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Auto cos hum and haw over participation in Auto Expo

Globally, flagship auto shows are witnessing a dip in excitement as well as scale as automakers migrate to consumer tech-focused events such as CES in Las Vegas (Photo: AP)Premium
Globally, flagship auto shows are witnessing a dip in excitement as well as scale as automakers migrate to consumer tech-focused events such as CES in Las Vegas (Photo: AP)

As India’s marquee automotive event, the Auto Expo, returns after a missed season due to covid-19, large industry players are divided over the benefits of participating in it, with a few even opting out of the 16th edition, scheduled for 13-18 January

As India’s marquee automotive event, the Auto Expo, returns after a missed season due to covid-19, large industry players are divided over the benefits of participating in it, with a few even opting out of the 16th edition, scheduled for 13-18 January.

Globally, flagship auto shows, such as the ones held in Tokyo, Geneva and Frankfurt, are also witnessing a dip in excitement as well as scale, as automakers migrate to consumer tech-focused events such as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

The Auto Expo, organized by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam), and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), is a biennial event, which has been held at Greater Noida since 2014, moving from the earlier location in Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. The last edition was held in 2020, weeks before India went into a covid-induced lockdown.

While the country’s top-three passenger vehicle makers Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai and Tata Motors are expected to unveil several new products at the show, SUV-focused Mahindra and Mahindra has decided to keep out. It is joined by the largest-selling luxury carmaker Mercedes Benz India —for the first time the company is not participating in the Expo. Both brands had big installations at the Expo in 2020.

In fact, no German automobile company will be participating in the Auto Expo, including Volkswagen-group brands Audi, Skoda, and Volkswagen, as well as BMW. Nissan, Renault and Honda Cars India will keep out as well.

Chinese original equipment manufacturer BYD, which recently showcased its electric SUV Atto 3 in India, and MG Motor India have decided to put up pavilions at the show, reinforcing the eastern neighbour’s growing interest in India’s booming car market and its electrification story.

“We will participate in the Auto Expo 2023 in a big way and see the value a marquee platform like this brings in terms of sheer media presence and the rub-off on brand image. The Auto Expo is a very good platform to convey future product-related messaging to the consumers," Shashank Srivastava, executive director, Maruti Suzuki, India’s largest passenger vehicle maker, said.

“With a captive and relevant audience at the Expo, there is great value in launching new products at the show," Srivastava added. “We don’t see footfall at the Expo falling. In fact, the coverage is also increasing."

Maruti Suzuki is expected to showcase many hybrid and electric powertrain vehicles at the Expo.

For two-wheelers, dominant players like Hero MotoCorp, TVS Motor Co., Bajaj Auto and Royal Enfield will skip the show, as was the case in the last edition. New-age EV manufacturers such as Ather Energy, Ola Electric and Hero Electric have also chosen to keep away, costs being a major challenge.

“The Expo is an expensive proposition and the benefit of us participating, vis-a-vis doing our own launch events is more evident in the latter scenario," an executive at an EV startup said, seeking anonymity. “We also don’t see a lot of advantage in hosting our launches in Greater Noida since the expo shifted there," he added.

“For mature players like us, the Expo is of limited utility," said another senior executive at a two-wheeler company.

For many, opting out of the Expo is driven by the urge to conserve cash. Instead, these firms prefer to organize launches throughout the year, as part of a consistent brand building exercise. Some others who decided to opt out do not have new products to showcase or launch at the Expo.

Industry body Siam is likely to finalize the names of participants and space allocation in the first half of December. “Siam is still recruiting participants to the Expo, so there may be addition of a couple more names to the list," a person in the know said.

“Little innovation has happened at the Expo for years. At a time there is so much integration between technology and auto, and as vehicles become more software-driven, such shows should re-examine their identity," said Ravi Bhatia, president of JATO Dynamics India. “The 2020 Expo was under covid-19 shadow, which impacted footfall. We expect it to be much better attended this time. It is a celebration of the industry, which has performed well despite several challenges. The theme is going to be clearly electric," he added.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alisha Sachdev

Alisha Sachdev is an assistant editor with Mint based in Delhi. She reports on the auto and mobility sector, with a special focus on emerging clean mobility technologies. She also focusses on developing multimedia properties for Mint and currently hosts the 'In A Minute' series and the Mint Primer podcast. Previously, she has worked with CNBC-TV18 and NDTV.
Catch all the Auto News and Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates & Live Business News.
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