The year 2009 will be remembered for the global slowdown in automobile sales. But in India we never really had it that bad, did we? In India, it will perhaps be remembered for all the new launches, and the special one that put India on the global map—the Tata Nano.
But with that kind of pace set, can 2010 really get more exciting? I think it can, and will. And the fun begins at the Auto Expo 2010, at New Delhi in a few days (5-11 January). However, there are other reasons to look forward to the year ahead as well.
Global will go bigger
The global auto industry’s big car and bike makers find representation in India in some measure or the other, barring only France’s PSA Peugeot Citroen. That will change with the debut of the Citroen brand by the end of 2010.
But we were talking about how the year will start, so let’s begin with the BMW X1. It is the segment that has had the world excited for some time now: relatively eco-friendly, compact and easy-to-drive SUVs. Well, the X1 fits right in. It will have the option of diesel and petrol, and BMW will show it at the expo to gauge consumer interest. My bet is that it will be launched here by the end of the year, with an aggressive price tag under Rs30 lakh. And while it won’t be shown at the expo, BMW will also bring the next-generation 5 series to India, as the model undergoes a cycle change globally next year.
Compact and also an SUV, another beast I have been talking about for some time now is the Skoda Yeti. This vehicle also makes its debut at the expo, and it will be launched a few months later. The Yeti will sport one of the two petrol engine options it carries in Europe—the 1.2 or 1.8 TSI—and also the 2-litre diesel. Prices could therefore range from Rs13 lakh to Rs17 lakh.
Another SUV coming in will be the Mercedes-Benz GLK, a compact soft-roader, which will rival Audi’s Q5, Land Rover’s Freelander 2 and BMW’s X3. Expect prices to be around Rs38-40 lakh. A slightly humbler offering will be Hyundai’s much-awaited Santa Fe, to take on Toyota’s Fortuner and Chevrolet’s Captiva—after all, the Tucson is really ageing, isn’t it?
We have already talked about all the hatchbacks coming in, such as the Ford Figo, Chevrolet Beat and the Volkswagen Polo. We have also told you about the two small concepts from Toyota and Honda (log on to www.livemint.com/smallczars.htm) which will be shown at the expo. But Toyota will also launch the Prius hybrid in India, priced between Rs22 lakh and Rs25 lakh.
Also Read Road Runner’s Previous Columns
Home-grown for the masses
Now let’s get down to Mother Earth and talk about some more mass-oriented vehicles, shall we? The Tata Xover is a people-mover that promises to offer Toyota Innova-like comfort, with Mahindra Xylo-like value. It will be the big launch from Tata at the expo. Tata is also likely to show us its value premium sedan concept, the Prima, which debuted at the Geneva Show in March. Another expectation I have is that Tata will show us a concept for its next-generation Safari.
It will be a touch disappointing for many, but Mahindra and Mahindra has decided not to unveil its next global SUV at the expo. Instead, we will get to see some of the new technologies being developed for that new platform, including future engines. The big play for Mahindra and Mahindra would be the debut of its trucks, a joint venture with Navistar.
Maruti Suzuki will show us a six-seater compact people-mover concept called R3, which will sport the 1.2-litre K-series engine from the Ritz. We will also see the Bharat Stage IV-ready Swift with the same 1.2-litre engine, and the hot new sedan, the Kizashi, which Maruti will debut by mid-2010.
Extra to the expo
And all this is just what you can expect from the Auto Expo. There will be plenty more coming through the year—such as Fiat’s Bravo, Ford’s Fiesta sedan, Nissan’s Micra and 370Z sports car, Premier’s Rio, Volvo’s XC60, to name a few! And, let’s not forget the same is true of two-wheelers too.
So before I run out of breath, let me assure you that there will be plenty to look forward to as we bid adieu to a launch-filled year and welcome a brand new one. The only downside for me is that 2010 is also likely to bring in an upward price revision for most products and an increase in interest rates—which could spoil the party somewhat.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar is editor (auto), NDTV.
Write to Siddharth at email@example.com