Car makers are increasingly seeing sport-utility and multi-purpose vehicles tailored to Indian conditions as a growing opportunity in the country,where the buyer,they say,is prepared to pay more.
More than a dozen sport-utility vehicles or SUVs were unveiled on Thursday as the Auto Expo 2012 started with domestic manufacturers Maruti Suzuki,Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) and Tata Motors revealing their products and concepts in the market segment.
Foreign car makers,including Hyundai,Renault and Ford also revealed new vehicles and designs for compact SUVs,which seek to meet the aspirations of an upwardly mobile urban middle class while burning less fuel per kilometre than larger models in western markets.
Manufacturers are yet to reveal prices of their vehicles but most said they would target the upwardly-mobile B-segment,where prices typically range between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 8 lakh.
Arvind Saxena,Hyundai Indias director of sales and marketing,said: SUVs and MPVs are lifestyle products,and providing lifestyle products,choices,is exactly what India is moving towards.
Maruti unveiled the XA Alpha,a concept for a smaller SUV,which can seat five and has a wheelbase of 2500 mm.
The cars design seeks to derive from traditional Indian wrestling,combining a broad front and a straight roof to seek a solid,tight look.
Shinzo Nakanishi,managing director and chief executive officer,said: Maruti Suzuki will lead Indias automobile growth and evolution by strengthening its compact car portfolio,entering new segments and creating new product categories across fuel options.
Nakanishi said the countrys largest maker of four-wheelers needed to gain a foothold in the SUV market,which makes up nearly 14 per cent of industry sales,to retain its leadership
Ssangyong,the Korean SUV maker of which Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) owns 70 per cent,launched its XIV-1,a concept that merges the robust attributes of a B-segment SUV with the affordable running costs of a small family car,Mahindras say.
The Mahindras said they would invest between $600 million and $800 million on developing products jointly with Ssangyong over the next four years.
Tata Motors Safari Storme bucked the trend in terms of size. Rising 200 mm above the road,the car has a 2.2 litre engine fitted with 16 valves that yields a torque of 320 Newton Metres (NM). The car has a turning radius of 5.4 metres and a reverse parking system.
Hyundai launched its new version of the Sonata,which comes with a 2.4 litre engine that has six-speed manual and automatic transmissions.
The Korean car maker also unveiled a concept named the Hexa Space,a multi-purpose vehicle targeted at urban customers in their 30s and 40s who have a demanding lifestyle and live in the bustling cities of the worlds emerging economies.