With the return of classic nametags like the Safari and Sierra, should Tata revive the Sumo?
Sierra, Sumo, Safari. Tata’s SUV trio back in the day was the mainstay of the brand. Thing is, many of them are headed back. The Safari has been reintroduced in a different avatar, and the Sierra will return as a high-tech EV and Creta rival, but a new Sumo is still waiting in the wings.
Named after famous Telco head Sumant Moolgaokar, the Sumo was Tata’s first big commercial success. Designed to take advantage of a tax break, it came in and just nailed the market. So why toss away all that goodwill, why throw away all the nameplate recognition, all the brand currency? And why permanently hand over the space occupied by the Sumo to Mahindra?
It’s easy to forget just how popular and successful the Sumo was back in the day. Available as a 10-seater (3+3+4) or eight-seater, it had no real competition initially apart from the CJ-based Armada and Bolero from Mahindra. And what buyers loved was that it was large, spacious and came at a killer price. For the record, the on-road price was Rs 3.2 lakh in 1995. But Tata held on to it for too long – it was on sale until 2019 – and then Toyota came in with the Qualis and carpet-bombed everyone.
Question is, is there a good enough case for a new Sumo today? How wide can Tata spread a new Sumo, and will the big and relatively affordable model work as an EV? One thing’s for sure, the Sumo nameplate has winner written all over it. Compact and concise, it is a name that is recognised across the four corners of India. And Tata, logically, should keep a link with the old car. Mercedes G-Wagen-inspired styling is one way. Or would a new Sumo done using G-Wagen-like form but new Sierra-like detailing work better? Tata would have to exercise restraint with the styling and it would be the third G-Wagen-like design to go on sale in India, but if Suzuki and Force Motors can manage to steer clear, so can Tata.
Then there’s the body-on-frame or monocoque discussion. Tata doesn’t currently have a modern, body-on-frame chassis, Yodha pickup apart, and developing an all-new version is expensive but would enable them to do a new pickup and a new Scorpio and Thar rival! Tata, remember, did make a very successful 4X4 version of the Sumo for the Indian Army. And it had even worked on a Thar rival back in the day, that was, of course, based on the Sumo 4X4.
A monocoque-based Sumo is another possibility. Could a stretched and more affordable version of the platform that will be used for the new Sierra work? Tata’s Gen 2 architecture is basically a heavily modified ALFA platform. So can Tata do another tough, no-nonsense, big and affordable Sumo? Done right, the market would lap it up. The Tata Motors brand has never enjoyed more respect and success. And with the Innova Crysta and Hycross prices now well into the stratosphere, maybe Tata could duck under the radar and strike hard again.
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