India’s Tata says seeks new sites for cheap car plant

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NEW DELHI, September 3, 2008 (AFP) – India’s giant Tata Motors sought new sites Wednesday to make the world’s cheapest car after suspending work on its plant in eastern India in the face of huge farmer and political protests.

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A Tata statement announcing the suspension late Tuesday fell short of declaring the company was pulling out of Marxist-ruled West Bengal for good.

But it would be “highly optimistic to think of a return to normalcy at the Singur site in the next few days — nothing has happened in the past few months,” a senior company official told AFP.

Tata was “leaving the window of opportunity open” for peace to be restored at the nearly complete plant but “we have no choice” except to look for other locations, said the official, who asked for anonymity.

“We have a business to run, deadlines to meet,” he said.

Tata hoped to start selling the snub-nosed car in October for just 100,000 rupees or 2,264 dollars.

But analysts say the launch of the car billed as the world’s cheapest would be delayed by months if the assembly line was moved to Tata’s factories in Pune