The Tata Blackbird SUV will sit in between the Nexon and the Harrier but Tata does not have a platform for this segment which is why they will share it with Chery.
There has already been several media reports about a possible collaboration between Tata Motors and China’s Chery Automobile Co. Now, Autocar India has an exclusive report which provides further details about this collaboration. Both the companies plan to jointly develop the Tata Blackbird, a rival for the Creta, that could hit the showrooms as early as 2021.
Chery has been eyeing for an entry into the Indian market for quite some time now and a collaboration with Tata Motors would give them an easier pass. As for Tata, they would get an additional platform to underpin their Blackbird SUV, which is the internal name for the Creta-sized SUV that Tata is conceiving. The Blackbird is supposed to sit between the sub-4m Nexon and 4.6m Harrier. That size bracket is the sweet spot in the mid-sized SUV segment and Tata has an eye on it now.
The Blackbird SUV would measure between 4.2-4.3 meters in length but both the ‘Alfa’ and ‘Omega’ platforms on which all future Tata models would be based, is proving to be incompatible with the new SUV. The development of the SUV has hit a road block and it is yet to get off the drawing board.
Tata’s original plan was to base the Blackbird on the the Land Rover sourced ‘Omega’ platform. The Harrier is based on the same platform too. However, bringing that platform to the size if this new SUV was not quite feasible as there were several engineering challenges and costs would be too high. The ‘Omega’ platform itself is a downsized version of Land Rover’s L550 platform.
The other option in Tata’s hands was the ‘Alfa’ platform which is to be used for small, front-wheel drive, family cars. The Tata Altroz would be the first car based on the this platform. And while Tata motors could have built an extended version of this sub-4m platform, the maximum wheel size that this platform can accommodate was becoming the limiting factor. This platform can support a maximum of 700 mm diameters of wheels. That’s only good for cars like the Nexon but a bigger SUV would certainly require larger wheels to get the proportions and the stance correct of the SUV.
The two platform strategy for Tata has now exposed the gap where Tata can’t make cars themselves, i.e, vehicles measuring in between 4-4.5 meters. Tata could develop a whole new platform but sales in the mid-size SUV segment aren’t so generous to justify the development of a new platform.
Thus, sharing platforms with Chery is a viable option that Tata can use to underpin its new SUV as Chery has a wide range of products from the the Tiggo 2 to the Tiggo 5 that span the core of the mid-size SUV segment where Tata Motors is absent. Both the companies will build their own versions of SUV from the shared platform to differentiate their product but still would be sharing the chassis, suspension and powertrains for substantial cost savings.
Tata Motors and Chery have been looking at the possibilities of an alliance in India from as early as 2013. Chery too was quite keen on entering the Indian market but nothing had materialized until now. If Tata Motors and Chery join hands to develop the Blackbird SUV, it would be yet another instance of collaboration between two large automotive groups. This is in fact a growing industry trend where companies join hands to share costs and mitigate investment risks which are needed to fund new and expensive technologies auto companies must have to stay in the race.