Tata Motors has introduced its TAMO sub-brand at Geneva with the unveiling of an ‘affordable sportscar’ named Racemo.
Tata introduced two TAMO Racemo products at Geneva: a track edition, Racemo+, developed for the Forza franchise, and a production car version seen here. TAMO is aiming to start selling Racemo this year, with a limited 1000 production run solely for the Indian market.
In the words of Pratap Bose, Head of Design at Tata Motors/TAMO: “TAMO is a more agile, flexible sub-brand designed to really delve into new models of mobility. Tata motors is the oil tanker; TAMO is the speedboat.”
The car has a stormtrooper aesthetic with a mini Lancia Stratos feel. Its layered design language is bang on trend, informed by the composite materials that this agile sub-brand is championing. The car has a relatively high H-point too: a nod to the all-conquering crossover market and a result of the car having to navigate India’s challenging road system.
“We designed Racemo with a certain customer in mind,” explains Bose, “a 25-year-old digital native, used to a fast-paced life, hungry for technology, and hugely ambitious. We want this car to be the poster car for a generation.”
The persona of this target customer is reflected in the technology Tata used to develop the car. Low-volume composite moulding and 3D printing means TAMO aims to turnover new products much more quickly; keeping the brand fresh, and current. There will be three TAMO products launching and one of these, says Martin Uhlarik, Head of Design at Tata Europe, will be a “game-changer”.
The car’s origins lie in a visit Bose made to Tata’s studio in Turin, Italy in 2015: “There was a sketch of Racemo on the wall. It was incredible, and I said ‘why don’t we make this?’ So we got a 1:1 foam model built, wrapped it in vinyl and it looked amazing...and we thought we need to show this to management.”
In May, Tata Motor's management saw it for the first time and was equally enthusiastic: “We put on a show for them, made a real impact with the presentation, and they came away saying, ‘is there any reason why we’re not building this car?’ So that was it! We took the sketch to a production concept in 24 months.”
Martin Uhlarik continues: “We had a small team of 40 people from design and engineering. We kept the design in Italy, protecting the project and we had a new way of working, we called it ‘open-source designing’. People came in, joined the team; thoughts were shared and connected. It’s a little ad hoc and that adds flexibility. And that way of working mirrors what you see in social and technical trends now [which] move so quickly that you have to adapt equally quickly.”
Bose talks about Tata's ‘IMPACT’ design philosophy: immediate impact at first sight (exterior) and lasting impact over time (interior). Racemo has impact in spades, its white surfacing really popping out against the gun-metal grey and black of the body tub and cladding. Supercar references are everywhere, from the butterfly doors to the wrap-around DLO, to the venturi panel at the rear.
“We’ve dialled-up the signature elements for the exterior, [and] turned up the volume on the brand,” adds Bose.
Its proportions are reminiscent of that curiosity of Japanese legislation, the Kei car, with its occasional genuinely desirable miniature sportscars (think Honda’s S660 and Mazda AZ1). It’s less than four metres long, in response to Indian tax law, and has a wide, powerful stance; yet it’s clearly an affordable car, with relatively tall and narrow tyres on 17-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels.
The materials and construction help create and inform the design language: “Aesthetically, the vocabulary is a direct result of the tech and how the car is built [and] this link will drive the aesthetic of the brand,” explains Uhlarik.
“The whole car, chassis, exterior surfaces is composite," continues Bose. "With low-volume production we can use composites and 3D printing to create intricate surface interactions while still keeping this sparse and essential-looking character.”
This design philosophy is well-resolved; where traditional car companies might spend serious time and money honing the perceived design quality of the shutlines around the door to fender, for example, RACEMO cleverly makes a feature of the panel; designing an offset between fender and door so we see the edge of the door panel. It suits the industrial, disruptive feel of the exterior form and its intelligent design well.
Exotic details are everywhere, with many references to feast your eyes on: a motorcycle-inspired heat shield covering the high-mounted central exhaust, racing-inspired fuel filler caps, bold red ‘pull’ straps for the door panels, fighter jet-like toggle switches, and even a jet-like duct for the red central interior vent.
The design team clearly had a great time generating ideas for this project. What’s really impressive is that this playfulness and energy have made it through to production unscathed; a real rarity in the often slow-moving world of automotive design to production.
And it’s this agility that Tata has created with TAMO that is really something to look out for. It's a creatively flexible, low-volume model of production that has produced a genuinely desirable and affordable car and should make industry oil tankers sit up and take notice.