New Delhi: Keen to boost sales, global automakers unveiled fresh plans at the Auto Expo that opened on Tuesday in Delhi as they turn to one of the few remaining growth markets to keep their engines humming.
Car sales in India, the world's second-most populous country, are set to jump about 16 percent this year to 1.4 million vehicles, buoyed by robust economic growth and government incentives, in contrast to a slump in many developed markets.
"The Indian auto industry and the Indian auto market have become internationally very important and therefore, no one can ignore this market," said Mahindra & Mahindra's automotive chief Pawan Goenka, who is also the president of industry body Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM).
The Auto Expo, held every other year in the capital city of New Delhi, first grabbed global headlines in 2008, when Tata Motors showcased its $2,500 Nano with the promise of bringing motorisation to the masses.
This year’s show will have no shortage of rivals -- from Toyota Motor Corp to General Motors Co -- looking to debut their own compact cars as they seek a larger presence in one of the world's few healthy auto markets.
Maruti Suzuki has showcased its new seven-seater family car at the expo and hopes to create a new segment with the launch of the model.
Japan’s Toyota Motor said its compact car “Etios” will be commercially launched in India later this year. The company expects annual sales of 70,000 units of Etiosin India. The company has not specified a price range for the new model, which has been expected to sell for well under $10,000.
US motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson said it will launch 12 models in India this year.
Another major auto company Honda Motor of Japan said it will introduce a new compact car in India in 2011. The company has unveiled a “Honda Small Car” concept at the Delhi expo and said the five-seater car would be based on this concept.
The company also said the small car would be priced below Rs.500,000.
Volvo, the world’s second biggest truck maker, said increase component sourcing from India by five times to $5 billion by 2015.
A day before the show began, US auto giant General Motors launched its mini car "Chevrolet Beat" in India priced between Rs.3.34 lakh and Rs.3.94 lakh ex-showroom in Delhi.
Indian ratings agency CARE has forecast domestic passenger car sales to rise 14.5 percent annually to 2.4 million units in the fiscal year to March 2014, with growth led by small cars.
The US market is expected to total around 10.4 million vehicles this year, the lowest tally since 1982. This year, China is due to surpass the US as the world's largest auto market with about 13 million vehicles sold.
"In any country, the base of the (income) pyramid is the biggest group," said Osamu Suzuki, chief executive of Suzuki Motor, parent of top Indian carmaker Maruti Suzuki India.
"Starting at the entry-price level was a successful strategy for us," he said.
Maruti Suzuki commands half the Indian market with cut-price hatchbacks such as the Maruti 800 and Alto. The mini and compact segments of cars shorter than 4 metres (13 ft 1.4 in) account for three-quarters of India's car market.
Volkswagen will display the Polo, local production of which began this month near Mumbai.
Ford Motor will showcase Figo, introduced by CEO Alan Mulally earlier this year.
Market leader Maruti Suzuki, meanwhile, is working its way up the product line-up, with plans to debut a compact multi-purpose vehicle concept called Concept R3.
While the compact cars were the cynosure of all eyes, green technology also made a strong presence with many companies showcasing hybrids and alternate fuel vehicles.
Most of the companies are eyeing to garner a seizable chunk in the Indian car market which is heading towards the milestone of two million units a year.
Honda showcased its concept small car developed with the Indian market in mind. Priced less than Rs 5 lakh, it is due for launch in 2011. Japanese Toyota also unveiled its concept small car which will be introduced in India by early 2011.
German car-maker Volkswagen unveiled its much-awaited hatchback Polo which will be pitted against the likes Honda Jazz and Hyundai i20. Polo will hit the roads March this year.
General Motors exhibited its newly launched compact car, Beat, which is expected to become a price warrior in the compact car segment with a tag ranging from Rs 3.34 to Rs 3.94 lakh.
However, passenger car market leader Maruti Suzuki India decided to create a new segment in small multipurpose vehicle (MPV) arena by displaying concept vehicle 'rIII'. On the other hand, Tata Motors unveiled its crossover vehicle Aria, passenger carrier Magic Iris and another MPV Venture.
On the green technology front, Toyota unveiled its world's best selling hybrid Prius, which will make its way to India by March this year. It also launched CNG version of its luxury sedan Corolla Altis. Meanwhile, General Motors showed Chevy Volt along with the electric-Spark, developed jointly with Reva Electric Car, sedan Aveo CNG and LPG variant of its small car, Spark.
Honda showcased its hybrid concept CZR, while Maruti Suzuki displayed the hybrid SX4, which will be used at the Commonwealth Games in October.
On the luxury front, Tata Motors-owned Jaguar Land Rover showcased the latest Jaguar XJ, while BMW launched two vehicles costing over Rs one crore -- BMW X6M and BMW 760Li -- and another model Gran Turismo with a tag of Rs 63 lakh.
Another luxury player Audi displayed the new version of SUV Q7, which will be priced at Rs 65 lakh and sedan A6, priced at Rs 37 lakhs along with its concept Sportback—a five door model. Mercedes showcased its concept car along with its sedan SLS AMG Desert Gold that will be priced over Rs 2 crore, when launched in India. The company did not disclose the timeframe for bringing the car in India.
With agency inputs
First Published: Tuesday, January 05, 2010, 23:30