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World’s cheapest car gets a pop star welcome

World’s cheapest car gets a pop star welcome
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First Published: Thu, Jan 10 2008. 07 20 PM IST

Updated: Thu, Jan 10 2008. 07 20 PM IST
New Delhi: More than 1,000 people — journalists, VIPS and industrialists — packed an auditorium as Tata Motors Ltd unveiled its long-awaited “People’s Car” in a media on 10 January.
For those wanting to feel India’s economic self-confidence as it takes on the world, all they had to do was to experience the blaring music from “2001: A Space Odyssey” and the flashes of scores of cameras as the Tata Nano was driven out.
“A promise is a promise,” chairman Ratan Tata said, as he announced a dealer price of Rs100,000 ($2,500) as pledged 5 years ago, even though commodity prices have gone up and despite rivals’ claims such a knock-down price was impossible.
“Let me assure you and our critics the car we have designed will meet all safety norms and all foreign environmental criteria,” chairman Ratan Tata said as he proudly unveiled what had been dubbed the “People’s Car” at the Auto Expo in New Delhi.
The car will go on sale later this year,taxes and profit margins will push up the price, but it will still cost about half the cheapest car on today’s market, a 25-year old model from rival Maruti Suzuki.
Tata said the car would have a rear-mounted engine and travel 20 km per litre. It would be offered in a basic model and two deluxe variants.
Tata has said it will initially produce about 250,000 Nanos and expects eventual annual demand of 1 million units.
It has sent global car makers scurrying to make their own version of a low-cost car to meet the needs of cost-conscious consumers in emerging economies such as China, India and Russia.
Tata said it would focus on the home market for 2-3 years before considering exporting the Nano to countries in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia
For its supporters, it will revolutionise ownership in India, by allowing millions of the aspiring middle classes to own a car, and send a shock through the auto world with its cheaper engineering that will be copied across the globe.
With just 8 people in 1,000 owing a car in India, there is huge potential to upgrade bike and scooter owners, who bought about 7 million two-wheelers in 2006-07.
Volkswagen, Toyota, Honda and Fiat have also said they are looking at small cars for emerging markets where strong economic growth has made car ownership a reality for millions.
While critics had been sceptical about the car meeting safety and emission norms, Tata said Nano would meet Bharat Stage-III emission norms and can also meet the stringent Euro 4 norms. The car has also gone through a full frontal crash test as per standard norms, he said.
The Nano is 8% shorter than Maruti 800, the cheapest car on offer currently in India, on bumper to bumper length, but is 21% more spacious, Tata claimed. The 624cc Nano comes with a 33 HP petrol engine, but a diesel variant would also be launched. Reuters
“Cute” first impression
As Tata reeled off the car’s specifications and compared it to innovations such as the first man on the moon, people in the crowd, including many Indian journalists, clapped and cheered.
A hologram appeared of a husband, his wife and kid balanced unsafely on a scooter,a common sight in India. It faded to make way for an image of the Nano hovering above the stage.
“It seems like a real car. The windows actually wind down,” said a smiling Gilles Levassor, who works for French carmaker Renault.
A few metres away, women protesting that farmers had been made landless because of Tata’s car factory plans, stood by.
Outside the auditorium, a contingent of Greenpeace activists stood with banners bearing slogans such as: “Cut carbon emissions”.
But they were largely ignored by the swelling crowds. Reuters
Renault to invest $1 bn in new India plant
New Delhi: French auto maker Renault plans to invest Rs40 billion ($1 billion) to set up a new plant near the southern Indian city of Chennai, the company said in a statement on 10 January.
The alliance of Nissan Motor and Renault , which has made a big success of its no-frills Logan sedan, plans a $3,000 car with India’s Bajaj Auto
The new unit will produce 400,000 cars, both Renault and Nissan models, annually, the statement released at an auto show in the Indian capital said.
The company plans to employ 4,000 people by 2010 in the new unit. Reuters
Yamaha to pump in Rs800 cr in 3 years
New Delhi: US-based Yamaha Motor India today said it will invest Rs750-800 cr over the next 3 years for product development, capacity expansion and marketing initiatives.
“We are planning to invest Rs750-800 cr over the next 3 years to streamline operations in India and reestablish the Yamaha brand,” Yamaha global president Takashi Kajikawa told at the 9th Auto Expo.
The company unveiled three new bikes based on its super-sport motorcycles and would launch them in phases during the current calendar year. PTI
Volvo to invest Rs80 cr for setting up manufacturing plant
New Delhi: Bus maker Volvo Bus Corporation will invest Rs80 cr to set up a bus body manufacturing plant at Hosakote, Bangalore.
The company has tied up with India’s Jaico Automobiles to form a joint venture company, Volvo Bus Body Technologies India Pvt Ltd, Volvo Bus Corporation director Akash Passey told at the 9th Auto Expo on 10 January.
The JV company would have a manufacturing capacity of 1,000 buses per year and cater to both Indian and foreign markets. PTI
Honda sees 2008 India launch for Civic hybrid
New Delhi: Honda Motor Co Ltd will launch its Civic hybrid car in India in 2008, its head of India operations said on 10 January.
The Japanese automaker has about 4% of the Indian car market, seling 42,365 cars in the nine months to December. Over two-thirds of its sales were of the mid-sized City, the remainder made up by the Civic and the Accord.
“We have decided to launch the Civic hybrid this year,” M. Takedagawa, president and chief executive of Honda Siel Cars India Ltd said at an auto show in the Indian capital. Reuters
Skoda India expands production capacity; launches new Fabia
New Delhi: Volkswagen Group company Skoda Auto India today said it will more than double its Aurangabad plant’s production capacity in 2008, and launched a new Fabia for the Indian market priced between Rs4.99-7.68 lakh.
“The company is expanding its assembly plant in Aurangabad to roll out over 30,000 units per year up from 12,600 units a year currently as we have great plans for India ahead,” Skoda Auto India managing director Karsten Bogun told at the 9th Auto Expo on 10 January.
The company is also focusing on expanding its product portfolio by bringing at least two models every year in India.
“With the launch of premium hatchback Fabia in the current year, we are creating a new category and will also introduce a sports utility vehicle in 2009,” Skoda Auto India Board Member Thomas Kuehl said.
US technology-based Fabia has been launched in two variants. “The petrol variant is readily available in the market, whereas the diesel car would hit the roads later this year,” he added.
The company has already received bookings for 2,000 Fabia cars. Skoda is also looking to increase local content in its models from 15% currently to 30-40% in the coming years. Skoda currently offers cars like Octavia, Laura and Superb among others.
“We are in discussion with domestic suppliers for increasing the local content and will hire 150-200 people for procurement in the next month. As a part of our global strategy, we want to strengthen our position in the Indian market,” PTI
Maruti wary of Tata’s Rs1 lakh car
New Delhi: Just a day ahead of the launch of Tata’s Rs1 lakh car, India’s biggest car maker Maruti Suzuki admitted that the ‘people’s car´ could have “some impact” on its sales on 10 January.
However, it would not cut the prices of its entry level model M800 in order to compete with the low- cost car from the the stable of Tatas, the company said.
“Some impact, may be. I don’t know,” Maruti Suzuki India managing director Shinzo Nakanishi said when asked if Maruti Suzuki India’s (MSI) sales would be impacted by the Rs1 lakh car.
“We cannot make a Rs1 lakh car. Our engineers have said they cannot do it. If we have to cut prices, then we have to remove components from the M800, which we cannot do,” he asserted.
The company would be launching one new car every year till 2010-11 as part of strategy to consolidate its market position in India.
The company unveiled A-Star concept, the next global car from the stable Suzuki Motor Co (SMC) to be solely produced in India. MSI is planning to start production of the car by October this year.
It also showcased other global car Splash, a hatchback which will be exported to Europe.
The company also showcased another concept ‘Kizashi’ in line with its intention to move into D segment. PTI
Audi targets to sell 3,000 cars in India by 2010
New Delhi: Germany’s premium car maker Audi today is targeting sales of about 3,000 cars in India by 2010 against 350 sold in the country at present.
The company launched a new variant of its sedan A4 which would cost up to Rs30 lakh.
“India is an important market for us. We are targeting sales of 3,000 cars by 2010 against the present 350,” Audi general manager (Press) Bettina Bernhardt said.
She added that the new variant of A4 3.2 litre, to be available in India by mid-2008, would come with choice of two petrol engines with power output range of 143 bhp and 265 bhp.
Recently, the car maker has announced start of assembling of its mid-size sedan A6 at the group facility in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, following which the model would become cheaper by Rs1.4-2.1 lakh.
Audi, which is using group company Skoda India’s manufacturing facility, expects to assemble 2,000 units of A6 by 2015. The company plans to assemble over 300 A6 sedans on a single-shift basis in the current calendar year.
The company would open three more dealer outlets in Gurgaon, Hyderabad and Bangalore in next four weeks to increase number of outlets to six.
Audi is in the process of investing about Rs180 cr in the Aurangabad facility to have a capacity of 2,000 A6 units by 2015.
The company has been present in the Indian market for 3 years and established a sales subsidiary in the country last year to manage activities here. PTI
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First Published: Thu, Jan 10 2008. 07 20 PM IST