The 10th Auto Expo (2010) once again highlighted the tone of the Indian auto industry, and what could be expected to come out of it in the next two years
Starting on a cold and windy note, with temperatures hovering around nine degrees, the 10th Auto Expo on its first day, which was also the Press Day, saw the unveiling of some of the most exciting models, adding a new dimension to the Indian auto industry, and providing an insight into what could come out of it in the near future. Held every alternate year and celebrating its silver jubilee this time, the Auto Expo started with the unveiling of the Maruti Suzuki Kizashi and rIII MPV concept. A D-segment sedan, the Kizashi is slated for launch by the end of this year and evoked good response from the visitors. The talking point of the Maruti Suzuki exhibit was the rIII concept. A next-gen MPV designed in-house by engineers at Maruti Suzuki, the rIII can seat six people in a pillarless arrangement that makes it easy to alight. As if feeling the heat from rising competition in the small car space, sources close to Maruti hinted at the company ramping up production. Competition to the small car leader was highlighted by Toyota, which unveiled its small car platform Etios. The concepts, a compact hatchback and a sedan based on the Etios platform, are scheduled to enter the market by the end of this year, riding on the back of Toyota Kirloskar Motors' new plant being constructed besides its current facility near Bangalore. Honda chose to premiere a futuristic looking small car concept, clearly hinting its intention to invade the Indian small car market. Expected to be launched by early or mid-2011, the Honda small car is expected to sport a brilliant 1.2-litre petrol motor. General Motors launched the Beat small car. Roughly the same size as the Spark, the Beat offers contemporary styling and is powered by an 80PS, 1.2-litre petrol engine. Employing high strength and ultra high-strength steel in the body, the Beat extends safety features like dual airbags, seat belts with load limiters and ABS. Away from the Beat, and demonstrating GM's global prowess were an interesting array of models like the Camaro SS; Electric Spark, which will hopefully be launched by the end of this year; limited edition Captiva and WTCC Cruze. Arguably the third largest producer of small cars in India, Tata Motors took the opportunity to launch two people movers. One, a hatchback-sized 8-seater Venture based on the 1-tonne small truck that Tata launched recently, and the other, the Ace based Magic Iris. Addressing the media, Ratan N Tata, Chairman, Tata Motors, said, "It is very heartening to see that automakers today find India a good market for small cars, and to manufacture small cars. I feel that we lead this move. We are looking at electric cars; we are looking at the Nano as a small electric car. The electric Indica will be launched in western Europe in 2011." He further expressed that the year 2009 was an interesting year for the auto industry in terms of costs. "JLR will be profitable and add to Tata Motors' profitability," he added. The Indica Electric Vehicle based on the Vista platform pulled a good number of visitors to the Tata Motors stall. Hyundai chose to unveil the Electric i10 at the Auto Expo. Powered by a 49 kWh electric motor and a 16 kWh, advanced Lithium-Ion-Polymer battery that ensures low kerb weight. The i10 electric has a drive range of 160 km on a single charge. Fiat, sharing space with Tata, introduced the Grande Punto Trendz for young buyers, and a Linea variant with T-Jet petrol engine and Dualogic transmission. The turbocharged T-Jet motor does 110PS and the Dualogic transmission allows user to switch between auto and manual modes. Also launched, the Punto Sport and Punto Natural Power offer interesting add-ons like electric sunroof, rear spoiler, leather interior, etc., and a bi-fuel (petrol/CNG) engine. Attracting the most attention in small car arena was Volkswagen, which launched the Polo hatchback powered by a 75bhp, three-cylinder 1.2-litre petrol engine. A 75bhp, 1.2-litre common-rail diesel engine will be added to the car in March this year whereas the compact sedan on the same platform is expected in the second half of 2010. Away from small cars, German automaker Audi, celebrating its 100th birthday this year, unveiled a Sportback concept in addition to announcing the start of production of Q5 in India this year; introduction of Q7 4.2 TDI and the limited edition A6 2.7TDI. Reiterating Audi's commitment for India, Benoit Tiers, MD of Audi India said Audi has exceeded the projected sales targets for two consecutive years, creating a niche in the Indian industry. The Jaguar Land Rover combine put on display their range at one corner of the Tata exhibit. Jaguar took the opportunity to introduce the all-new XJ, with India deliveries starting in June 2010. Skoda unveiled the Yeti, which is expected to go on sale by mid-2010. An interesting crossover, the Yeti comes with a 4x4 mechanism, highlighting a different shade of Skoda. Unveiling the SLS AMG at the show, in addition to the display of product line-up, including an interesting pillarless hatchback concept, Mercedes Benz chose to launch the S500 L and GL350 CDI at a function a day prior to the Auto Expo. Marc Nassif, Country General Manager and MD of Renault India, announced at the show that his company plans to introduce several new cars within 18-24 months and a full range in a 48 months time frame. These cars, he added, would be produced in Chennai. Planning to launch the Fluence and Koleos models in 2011, Renault displayed the cute, 2-seater Twizy electric car concept. Having bagged the number one position in the luxury car segment in India, BMW unveiled the X1 SUV at the Auto Expo. To be assembled at BMW's Chennai plant from CKD kits along side the 3 Series and 5 Series, the X1 will be launched by the end of this year. Displaying the product line up currently sold in India, BMW took the opportunity to launch the limited edition Gran Turismo at Rs 63 lakhs; X6 M at Rs 1.30 lakhs and the 760Li at Rs 1.29 lakhs. Tata unveiled a lifestyle oriented, frame-based MPV called Aria. Equipped with a 4x4 system, the Aria is based on an all-new platform, and is powered by a 140 PS, 2.2-litre common-rail diesel engine. The talk of two-wheeler segment was the presence of Harley Davidson. Exhibiting its might with the display of Fat Boy and Night Rod Special, the same hall also hosted other prominent two wheeler manufacturers - Royal Enfield, Hero Honda, Honda, Bajaj Auto, Yamaha and TVS. While most electric two wheeler manufacturers displayed an interesting concept or two, TVS Motors, going a step further offered visitors a first-hand experience by offering a ride of their hybrid scooter based on the Streak. The company also had a hybrid auto rickshaw for those interested. An interesting line-up among the conventional lot at TVS was an auto-clutch motorcycle Jive, a 109cc gearless scooter Wego, Flame DS and a ABS fitted RTR 180. Highlighting the green theme, and projecting efforts to come out with environment friendly products, almost each and every automaker participating in this show displayed a 'green' concept or a production ready vehicle. Making their presence felt at the show were electric two wheeler manufacturers like Lohia, Ultra Motor, Hero Electric and others. In the commercial vehicle space, Volvo, the leader in the three-axle inter city luxury coach segment, displayed a CNG powered, low floor city bus. Made at its high end manufacturing plant in Bangalore, the CNG bus features Ecolife auto transmission, electronic braking, anti-roll front under-run protection device, disc brakes, electro-pneumatic safety doors, anti-skid protection, hill start aid with grade ability, brake temperature, warning and poor brake performance warning device. In the truck space, Volvo introduced the sophisticated FH520 Powertronic puller. Designed to carry 200-tonnes GCW, the FH520 6x4 prime mover employs the fully automatic Volvo PT 2606 gearbox with a built-in hydraulic torque converter to handle 2500NM of torque! Not very far from Volvo, Ashok Leyland displayed a hybrid bus and the new U-truck platform. Employing a standardised cab, the U-platform is cost competitive and a customer centric transportation programme by Ashok Leyland. Speaking to Automotive Products Finder, Dr V Sumantran, Executive Vice Chairman, said that new Euro 4 and Euro 5 powertrains would be seen coming out of Ashok Leyland. He added that Ashok Leyland is a focused company, and through the hybrid bus is highlighting its technological prowess. A day prior to the show, Mahindra launched a 25-tonne and 35-tonne truck powered by a 7.2-litre MaxxForce BS III and BS IV compliant engine. Available in 2-valve per cylinder or 4-valve per cylinder specifications, the 6-cylinder engine can be had with a Bosch rotary pump or a high-pressure 1800 bar common-rail fuel injection system. The trucks, made by a Mahindra-Navistar joint venture at a greenfield plant in Chakan near Pune with an investment of Rs 4000 crore and spread over 700 acres, would manufacture the entire spectrum of commercial vehicles (including trucks and buses) from 4.5-tonne GVW to 49-tonne GVW. So, on the second day of Auto Expo, the company launched a 49-tonne and 40-tonne truck, powered by the common-rail version of the 260 bhp MaxxForce engine. Under 4.5-tonne GVW, Mahindra took the opportunity to introduce the Maxximo mini-truck, which according to industry sources, is made at Chakan. Targeting the sub-one tonne market, Maxximo is powered by a 25 bhp, 2-cylinder common-rail diesel engine featuring double overhead cams and 4-valves per cylinder. With good representation from all quarters - two wheelers, passenger cars and SUVs, and commercial vehicles - the 10th Auto Expo, once again offered a take at what could come out of the India auto industry in the next two years. Paving the road for the future, connecting even the remote islands in the process, the show highlighted a new dimension in the form of green mobility, a quest for environment friendly solutions and a journey towards sustainable growth. The effects of recession were clearly visible, and evoked a cautious approach.This was, however, wafted away by the desire to ride out of bad times into good ones. This was clearly visible from the tales of how recession was successfully conquered. And with the help of various supporting elements including the government initiatives.