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Rs 1000 crore extravaganza...
Vikram Kirloskar, President, SIAM, happy over the success of the Auto Expo 2014 said, “We believe this Expo has successfully been able to evolve from a rudimentary exhibition of vehicles to a showcase of manufacturing strength and technological capabilities that we as a country possess. With over 70 new products being launched and over 560,000 footfalls received, we believe this Expo will be recognised as a harbinger of good fortune and prosperity for the auto industry. ”

70 new models...

The automakers splurged a whopping Rs 1000 crore hoping to buck trends and gloom an impending boom.  Over 1100 exhibitors participated in the biennial extravaganza with leading players readying as many as 70 new auto launches including 15 global ones this time.

The Tatas and BMW went theatrical by roping in VVIP guests and top cine stars. Priyanka Chopra launched the Land Rover and Jaguar models of Tata and cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar launched the new BMW series of cars. They pulled a rabbit out of the hat when ace Indian racing car driver Narayan Karthikeyan landed at their Jaguar stall endorsing the British made but Indian-owned high end automobiles as a test to his speeding skills. Karthikeyan is a favourite at many of the grand prix circuits in the globe.

Celebrities were reportedly paid more than a crore by the auto makers for their brief appearances at the show held against an oppressive atmosphere of piled up inventories. These are part of major initiative to help kick start the dull market due to high lending rates, consumer resistance and credit squeeze by the government to check inflation.

Barring German auto giants, Audi, BMW and Mercedez Benz, which showed higher sales in 2013, other automakers have shown poor results. Vikram Kirloskar has expressed confidence that sales will improve from the third quarter of the current fiscal  2014-15, that is from October onwards. Election results will also help regenerate the economy that is a standstill.

High cost of fuel is forcing customers to look for more fuel-efficient cars, generating pressures on automakers to come up with newer technologies.

SIAM estimates that passenger vehicle sales in the first three quarters of this fiscal year declined by nearly 6 per cent to 1.83 million units compared to the similar period in 2012-13. The sales forecast for the fiscal ending March this year is said to be one of the lowest since 2001-02.


In reverse gear...

Though the Noida Expo Mart offered a much better venue for the automakers in terms of floor space and infrastructure, it shrunk in participation from 1500 at the 11th auto expo to 1100 this year. Footfalls which are usually over 150,000 a day for the week long show in the Pragati Maidan have slid this year because of the distance of the Noida venue.  It costs Rs 1200 by taxi to reach the venue from the residential areas of the capital. So many gave it a go by.

What did automakers show at the auto expo this time to rekindle consumer interest? Maruti displayed upgraded models of its fast selling Alto small car and Dezire the mid-size sedan besides unveiling some concept cars such as the S Cross SUV and the high end sedan Ciaz. Both S Cross and Ciazare were visually appealing.

Ford, on its part, unveiled the Concept Figo, a stunning look car with front grilles like the Aston Martin and the smoothest curves on its exterior to make it aero dynamic with an eye on fuel efficiency. The New Look Ford Fiesta also sports similar looks and both cars are likely to hit the market after the 4th quarter of the current fiscal, that is sometime in 2015 or early 2016.

Hyundai rode high on the success of its i10 and its variants and hopes to launch the Xcent, rhyming with its highly successful Accent sedan, and up the sales of its fast moving SUV Santa FE with a new design, both of them launched at the auto expo by the top brass of Hyundai from Seoul.

Tata Motors, the other big player in the small car segment with its Indica and Indigo variants, showcased the Bolt and Zest, newer models built on the platform of the Tata Manza series.  It also showcased some concept models such as Nexon. Both Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry were present to boost the morale of their sales executives. Tata also unveiled some exciting passenger buses at their large pavilion.

Honda and Toyota, big players in the mid segment, displayed upgraded models of their popular Corolla and Camry and City and Civic series. Audi, BMW and Mercedez Benz also put up a good show with their exciting models. French auto maker Renault was not to be left behind, riding high on the success of Duster SUV, it unveiled a higher end MUV Taigun.

Isuzu of Japan made its maiden appearance with its SUVs and multi utility pick up vehicles. Its plans to invest over Rs 3000 crore in the next few years in India with its first India made car rolling out in late 2015. The company showcased its India-manufactured and BS-4 compliant sports utility vehicle MU-7 and India’s first multi-utility pick-up truck D-max Space Cab along with the D-max Single Cab & Rally Car.  

Spectacular display of two-wheelers

The expo also a witnessed a spectacular display by the two wheeler industry, which has not been so much hit by the downturn as the four wheeler industry. All the big players - Honda, TVS, Bajaj, Piaggio, Harley Davidson and Triumph - were there with the notable exception of Eicher Motors which makes the Royal Enfield series of bikes. Harley Davidson and Triumph put up an impressive show albeit with very expensive high end models. Presto, one of Harley Davidson models, costs Rs 4.5 lakh, as much as a small car.


From box shaped models to design packed cars...

The automobile industry in India, known to manufacture box cars such as Ambassador and Fiat underwent a revolution in the late 1990s with the liberalisation of the economy.  In 24 years Indian and foreign companies together have invested over US $ 4.5 billion in the industry which made India the small car hub of the world. Hyundai, Renault Nissan, Maruti and Ford India have notched up good exports to the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa mainly with the India designed Ford Ikon and Hyundai Accent.

According to Vishnu Mathur, SIAM Director General, automakers plan to invest another US $ 5 billion in India in the next two to three years upgrading manufacturing facilities and opening up new sites for production.

India is now the sixth largest automaker in the world but Number One as small car producers. Her production of two wheelers is put at 13.80 million, three wheelers at 0.50 million, passenger vehicles at 2.70 million and commercial vehicles at 0.74 million.   Industry estimates of the turnover of the vehicles industry   is estimated at US $ 59 billion and exports at US $ 8 billion, (14 per cent of  turnover). A total employment of 18 million is generated by the automobile industry in India including one million as direct.


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