Auto Expo kicks off with slew of small cars

Global majors vie for India market
Last Updated 05 January 2010, 16:08 IST

“Small is beautiful.” This appears to be the mood of the week long auto fair, which is witnessing intensified rivalry among global car makers to win heart of India’s middle class by flaunting their compact cars.

Starting from auto makers to auto component manufacturers from 30 countries are giving much importance to their participation in Auto Expo as it gives them opportunity to tap India’s fast growing auto market to keep their engines humming.

Setting the trend of dominance by small cars,  opening day witnessed unveiling of compact cars by Japan’s two rival auto makers—Toyota and Honda.  The Japanese auto giant Toyota unveiled its concept small car — Etios — specifically developed for the Indian market.

Toyota Etios

Toyota through its joint venture Toyota Kirloskar Private Limited (TKPL) is investing Rs 3,200 crore to set up its second manufacturing plant near Bangalore to produce and launch “Etios” by end of 2010.  “Our production of Etios will start by end of 2010 in our second plant near Bangalore. We will sell the car by early 2011. We will first sell our compact car in India. Subsequently we will export to other countries,” Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) Vice Chairman Kazuo Okamoto told reporters.

The company would launch both hatchback and sedan under Etios series with 1.2 litres and 1.5 litres petrol engines respectively. In the first year, Toyota plans to make 80,000 units.

Honda’s small concept

Not to lag behind, rival Honda also unveiled its concept small car. “We plan to launch the small car in India by 2011. It will be priced below Rs 5 lakh,” Honda Motor Company Executive Vice President  Koichi Kondo said.

“There is now increasing global demand for small-sized cars. Honda will introduce a new small car, prototype of which we are now showing in this fair, in India and in Thailand within 2011,” he said.

GM launches Beat

On Monday GM India launched the much awaited Chevrolet Beat. Based on GM’s global mini-vehicle architecture, the experts took 27 months to develop the Beat, the company said. Chevrolet Beat will be launched in over 150 markets around the world including those in Europe, other parts of Asia and North America in the coming days.  

The Beat comes in three trim levels of 1.2, 1.2LS and 1.2LT. Beat in India is priced between Rs 3.34 lakh and Rs 3.94 lakh ex-showroom in Delhi.

Suzuki rIII

The Maruti Suzuki, market leader and pioneer in introducing small cars in India, also pledged to focus on compact car as strategies for future. “While offering wide range of products, focus on small cars will be the basis for our future approach,” Maruti Suzuki Managing Director & CEO Shinzo Nakanishi said unveiling the small multi-purpose seven-seater concept vehicle (MPV) ‘rIII’.  

Suzuki also said it plans to have an output of 15 lakh units by 2015 to maintain its 50 per cent market share in the Indian car market.

“By 2015 when the Indian car market is expected to become a 3 million units mark, we expect to maintain 50 per cent market share which means will have an output of 1.5 million units annually,” he said.

GM to design small car at its Bangalore Centre

»As the world’s second largest car maker General Motors is preparing to launch more small cars, the company is planning to use its centre in Bangalore to design such cars for the local market.

“This design team is capable of developing a full-fledged vehicle from the scratch,” General Motors Vice President Global Design Edward Welburn said.

The company technical centre in Bangalore has teams that work on designing, engineering and research and development and has an employee strength of around 1,600. GM expects sales in India is expected to exceed one lakh vehicles in 2010, follwing introduction of a small car which had sold about 70,000 vehicles in 2009.with concerns alread.

Seeks sops for green cars

The company also sought incentives for owners of cars driven on alternative fuel and tax rate cuts to encourage adoption of such eco-friendly vehicles.

The company, which has already launched few eco-friendly vehicles in the domestic market, said it aims to sell as many as 5,000 vehicles this year.

Mercedes’  high-end car

»German luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz India on Tuesday showcased its two new cars—SLS AMG Desert Gold and the hatchback coupe Concept Fascination.

The company will launch the AMG Desert Gold after completing the modification, suited for the domestic market conditions. It has been tentatively priced at around Rs 2 crore.  “Currently, we do not have the right-hand drive model for AMG Desert Gold. We will launch it immediately when we have the right-hand drive option,” Mercedes-Benz India Managing Director Wilfried Aulbur told reporters.

Harley to bring 12 bikes
»US-based iconic motorcycle brand Harley-Davidson, on Tuesday,  rolled out motorcycle line up for the Indian market.

Harley-Davidson India Managing Director Anoop Prakash, said “we will bring 12 motorcycles from our 2010 model portfolio to India.    Booking of these models will start April and we will start delivery in June.” The line-up includes models from Sportster, Dyna, VRSC, Softail, Touring — the five brands or “families”.

The price range starts at Rs 6.95 lakh and goes up to Rs 34.95 lakh (ex-showroom New Delhi).

Audi displays its sports vehicle Q7

»Luxury car maker Audi displayed its new version of SUV Q7, which will be priced at Rs 65 lakh and sedan A6, priced at Rs 37 lakhs along with its concept Sportback— a five door model.
Audi said it expects to sell more cars in India than it does in Japan by 2025.

“There is a lot of potential in Indian market and we would continue to invest here and explore the business opportunities. We expect to sell more Audis in India than in Japan by 2025 at around 20,000 units annually,” Audi AG member of board of management Peter Schwarzenbauer told reporters in New Delhi.

(Published 05 January 2010, 15:50 IST)

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