Tata Motors' decision to reveal its Zica car in the first week of February may not have come at worse time as news about the Zika virus outbreak continues to spread throughout the world.
The Mumbai-based car maker is set to debut its latest hatchback vehicle, the Tata Zica, at the upcoming Auto Expo in New Delhi on Feb. 5 to Feb. 9. The company is hopeful that the new vehicle will be able to revitalize its car sales in India.
However, there are growing concerns that the Tata Zica's name, which closely resembles that of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, could impact the public's reception toward of the new vehicle.
According to Tata Motors, the name of the car was based on a combination of the words "zippy" and "car", which was meant to appeal to peppy passengers.
As more and more cases of Zika infections continue to be reported in different countries, a spokeswoman for Tata said that the company is no longer able to change the vehicle's name in time for the exposition.
"At this moment, there is no plan to change the name," the Tata representative said. "We are watching the situation."
Despite this, the company is not ruling out the possibility to change the Zica car's name in the future.
The Tata spokeswoman said that when they came up with a name for the vehicle, the Zika virus was not yet well known. They had also promoted the Zica car through social media campaigns and test drives for members of the media for almost two months.
She said that coming up with a brand name and to have it trademarked both locally and internationally is a very complex process, and that they already had Zica models under production.
She failed to mention, however, if the company plans to export the Tata Zica to other countries.
Tata Motors has already experienced issues with branding in the past. Its plans to create a $2,000 car known as the Tata Nano received considerable attention internationally, but when it was finally released, sales of the minicar never quite took off.
There were not enough buyers for the Tata Nano even though the vehicle was received high praise from reviewers. It is believed that many Indian consumers did not want to be seen driving in what is considered to be the world's cheapest car.
The Nano's lackluster performance and the dwindling demand for vehicles in India have caused Tata to gradually lose its market share in the country. The release of the Tata Zica is viewed as the company's latest attempt to make a recovery.
Analysts, however, believe that the Zica's name could negatively impact its sales.
Abdul Majeed, an auto analyst and partner at Pricewaterhouse, said that Tata Motors should consider a change of name for the vehicle before its release as many Indians tend to be "very psychological" and attached to certain things emotionally.
The Zika virus now affects people in more than 20 countries. The disease is known to cause microcephaly, a serious developmental that leaves infants with abnormally-sized heads.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is set to convene another meeting regarding the Zika virus outbreak on Monday.