New Delhi: The Auto Expo 2010 in January will see India’s largest car maker, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, showcase the concept version of its first vehicle designed in the country.

The 6-seater multi-purpose vehicle, named R3, was designed in just nine months, the company said in a statement.

New launch: The SX4 hatchback will be showcased at Auto Expo 2010.

This is the second time, after its A-star small car, that Maruti is premiering its car in the country, reflecting the growing importance of the Indian auto market to the company. Maruti Suzuki accounts for about a fourth of its parent Suzuki Motor Corp.’s profits.

With smaller rivals set to showcase their latest models for the Indian market at the auto show, Maruti, too, is planning a strong line-up of launches.

As in the past, Maruti’s exhibit is expected to be the largest at the expo. India’s largest maker of small cars plans to showcase 17 vehicles, but on display this time will be a multi-utility vehicle and a new large family car. It will also showcase a hatchback version of the SX4, its most expensive sedan.

The SX4 has been rapidly losing ground to rival cars like the Honda City. A company spokesperson, however, said Maruti does not plan to launch the hatchback version in India.

Maruti also plans to unveil the Suzuki Kizashi, a 2.4-litre sedan that would be imported from the US, to test the appetite of Indian consumers for the car.

The company’s attempt at entering the premium segment with its Grand Vitara has been less than successful. Maruti sold 67 units of the Grand Vitara in the first eight months of fiscal 2009, compared with 238 the year before, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.

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