Rising from a slowdown continuing for the past several quarters, Indian automobile makers are set to launch a record number of vehicles at the 12th edition of the Auto Expo from February 5. As many as 75 passenger cars, utility vehicles, two-wheelers and commercial vehicles are scheduled for introduction next month, a jump from the 47 vehicles showcased and launched at the 11th edition in January last year.
With 11 models - seven from Tata Motors and four from JLR - the Tata group will be launching the highest number of vehicles. German luxury car maker BMW will showcase four models (including those under the Mini brand), while Maruti Suzuki is expected to unveil three hatchback and sedans in total. Among commercial vehicle makers, VE Commercial Vehicles is set to display nine products of the recently unveiled Eicher Pro range, developed with Volvo.
Overall, 47 companies will participate in the expo this year, making it the largest auto show ever hosted on the subcontinent, with 23 makers of passenger cars and utility vehicles, 14 of two-wheelers, 10 of commercial vehicles and six of electric vehicles. Last year, 35 auto makers had participated. Among those making their first appearance in the country are Datsun (the recently resurrected brand for emerging markets from Nissan), Italian bike maker Moto Morini, DSK Hyosung and Japan's Isuzu Motors.
Indians will have their maiden tryst with Honda's MPV Mobilio, Chrysler's Grand Cherokee (the sports utility vehicle that heralds the brand's entry into the country), Datsun's MPV Go +, a compact SUV from Mercedes GLA and Korando C from the stable of Mahindra & Mahindra's South Korean subsidiary Ssangyong. Also slugging it out for attention will be Korean giant Hyundai, which will showcase the new Santa Fe, and Renault, which will introduce the Lodgy (an multi-purpose vehicle).
The long list of SUVs and MPVs, however, does not mean there will be nothing for the small-car buyer. One of the more interesting global launches is expected from Maruti Suzuki, which will introduce a new technology for automatic manual transmission (AMT) in the YL7 small car (expected to be named Celerio). The technology would enable the driver to change gears without using the clutch. AMT, unlike automatic transmission variants, would not reduce fuel efficiency.
The Japanese auto maker is additionally likely to display the YL1 (a replacement for the SX4, the not-very-popular sedan), the SX4 crossover and a largish concept SUV (code-named iV4) at the Auto Expo. According to industry sources, US-based Ford is also likely to display the KA small car, which it unveiled in Brazil earlier this year. KA is expected to have one-litre and 1.5-litre petrol versions, at attractive prices. At present, Ford's entry-level car in the country, the Figo, is priced at around Rs 4 lakh. Fiat, too, is expected to join the bandwagon in the hatchback segment with its 1.4-litre Abarth.
After a hiatus of three years, Tata Motors is making a comeback with two new products - a hatchback and a compact sedan - at the Auto Expo; their commercial launches will follow later in the year. The new hatchback (code-named Falcon 4) will sit alongside the Indica and Vista models; the new compact sedan (code-named Falcon 5) will complement the Indigo CS, the country's first compact sedan.
"The auto show next year will be the largest in terms of participation. As many as 47 automobile manufacturers have confirmed their presence. The increase in the number of participants has made us increase the exhibit area by 45 per cent this year to 64,000 square metres. There will be 14 pavilions to display vehicles and three hangars," said Sugato Sen, deputy director general, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam).
The increased area will ensure space for experiential activities of Hero MotoCorp, Nissan, Yamaha and Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India. Also, enclaves have been earmarked to showcase vintage cars, superbikes & super cars, and electric & hybrid vehicles.