Friday, Nov 28, 2014

Carmakers drive into sub-4m space

Sachin Tendulkar poses with a BMW i8 hybrid car at the 12th Indian auto Expo in Greater Noida. (AP) Sachin Tendulkar poses with a BMW i8 hybrid car at the 12th Indian auto Expo in Greater Noida. (AP)
Written by Mihir Mishra , Anil Sasi | Posted: February 6, 2014 12:54 am | Updated: February 6, 2014 8:30 am

A number of launches and concept vehicles at the Delhi Auto Expo fall in that bracket, report Mihir Mishra and Anil Sasi

Given that the Indian auto industry is not yet out of a trough and the market gets few first-time buyers, carmakers at the Delhi Auto Expo tried their best to give flagging domestic sales a push by launching a bevy of sub-4 metre sedans and utility vehicles, besides relaunching a number of existing models.
Tata Motors, Ford India, the Fiat Group, Hyundai Motors and Volkswagen India have announced their entry into the sub-4 metre segment through launches in either the sedan or the SUV space. GM India too unveiled a concept compact SUV, badged the Chevrolet Adra.

While Tata Motors, Ford India and Hyundai Motor International showcased their sub-4 metre sedan launches, Fiat India and Volkswagen India unveiled new sub-4 metre SUVs that will hit the market soon. Both Maruti and Honda already have products in the segment priced in the Rs 5.7-to-7.77 lakh range.
Fiat India launched its sub-4 metre SUV branded the Avventura, and Volkswagen India a sub-4 metre concept branded the Taigun. Fiat’s Avventura concept, which is basically an off-road, semi-rugged crossover based on the Punto’s platform, has a tailgate-mounted spare wheel. The concept will also come with 200mm ground clearance and larger wheels.

Tata Motors’ Zest, Ford India’s concept sedan and Hyundai Motors’ Xcent, launched earlier this week, were on display at the expo. The auto companies feel the launch of sub-4 metre would help push sales, as this segment has seen a huge growth last year. “Sales in the sub-4 metre sedan segment grew 39 per cent last year and we too will now be present in this segment with the launch of Xcent,” said Rakesh Srivastava, senior vice president, marketing and sales, with Hyundai Motors India. “This space is very interesting and volumes are assured. We’re studying this space and will be keen to enter as and when possible.”

At the same time, carmarkers, who are facing a decline in first-time buyers, are upgrading their versions of their old cars. The key upgrades included the Linea by Fiat, the Santa Fe by Hyundai, the Corolla Altis by Toyota, the Yeti and Superb by Skoda and the Beat by General Motors India. “We will be launching the new Linea in a few weeks and we expect the launch to bring in more customers,” said Nagesh Basavanhalli, president and managing director of Fiat Group Automobile India Ltd.

Nissan Motor Company too looks set to join Maruti-Suzuki, Hyundai, and Honda in the race to get a piece of the compact sedan segment. “This is a growing segment in the Indian market and cannot be ignored,” said Toru Hasegawa, corporate vice president, Africa, Middle East and India. “The market is suddenly changing with the B+ hatchback segment growing 10 per cent and the sedan too developing with the sub-compact sedan segment doing really well. We need to be more agile,” he said.

In India, where Nissan is a relatively new player, the company said it has done well to establish its brand presence so far and is confident of gathering more volumes going forward. “We have recently scaled up capacity from 4,00,00 units to 4,80,000 units. To achieve the said market share we could take some expansion,” said Hasegawa.  Honda also launched the new Jazz premium compact car. Chevrolet’s new concept compact SUV, the Adra, is based on General Motors’ global small-vehicle platform, also called Gamma 2. The Adra will be pegged against the Ford EcoSport and Renault Duster.

Lowell Paddock, GM India president and managing director, said this concept represents a “new possibility for the carmaker” in the fast-growing compact segment. After kicking off with the Hyundai Xcent compact sedan, the South Korean company has launched its next-generation Santa Fe.

The differentiated tax structure for smaller and larger vehicles in the Indian market has resulted in the emergence of a unique category of compact sub-4 metre sedans and utility vehicles, which are finding increasing favour among consumers. The excise duty on sub-4 metre vehicles is 12 per cent, half that on larger vehicles. Manufacturers can reduce the length of the vehicle and introduce the products at aggressive prices.

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