The difference that two years can make! At Auto Expo 2016, the previous edition of the biennial motoring trade show, there were all of five electric and hybrid vehicles on display. This year’s expo, which kicked-off Wednesday here, the numbers on display surged 10-fold to over 50 electric and hybrid vehicles, a reflection of the government’s aggressive target to electrify all new vehicles by 2030 and carmakers responding by drawing up early plans for the electrification of their fresh line-up of products.
While the fresh line-up from car makers and commercial vehicle manufacturers were palpably thinner this time, accentuated by the fact that a number of big vehicle manufacturers in both the two-wheeler and four-wheeler segments decided to give this year’s expo a miss, the electric vehicle thrust was a unifying theme across the lineups of vehicle maker that was on display. Alongside, there were a bevy of concepts on offer from the 22 exhibitors who unveiled 65 products with 14 fresh launches on day one, most of which were about two or three years away from making their way on to the road.
Among the production ready vehicles, the biggest splash was created by Toyota Kirloskar Motors’ Yaris sedan, which marks the company’s entry into the mid-sized premium car segment in the country, a segment that currently has the Honda City, Maruti Suzuki Ciaz, the Volkswagen Vento and the Hyundai Verna. Toyota Kirloskar will launch the sedan by May this year. Another production-ready model launched Wednesday was a revamped version of Honda’s Amaze sub-four metre sedan.
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In a departure from the general trend, offerings from two of the country’s homegrown vehicle manufacturers hogged much of the spotlight on the opening day. Tata Motors marked a break from the past, with the company presentation giving the Nano a complete miss, and the company’s revitalised passenger car offerings included two concept vehicles — ‘H5Xconcept’ 5-seater premium SUV and ‘45X concept’ premium hatchback, besides six electric vehicles showcased in the mass and personal mobility segments. Tata Group chairman N Chandrasekaran said Tata Motors is focused on the future of mobility, specially on the government’s vision in the electric vehicles space. “Our commitment to EVs is total!,” he asserted. As India’s EV pioneer, Mahindra showcased its widest range of electric vehicles, alongside mobility solutions and concepts from three-wheelers to buses.
South Korean second biggest carmaker Kia Motors heralded its entry into the Indian market with plans to introduce a range of vehicles, including an India-exclusive compact electric vehicle in the country between 2019 and 2021.
The Seoul-headquartered company booked one of the biggest enclosures at the Expo that had been occupied by market leader Maruti Suzuki in the previous editions of the event. The carmaker, in which Hyundai Motors is a stakeholder, unveiled its SP Concept, an SUV designed and developed for the Indian market that is set to be the first product to go on sale in the country in the second half of next year. “The SP Concept SUV has been designed and developed for the Indian market,” Kia Motors Corporation President and CEO Han-Koo Park said. It will be the first of the products to be rolled out from the company’s plant in Andhra Pradesh, where it has invested $1 billion and will have a capacity of 3 lakh units annually. Between 2019 and 2021, Kia plans to introduce more products and have a diverse portfolio in India, ranging from hatchbacks to SUVs, he said.
Urban mobility was a running theme, with JBM Solaris Electric Vehicles Ltd, a joint venture between India’s JBM Auto and Europe’s Solaris Bus & Coach SA, launching its electric bus series ‘Eco- Life’ in the Indian market, commercial vehicle maker Ashok Leyland launching its first electric bus, Circuit-S, aiming to tap opportunities in smart solutions for public Transport, for which it has partnered with Sun Mobility for swappable smart battery solutions through its kiosks. Tata Motors displayed an extended range of six EV products across the personal and mass mobility segments.
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