Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

When Ford said Tata to Jaguar

With Ford having sold the British Raj, in the form of Jaguar Cars, to India in the form of Tata Motors, does this spell the end of what was once a very proud marque?

Tata military vehicle

One American “lady”, a Mrs. Evelyn Davis thinks so, standing up at the board meeting of Ford at which it is reported that she said, “Tata sells cars that are $2,500 to the lowest of the low outcasts of India,” Mrs. Davis adding that Jaguar represented elegance and exclusivity. “How could the board sell us out to an outfit like that who sell to people like that?”
Wonderful stuff! I didn’t know that people like her still existed in this world. What a pity she wasn’t around for the French or Russian revolutions! And while Jaguar (once) represented elegance (remember the slogan, ‘Grace, Space and Pace’) it was never a marque that survived on exclusivity. Sir William Lyons built cars that were affordable (an XK 150 was half the price of the Mercedes 300SL), and not exclusive like Bentley or Rolls. Incidentally, Mrs. Davis does own a Ford Mondeo, sorry, Jaguar X-Type, which was personally delivered to her by none other than Bill Ford himself, the world’s highest paid delivery driver.
Now what I didn’t know, until it was pointed out to me by my ‘Editor at Large’ John Weinthal, the Tata Group has a much longer history than Jaguar Cars. In fact, they have been involved in the transportation industry for over 50 years, building military vehicles, commercial buses, and trains.
Tata also has a very long history of supporting charities and I believe that Tata was already offering worker benefits such as child care and pensions long before most companies in the West. The early founding family of Tata helped finance Mahatma Gandhi while he was in South Africa fighting for the rights of immigrant Indians and 66 percent of Tata’s holding company’s shares are held by charitable trusts, and many of its companies fund grassroots anti-poverty projects. The Nano budget-priced vehicle is just another project to help elevate India’s poor.
Ratan Tata has said that Nano and Jaguar will be kept separate and with the diverse nature of the Tata group, I see no problem with their being able to do that.
However, with the financial problems in America right now, you never know, you might see Mrs. Evelyn Davis in a Nano in the not too distant future!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that the trend to rear engined Indy cars is often thought to have come after Jack Brabham raced the rear engined Cooper-Climax at the Brickyard in 1961. However, was he the first with this layout? No he was not, as drivers such as Lee Oldfield had a rear engined Marmon Special in 1937 and some of the Miller cars were also rear engined, pre WWII.
So to this week. What was the first mass produced car with recessed door handles?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


An open letter to sales and marketing executives
I was in the market for a new car. Now, sales and marketing gurus, I would like to pose the following question. What day of the week does a salaried employee have off so that he can go round car dealerships and look at cars? Sunday, correct. What day of the week do you close your dealerships? Sunday, that is also correct! Is there a basic truth here that somebody is missing in your organization?

Your friendly car salesman
I went to the Bangkok International Motor Show and saw one that I could be interested in. I got my wife to ring when I got home, and waited for the result of the call. “He has not got any cars left. He is very busy. He will ring us later.”
It was April when my wife rang. This is now September. I have given up hanging around near the phone. Either he is very, very busy or the manufacturer stopped production when they heard I was interested. Perhaps they were afraid I might not like it.
I began looking locally and I saw a very attractive car on the forecourt of a major dealership close to my home. That would be good, I could easily drop the car off for service.
There was only one problem, the model seen on display on the forecourt turned out to be a private car. It was not a production car. It did not even belong to the dealership. I asked if I could go for a run in one of their demonstrator cars. “Yes, but not the same size engine.” “No, I want to drive one with the same size engine as the one I might buy.” “Sorry, that one not going.”
The reason that car was immobile on the showroom floor was only the fact that it had a flat battery. Another car was driven into the showroom, jumper leads applied, and the demonstrator taken out into the sunshine for me to drive. Can you imagine what I was thinking as I drove down the road? “I hope it doesn’t stall on me. This car has a flat battery and nobody cared.” Did this little scenario make me impressed with the dealership (or the manufacturer)? What would the servicing be like?
Lesson number 1 in the car salesman’s manual - always have any car spotless, tuned, cleaned, fuel in the tank and air in the tyres and ready to go on a demo drive. This lesson seems to have been forgotten in Thailand 2008. I am told, however, that when a possible purchaser wants to have a test drive, some dealerships will just not do this. Considering that a new motor car is the second most expensive purchase in most people’s lifetime, surely your sales personnel should try just a little harder? It might even increase your sales, and the profitability of your company.