The press days for the annual Geneva International Motor Show are always around the same time as the Union budget here in India. So that usually means a mad dash right after budget day for me, and it was no different this year. The reason it is difficult to give Geneva a complete miss is because it’s the only global motor show on neutral ground—with no “home” car maker. It is also the show that manufacturers use to showcase new technology or design language. And that is what we got this year too, though not in as much measure as I’d have liked—in terms of relevance to India.
Tata’s new small wonder
Having said that, here are some stand-outs for me from Geneva this year—and, yes, most of these do matter to us here too! The first name has to be Tata Motors. It’s India’s only flag bearer at Geneva and has been for the past 14 years. Tata also uses Geneva to debut a concept almost every year, and this year we got to see the Pixel. This is Tata’s next-step iteration of its Nano. The Pixel uses the same premise and indeed much of the same platform as the famed Rs1 lakh car, but is destined for more premium positioning. The car shown was simply a concept or show car and so had flamboyant scissor doors and a removable-tablet computer to control everything. But the real-world production version will also be high-end.
It is a car aimed at the developed part of Europe for starters, so it will be marketed as a practical, well-finished yet reasonably affordable city runabout. The Pixel will have a rear-mounted, three-cylinder diesel engine, and after it is launched in Europe in 2013, Tata will consider variants for India too.
Going green remains a priority for motown and in that vein we saw many hybrids and electric cars once again at Geneva. While Porsche showed off its new Panamera S Hybrid, Chevrolet debuted the Volt in Europe. Rolls-Royce, on the other hand, is experimenting with an electric version of its flagship Phantom, but purely to test the waters.
Sports car surprises
At the other end of the spectrum were some sports cars that also debuted at Geneva. Jaguar unveiled the high-performance XKR-S, while Lamborghini’s Murcielago replacement was launched too—the 690 bhp Aventador. And Ferrari debuted the much-anticipated FF, which replaces its 612 Scaglietti. The FF nameplate is for the four-wheel drive, four-seater Ferrari. While Ferrari has done a first and launched a production series four-wheel drive, it has also gone the station wagon way for the first time ever. The car’s shape has drawn a lot of criticism; I too cannot digest its looks. But it will still attract a new kind of buyer, so Ferrari expects a lot of volumes from this one.
There were many more concepts that caught my eye—the Mini Rocketman multipurpose car, the Renault Captur and R-Space urban mobility concepts too. But the one I am keen on is the Audi A3 concept. This car was not wildly outlandish as most concepts are. It looked very much like its production version will be. The third generation of the A3 is due next year anyway, and it will not be restricted to being just a hatchback.
This time Audi has made clear its intentions of having a compact luxury sedan below the A4, to compete at a new entry-luxury-sedan price point for the first time. The good news? That car is headed to India.
While we may not have it on our roads till the end of 2012 or even 2013, I expect sub-Rs20 lakh entry pricing and lots of volumes courtesy younger, aspirational buyers who want to step into luxury brand territory. The looks and red colour sure got a lot of interest going for it in Geneva.
More from Hyundai
Hyundai’s new i40 for Europe also got lots of attention. While this car will not head to India in a hurry, I spoke to the company’s president and he said that if the market demands it cars like this will be assembled in India. Hyundai has not met with too much success for its larger sedans here, but given the massive demand for the current generations of the Elantra (Avante in Korea) and Sonata (the new i40 is based on the same platform) and their growing popularity in most global markets, it’s only a matter of time before Hyundai begins manufacturing them at its Chennai plant.
So the year has begun on a good note. The Geneva show certainly points to plenty of launches to keep us busy and salivating through 2011 and the coming couple of years.
I am also keen to know what exactly the Union finance minister meant when he said the government would incentivize the production and sale of hybrid and electric vehicles in India. If it means duty cuts that allow a larger section of buyers to access more affordably priced environmentally friendly cars, then I am all for it. Fingers crossed on this one!
Audi A3 concept: The third generation of the A3 is due next year.
Ferrari FF: Ferrari debuted the much-anticipated FF, which replaces its 612 Scaglietti.
Rolls-Royce 102EX: Rolls-Royce is experimenting with an electric version of its flagship Phantom.
Tata Pixel: The Pixel will have a rear-mounted, three-cylinder diesel engine.
Hyundai i40: Hyundai’s new i40 for Europe is based on the same platform as the Sonata.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar is Editor (Auto), NDTV.
Write to Siddharth at