Monday, February 03, 2014
By Kamal Swami
Auto companies to unveil new models during Auto Expo 2014 with new hopes
The Auto Expo is a good gauge of sentiment. During the years when every overseas investor was desperately trying to get into India and grab a piece of the world's fastest-growing economy after China, the show was a heaving scrum of people bursting out of the seams at Pragati Maidan. And no one knew better how to extract maximum mileage than Ratan Tata, an instinctive car guy. Both the Indica Vista and the Nano from the Tata stable grabbed maximum eyeballs when they were showcased at the event. This year though the auto industry is fighting hard to deal with a crippling downturn. But companies know that the key is exciting the punters. This is why the 14th Auto Expo, now at a new venue, is more important than ever for them.
Maruti Suzuki, India's biggest car maker, will unveil the Celerio compact, hoping its clutch-less mechanicals will make it a big draw in India's stop-and-go urban traffic. Nissan Motor will unveil the rebirth of the Datsun brand with the launch of the Go, a small car it hopes will take on Maruti's WagonR. Hyundai Motor will showcase a sedan to compete with the Maruti Dzire and the Honda Amaze in the segment that takes advantage of lower excise for cars less than four metres long.
And, after a three-year hiatus, there is finally some action from Tata Motors BSE -1.82 %. The company will add to the competition in the compact car space by launching the Falcon 4, a premium hatchback to take on the Swift, and the Falcon 5, to take on the Dzire and Amaze. Poignantly though, the launch strategy would have been something the late Karl Slym worked on before the managing director's unexpected death. Honda will, meanwhile, launch the Mobilio MPV to take on the Maruti Ertiga. It will also unveil a new Jazz and a compact SUV concept. Ford is looking to make a big entry with the new Ka small car for India. There will also be small car concepts from Ford and Renault for entry level vehicles in India. Bajaj Auto BSE 1.13 % will showcase the new and enhanced RE60 quadricycle, a new category.
Still, Maruti Suzuki BSE -0.94 % chairman RC Bhargava is realistic. "Why is the guy not buying a car today?" he asked. "Fundamentally, he can't afford it. Everybody wants to buy a car, the aspirations are all there, but the affordability is not there. Lots of people are not buying, because they don't see a rosy economic future ahead. The auto show is not going to change that significantly, (but) there could be some improvement."
The Indian automobile industry is staring at its worst-ever year in a decade but companies are hoping the upcoming expo will generate enough excitement to bring about some change in sentiment.
Source: Economic Times