VW Group, Tata Motors end talks on emerging markets cooperation

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[August 10, 2017]  By Andreas Cremer

BERLIN/NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Cooperation talks between Germany's Volkswagen Group and India's Tata Motors about joint development of a car for emerging markets have ended amicably, the two companies said on Thursday.

The collapse of the talks is a further blow to Volkswagen's (VW) efforts to develop a cheap vehicle platform for Asian markets, after an earlier alliance with Japan's Suzuki Motor Corp <7269.T> also fell apart.

In March Tata Motors and VW announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a long-term partnership to explore joint development of products for customers in India and other markets.

The German group's Czech arm Skoda, commissioned by VW to lead the talks with Tata, was exploring a possible entry-level car platform together with the Indian manufacturer, using Tata's AMP vehicle platform as a basis, a VW group source said.

Skoda dropped the idea of developing the AMP platform on fears that it would need significant further investment to meet future crash-test and engine emissions requirements and would instead explore parent VW's MQB platform for possible further savings, said the source, who declined to be named.

"The two companies have come to the conclusion that at the present point of time the technical and economic synergies cannot be realized in the desired way," Skoda said on Thursday, confirming a Reuters story.

"We have evaluated the technical feasibility and degree of synergies for the envisioned partnership. We have concluded that the strategic benefits for both parties are below the threshold levels," said Tata Motors Chief Executive Guenter Butschek, the German automotive and aerospace industry veteran who joined the Indian company last year.

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Ballpoint pens are seen during Volkswagen Group annual news conference in Wolfsburg, Germany, April 28, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

But the two automakers, which also studied joint development of components, did not rule out the possibility of collaboration in the future after holding what Skoda called "constructive talks" over the past five months.

Foreign carmakers like VW, General Motors <GM.N> and Fiat Chrysler <FCHA.MI> have struggled in India where more nimble rivals such as Maruti Suzuki <MRTI.NS> and Hyundai Motor <005380.KS> have cornered two thirds of the market.

Tata, which is also struggling to boost sales, has been trying to turn round its loss-making domestic business by modernizing its products, improving efficiency and streamlining its organization.

In May General Motors said it would stop selling cars in India from the end of this year, drawing a line under two decades of battling in one of the world's most competitive markets where small cars make up the bulk of sales.

India is expected to become the world's third-largest car market by 2020 but passenger vehicle sales have slowed in recent months due to policy changes and a new nationwide sales tax.

The collapse of talks with Tata also deals a blow to VW's efforts to decentralize power within the group in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal and assign greater responsibilities to the individual brands and business regions for vehicles and technology, another source at VW group said.

(Reporting by Andreas Cremer in Berlin and Aditi Shah in New Delhi; Editing by Georgina Prodhan, Greg Mahlich)

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