The Frankfurt Motor Show (on till 25 September) is always a time when European manufacturers get into high gear and display some major muscle flexing. Given the global slowdown in automobile sales, it is important for people to see a vibrant and exciting industry with promising products lined up for global buyers. And that is exactly what we have got.
Since it’s their home show, it is fitting to tell you what has impressed me the most from the Germans. Audi has pulled off quite a coup by constructing its own pavilion in the heart of the fair grounds. They are calling it the Agora, and this stand is not just about cars on display, but also has a dynamic track integrated into it for visitors to take rides in the latest Audis. Quite something, indeed! Audi’s board has set a target of selling 7,500 cars in India in 2012 that will come on the back of the Q3 compact SUV which arrives by the end of this fiscal year.
Audi’s parent Volkswagen is in overdrive. The excitement is primarily around its new car—the Up. This is a small city runabout which has been designed for introduction in the developed and developing world. The car will carry small, fuel-efficient engines and arrives in India by 2013. Expect the car to be positioned smack against the Hyundai i10 and Maruti’s Alto K10.
From (Left to Right): Ferrari 458 Spider, Porsche 911, Volkswagen UP
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Porsche’s big show-stopper is the new 7th generation of the revered 911. The car has grown, not just in generation terms, but also in size, and so the purists may not find this new, almost-stretched, 911 very appealing. Of course, I still cannot wait to drive this car. It will likely make its way to India by mid-2012. To wrap up the Germans, I want to quickly mention that BMW is showing off its new sub-brand, with the i8 hybrid sports car and the i3 fully electric city car, which are environmentally friendly future cars. And then there’s one of the other beauties at the show—the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster—which is a topless version of the regular SLS. Also topless is the gorgeous world debut from Scuderia Ferrari, the very sexy new 458 Spider. Major drool value and performance in the same league as its hard-top coupe version.
Mahindra group company SsangYong debuted the XIV-1 concept, which it says will hit production in some form, post-2013. Skoda is also showing its Mission L concept car which will lead to a compact sedan and hatch for markets like Russia, Latin America and India. But speaking of concepts, the show’s biggest stars are no doubt at Tata’s group company Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). The British marquee has really impressed with three strong concept cars. Land Rover is showing the Defender and its variant the DC100 concept. The Defender harks back to the very first Land Rover, and will replace that model by the 2015 model cycle. It’s a four-wheel drive with compact proportions, and very high-end styling. The DC100 is a more fun iteration of the same principle. On the other side of the JLR booth stands the super-hot C-X16 concept. This is a hybrid two-seater sports cars, which combines a 375 bhp, 3-litre V6 engine with a 92 bhp electric motor. The idea is to be blisteringly fast and yet be greener than other V8 engined sports cars. The concept is likely to take shape as a production car by 2015.
Land Rover Defender Concept
In fact, JLR is fast becoming one of the most aggressive players in the premium market. I was fortunate enough to be in the UK this week when the company announced its intention to invest about £350 million (around Rs 2,646 crore) in a new engines plant. This plant will manufacture four-cylinder diesel and petrol engines, and will be operational by 2015. This is a significant step for JLR—which until now has had to rely on the likes of Ford and Peugeot for its engines.
What moves like this—and indeed the Frankfurt Motor Show—have shown the world is that despite the blips in sales the past few months, and also the continuing uncertainty in the global economic climate, it’s still the right place to be, the right time to invest, and the right opportunity to be cashed-in on, in emerging markets.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar is Editor (Auto), NDTV.
Write to Siddharth at firstname.lastname@example.org