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May 16, 2002 | 0715 IST
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Rover team set to visit Indica plant

V Phani Kumar & Savio G Pinto

A team of senior officials from Rover MG, the British automobile major, will arrive in India on Thursday to visit Tata Engineering's Indica plant at Pune.

This could lead to an arrangement to sell models based on the Indica in the United Kingdom.

A company spokesperson confirmed that Rover executives would visit for a few days, but declined to specify the exact nature of their mission. "Talks with Rover MG are still at a preliminary stage," he said.

The visit is expected to lead to a product swap arrangement between the two automobile majors. Senior Tata group officials had earlier indicated that Tata Engineering was interested in a product swap.

Certain models on the Indica platform will be manufactured at a partner company's facilities, in return for production of some of the partner's models at the Indica plant.

Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Engineering, had said the company was looking for a plant outside India to roll out the Tata Aria, a sports coupe on the Indica platform.

Another option for Tata Engineering is to export the Indica to the UK and hawk it as a Rover model. However, analysts discounted this possibility, saying it would benefit Tata Engineering only partially if the firm agreed to drop its name from the car, without a swap arrangement.

Last year, Tata Engineering jointly conducted a due diligence with French automobile maker Peugeot-Citreon to manufacture a mid-size car in India, but the talks didn't take off.

Tata Engineering officials have been in talks with a number of global car companies, including Renault.

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