Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar
Targeted at the aspirational lot among SCV buyers, the Super Ace Mint also carries the responsibility to keep the buyer in the family.Over the overtly familiar Ace, the Super Ace Mint draws a different impression. It looks bigger and more premium. Not quite the pick-up, which could be had with a 4×4 system and personalised, but not very far from it either. The clear distinguishing feature is the metallic shade it is available in. The Super Ace Mint is 4340 mm long and 1858 mm tall. With a loading deck (the longest in its class) that measures 2630 mm in length and 1460 mm in width, the Super Ace Mint could be had in five metallic shades. Weighing 1,250 kg and offering a payload of 1,000 kg (1-tonne), this Small Commercial Vehicle (SCV) draws a comparison with the Ashok Leyland Dost. It does not take much time to warm up to the Super Ace Mint, which Sandeep Kumar, Head – Sales and Marketing (SCV and Pick-ups), Tata Motors, is keen to describe as refined in all respects. Featuring an independent strut type suspension at front and semi-elliptic leaf spring suspension at the rear, this CV, apart from the Ace nomenclature does not share anything with the Ace or the Ace Zip. Addressing changing aspirations of an SCV buyer, Kumar mentions that the Super Ace Mint is about performance, speed, features, payload and lower operating costs. “Aspirations are changing, and this vehicle offers car-like interior and metallic colour. In fact, the sale of metallic colour model amounts to over 60 per cent of the overall sales,” he adds.More features, premium feel & ergonomics

Climb aboard, and a modern dashboard greets the driver. The instrumentation is basic, but a centre console, which is also partly an enclosure for the engine, draws your attention. The engine is longitudinally positioned on the ladder frame with the drive going to the live rear axle. The ladder frame has 2.5 mm thick, long member and a 124 mm x 63 mm cross section to help with a tough built. A carpeted interior with fabric seats has an uplifting effect over the Ace’s rather functional interior. The seats come with head rests and a reclining mechanism. “We have been pioneers in SCVs. We did a cost benefit analysis and decided to offer features like head rests, which do not cost a bomb,” says Kumar. Drawing attention to features like power steering, a four-way reclining seats with head rests, and made of fabric instead of rexin, Kumar mentions that the Ace Zip is offered with a music system from Blaupunkt. “People appreciate this feature,” he states. Refuting a claim about blurring boundaries between SCVs and Pick ups, Kumar mentions that the Super Ace Mint is about performing various payload tasks and therefore the need for performance, lower operating costs, efficiency, etc. “While decals make a difference to an SCV buyer, for us it is about identifying the gaps and niches and provide a solution. It is about addressing geographic gaps, application gaps, etc.” Settling down to a steady idle, it is the good refinement levels that strike. The seating position is high and commanding. It is also comfortable with a good view ahead. It is clear that ergonomics has been looked into. It is also clear that Tata Motors wants to keep the customer in the family by offering him a plethora
of options.

More for lessThe Super Ace Mint is capable of carrying more payload mentions Kumar. He adds, “We do not want our clients to indulge in over loading practices. It however remains a possibility, and it may be difficult to detect in such a class of vehicles.” Stressing upon the speed and power of the Super Ace Mint, Kumar explains that this vehicle can ply over longer distances, like, from Mumbai to Aurangabad, or from Mumbai to Nashik. Compared to the Ace, this SCV feels more responsive and refined on the move. The Super Ace Mint presents the impression of being modern and capable. The credit for a compliant ride over a variety of road conditions should go to the front independent suspension. This forward control pick-up breaks away from the assumption that a truck, big or small, should have leaf spring suspension all round. That for many, is the biggest facilitator for a tough built and load carrying capability.

Over the Super Ace, the front suspension of the Super Ace Mint is claimed to have been further refined. The 70PS, 1.4-litre common-rail BS4 emission compliant engine and power steering also do their bit. The Super Ace is comparison was equipped with a 70PS, 1.4-litre, in-direct injection turbo diesel engine that complied to the BS3 emission norms. Part of the last mile connectivity in the hub and spoke transportation model, this SCV, according to Kumar, is capable of higher speeds with an incremental cost increase. It is claimed to be as efficient as the the Ace at 17.9 kmpl, and costs only 22 per cent more than the Ace. Priced at Rs. 5.09 lakh ex-showroom Thane, the Super Ace Mint delivers a flat torque curve over a wide range of engine rpm (1800-3000 rpm). A clutch with more friction area was engineered to account for reliability of operation and a long life. Coming from a CV maker that is a dominant player in the last mile connectivity space with over 50 per cent market share, the Super Ace Mint will offer anywhere between 30 to 40 applications, including live fish transportation. Of the opinion that this SCV will not eat into the Ace sales, Kumar is quick to add that the Ace is one of the most popular refuse trucks. “There are 30,000 to 40,000 vehicles running. They are preferred for their ability to manoeuvre congested areas. They have lower operating costs,” he adds. In terms of safety, the Super Ace Mint is equipped with a three-point retractable seat belt, and side impact beams. The braking system comprises discs at front.

A bright future

Aware that the SCV market continues to drag, and has got better in the recent times with negative growth shrinking to single digit figure, Kumar remarks that HCVs are growing, which is good news for SCVs. He adds, “Good news for SCVs is that HCV growth is not stemming from mining and infrastructure. It is stemming from growth in FMCG and manufacturing, which will augur well for SCVs as part of the hub and spoke model.” About freight rates, Kumar is clear that there is a discovery at every SCV terminus. “SCV owners lack bargaining power,” he says. Stressing that they (Tata Motors) exist for their customer, and want to give him or her a wider choice, Kumar is looking at the Super Ace Mint achieving decent growth numbers. If the next generation Ace will find much modularity engineered into it, the current generation will find value additions like CNG variants.

Though not a preferred fuel according to Kumar, CNG variants will be made available soon in the Ace Zip, Super Ace Mint and Xenon. Ace is already available in CNG, and also the passenger versions of the Ace and Ace Zip – the Magic and Magic Iris. An electric version of Ace, Iris and Magic are also available. Tata Motors, says Kumar, has EV technology. The issue is viability, he adds. Lack of infrastructure (charging points, etc.) and cost is an issue for hybrids and electrics. From an emissions stand point, Kumar states that BS4 fuel will be available in 2017. However a need for a holistic approach is necessary. It is also necessary, according to Kumar, to understand the fact that over 60 per cent of emissions come from coal powered plants. Thus the electricity the thermal power plants in India generate comes with a certain baggage. Stressing on a need for end-to-end solutions for trucks for alternate fuel propulsion, Kumar, pointing at the Ace, mentions that it is the largest single brand among commercial vehicles. “Ace does 8,000 units and the Ace Zip does 2,500 units. We are looking at decent growth for the Super Ace Mint, he reiterates. 

At the Wadala truck terminus in Mumbai it is the start of yet another day. Trucks of diverse nature are about to embark on their next stage of journey. Engines rev as the trucks move out of their parking places. The Super Ace mint, amidst the crowd of trucks, small and big, makes an impression. The metallic shade has it looking premium. It is no doubt aimed at the aspirational lot. 

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