Sep 25, 2008

Business - India;Karnataka leads race for Nano project

Karnataka is emerging as the front-runner in Tata Motors' search for an alternative site for its ambitious Nano small car project, which is facing problems in Singur, West Bengal, owing to protests by unwilling land losers.
Meanwhile, goods are also being moved out of the factory site at Singur, reinforcing the view that the Nano will not be launched from West Bengal. Sources said vendors in Singur have been asked to stand by for instructions on moving out of the area.
Sources close to the development said critical components, like the die for the car, were being moved out. Officials in the logistics industry added that trucks had been booked to transport materials from the site.
As an alternative strategy till a new mother plant location is finalised and up and running, sources said limited numbers of the Nano will be rolled out both from Tata Motors' plants in Pantnagar (Uttarakhand) and Pune to meet the October deadline.
Both these sites were earlier earmarked as locations for satellite plants that were to be set up across the country to reduce freight costs.
Over the last few weeks, Tata Motors has also held talks with the Gujarat and Uttarakhand governments for a possible relocation of the project, but sources close to the development said Karnataka seems to be the most attractive location at this point.
Tata Motors Managing Director Ravi Kant had met top officials in the state including Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa a week ago. The chief minister offered 1,000 acres of land in the state for the Nano plant and said he would match the incentives provided by the West Bengal government.
The Tata group has 900 acres in the Belur industrial area in Dharwad, 425 km north-west of Bangalore, where it has a joint venture with Hitachi, a car manufacturing unit and a bus plant in joint venture with Marco Polo of Brazil.
In Pantnagar, the Mumbai-based company has over 1,000 acres, including a 350-acre vendor park, to manufacture the Ace mini-truck. Sources, however, said sufficient land might not be available for a mother plant.
Similarly, Pune, which is Tata Motors’ main plant, also does not have enough space for expansion or setting up a new car plant. Singur was to have an annual capacity of 500,000 cars.
Meanwhile, in West Bengal, government sources confirmed that goods were being moved out of the site but said the administration had no information on whether these belonged to the company or to the contractors and vendors working at the site, or even about the nature of the goods.
More than 20 containers have left the site and they included engineering material repacked into containers and pre-packed machinery that had arrived at the site and was not used. Some more containers that had arrived at the Haldia Dock System of Kolkata Port Trust and were booked to Singur had been diverted elsewhere in India, the goods transporter added. The cargo was booked under the Tata Motors name

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