New Delhi: Given the buzz in the auto market, more than a dozen new cars are likely to hit Indian roads before the end of the financial year. This could be rather confusing because India already has about 68 domestic and 30 imported models of cars and personal utility vehicles in over 330 price points with just as many variations of engines and trim.
Despite the recent fuel price hike, the Indian automotive market remains strong,having posted an 11% growth during the first four months of the current fiscal to notch up a sale of 515,000 units.
With continuing recession in many foreign markets, it is not surprising that all auto majors want to have a strong Indian presence. The rush for new models is triggered by the fact that Indian buyers, who are getting spoiled for choice, seem to have a great appetite for new models.
But a new disease of model fatigue is gradually taking a serious toll on many good models and auto companies are having to refresh, renew or reinvent their models every two years to deal with increasingly fickle brand loyalties.
The rush for new models is triggered by the fact that Indian buyers, who are getting spoiled for choice, seem to have a great appetite for new models. But a new disease of model fatigue is gradually taking a serious toll on many good models and auto companies are having to refresh, renew or reinvent their models every two years to deal with increasingly fickle brand loyalties.
Post monsoons, auto companies are going to gear up for the upcoming festive season of Dusshera and Diwali. New cars that are expected to hit the road during the last quarter of 2008 include:
Tata Nano: This much awaited low-cost car will be launched sometime in October. The spacious little 33 bhp 624 cc rear engined city car will cost around Rs1.25 lakh (inclusive of taxes) for the base model and about Rs1.60 for the deluxe version with air-conditioning.
Maruti ‘A Star’: The 800 cc Alto along with the venerable Maruti 800 clung to the low-cost end but the Wagon R was showing its age while the new Zen Estile was not doing too brilliantly either. So the new ‘A Star’ sporting an aggressive big mouth grille is expected to be launched before December to take on the ageing Hyundai Santro and the new Chevrolet Spark in a price bracket of Rs3-4 lakh.
Maruti Splash: To consolidate its position in the larger hatchback segment, Maruti plans to add a running mate for the Swift to take on Hyundai’s i10, Fiat Estilo and Skoda’s Fabia in early 2009. The stylish and spacious Splash will share petrol and diesel engines with the Swift and be priced in the Rs4.5-5.5 lakh range.
Hyundai i20: India’s second largest car maker wants to ride on the success of the i10 hatchback with another larger and more spacious hatchback sometime in October. It promises to be bigger and more comfortable than the ageing Getz and may have more powerful petrol and diesel engines. Prices can be expected to be in the Rs4.5-5.75 lakh range.
New Tata Indica: Tata Motors is expected to join the October gold rush with a completely new model to replace its successful large hatchback, the Indica that has been one of the best priced cars in this size segment. Its shape has not changed much since its launch in 1998 though it is likely to have a more refined diesel and petrol engine and will come in a price band of Rs3.5 to 5 lakh.
New Honda City: This model has figured in the top choices among India’s entry level saloons since its launch in 1998. Despite a major upgrade five years ago and a minor one three years ago it has faced competition from models such as the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Verna and now the Suzuki SX4. We can soon expect the new City that has just been launched in Thailand with styling cues from the new Honda Accord with chunky chrome trim rather like that of the new Accord. The 1500cc i-VTEC petrol engine can generate a 115bhp though there will probably be a 1300cc model too. Prices should be in the Rs7-11 lakh band.
Honda Jazz: Honda Siel Cars that have been well received in the market with their Accord, CRV, Civic and City want to enter the larger volume market with a lower cost hatchback. To underscore their commitment to this model Honda has set up a new plant in Haryana. Their popular Fit model, also called the Jazz, is virtually a City model without a boot. This will be a spacious hatchback priced well below the City. There will probably be 1200cc to 1400cc petrol engines for the models at prices between Rs5-6 lakh which are scheduled for a spring launch.
Fiat Linea: The re-launched Fiat Palio Estile has gradually reasserted its market position but Fiat’s JV partner Tata Motors is looking at Fiat to produce Fiat’s range of bigger cars that can be slotted into their marketing setup. The Linea that has done well in Europe will therefore be a bigger saloon offered at an attractive price. It has the rough dimensions of a Honda Civic with 1800cc and 1900cc petrol and diesel engines and is slated for a launch at the end of the monsoons.
New Toyota Corolla Altis: Where Honda treads Toyota is loth to be left behind as their Corolla gets eclipsed by the Honda Civic. The dramatic styling of the new Camry should help it regain some of its lost position. The petrol engine may have a diesel sibling but prices in the Rs10-13 lakh range are not likely to be altered much.
New Skoda Superb: Often referred to as a Mercedes E Classe at a C Classe price the new Skoda Superb will soon acquire a new persona. The new model with subtle styling changes is a little bigger and will be powered by diesel and petrol engines. It is expected early in 2009 at a price of around Rs25 lakh.
There will also be a matching range of SUV’s like the Mitsubishi Montero, Nissan X-Trail, BMW X6, a new Chevrolet Tavera and Indicruz a new SUV from Tata Motors. M&M is expected to launch its secret Ingenio to take on Toyota’s popular Innova. Toyota who is rather secretive about its plans is also expected to launch a new small car in a big new plant that is already under construction.
Murad Ali Baig is a consultant to several auto companies. Readers are advised to make their own assessment before buying or selling a vehicle