, Telco reported total sales of 20,152 vehicles in the domestic market in February, representing an increase of 20.8 per cent over February 2002 sales. Total sales in April-February 2003 at 1,85,428 numbers grew 25.3 per cent over the corresponding period last year.

Report of the agreement sent the Telco share jumping to an intra-day high of Rs 155.95 on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) before closing at Rs 153.55.

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