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Tata dealers wait on MGR

MG Rover owner Phoenix Venture Holdings (PVH) is due to unveil detailed distribution plans for the Tata Safari off-roader and Loadbeta pick-up this week.

The vehicles will be sold by selected MG Rover and Tata dealers under the control of Phoenix Distribution, a newly-created subsidiary of PVH. The deal is part of a larger agreement between the British and Indian carmakers, under which MG Rover will sell its own version of the Tata Indica supermini as the City Rover.

One Tata dealer, who asked not to be named, says he is waiting to hear from Phoenix if he is to keep the franchise under the new structure.

“It's a shame these vehicles have not really had the backing they need. They are good, honest products that deserve to find a wider audience. They have excellent warranties – far better than some bigger brands,” he says.

“We are due to go to Longbridge this week, when we expect to hear the final details about the future network. We are hopeful we can continue selling Tata vehicles.

We don't know how many original Tata dealers will be kept on, and we don't know if the sales territories will be changed. One thing I would say is that even though there have been reports in the press that Tata dealers have been poorly treated, our experience does not bear this out. Tata International has done a great job since MVI went under.”

Tata's UK operation has been under pressure since the start of the year when previous importer Motor Vehicle Industries went into administration. However, Tata Inter-national ensured vehicles and parts continued to reach UK dealerships.

The Safari and Loadbeta have remained niche products in the UK, although they are popular with agricultural buyers seeking sturdy, value-for-money workhorse vehicles. Both models are being upgraded for relaunch as part of the MG Rover business.

MG Rover is keen to underline the difference between the Safari and Loadbeta, which will remain under the Tata brand, and the remodelled Indica, which becomes the new entry-level City Rover.

“Tata represents an entirely different proposition to Rover and I think that's something that will be recognised by both dealers and customers,” says MG Rover.

A spokesman for Tata Engin-eering adds: “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 current and future Tata consumers.” Existing warranty contracts will be honoured under the new structure, he says.

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