The differentiated tax structure for smaller and larger vehicles in the Indian market has paved the way for a new category of compact sub-four-metre sedans and utility vehicles at the 12th edition of the Auto Expo. Over the next two or three years, nearly a dozen sub-four metre vehicles will hit Indian roads - in what would be a first for any country globally.
While Tata Motors (Zest), Ford India (Figo Concept) and Hyundai Motor (XCent) have already announced their entry into the sub-four-metre sedan segment, Nissan has evinced interest in joining the bandwagon. "The sub-four-metre sedan segment has grown 39 per cent at a time when the overall market for passenger cars has shrunk by seven per cent. We are going to launch the Hyundai XCent next month to meet the demand in the category," said Rakesh Srivastava, senior vice-president (marketing and sales) at Hyundai Motors India.
The action in the sub-four-metre space was not limited only to entry-level sedans. A spate of companies from General Motors (concept SUV Adra) to Volkswagen (concept SUV Tiguan), Fiat (Avventura) and Tata Motors (concept Nexon) showcased concepts of compact spots utility vehicles to lure Indian buyers. Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai and Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) are also gearing up to put on roads smaller utility vehicles, encouraged by the stupendous success of Renault Duster and Ford EcoSport though the products were not showcased at the Auto Expo this year.
GM India's new concept compact SUV badged the Chevrolet Adra is based on the company's global small-vehicle platform called the Gamma. The Fiat Avventura is an off-road crossover based on the Punto platform and has a tailgate-mounted spare wheel.
Puneet Gupta, associate director at IHS Automotive India, said: "Excise duty on sub-four metre vehicles at 12 per cent is less than half of that levied on larger vehicles (27 per cent). Manufacturers can reduce the length of the vehicle and introduce products at aggressive price points in the market. This has made such compact sedans and utility vehicles an attractive proposition in India. The segment holds a lot of promise and all car makers - be it Ford or Hyundai - are exploring opportunities."
The other key trend, which emerged at the auto show this year was the interest shown by auto makers in equipping newer vehicles with automatic transmission (AT) technology. Maruti Suzuki slashed prices of AT variants by up to Rs 2 lakh launching automatic manual transmission variants of the Celerio with prices starting at Rs 4.29 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). With the price differential between manual transmission and AT variants reduced from an average of Rs 1.2 lakh to Rs 39,000 with the Celerio, Maruti Suzuki hopes 25-30 per cent of sales of its latest offering in the compact segment would come from AT variants. Sales of AT versions currently account for less than one per cent of overall passenger vehicle sales in the industry.
Tata Motors and Hyundai Motor India are also planning to introduce products with advanced automatic manual transmission systems. Last week, Tata Motors unveiled the Zest, which has an automatic diesel variant. The company is also considering launching an automatic transmission variant of small car Nano. Hyundai has said its new Xcent will have an automatic transmission variant. Last month, Honda launched a continuous variable transmission variant for the latest model of the City. Through the last few years, worsening traffic conditions have led to high demand for automatic transmission technology in India.
The reduction in price gap between petrol and diesel fuel spurred a renewed focus by auto manufacturers on vehicles powered by petrol engine in this edition of the auto expo. Tata Motors, which unveiled the 1.2 litre indigenously developed Revotron petrol engine in compact cars Bolt and Zest, said the company would have more offering in the petrol segment.
Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M), which records 98 per cent of its sales in diesel, said all future compact vehicles would come with petrol options. Pawan Goenka, president (automotive division) at M&M, said: "In all compact SUVs, we will have petrol options in future."
While slowdown in the passenger vehicle segment has kept away buyers from even entry-level cars, premium motorcycles seem to have caught the fancy of consumers in the two-wheeler industry. Two-dozen premium bikes were either showcased or launched by seven companies, all of which will make their way to the local showrooms.
While Harley-Davidson launched its cheapest offering, Street 750, tagged at Rs 4.1 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), rival Triumph Motorcycles introduced Daytona 675 at Rs 10.15 lakh. Suzuki Motorcycles India drove in the V-Strom 1000 priced at Rs 14.95 lakh and 250cc Inazuma at Rs 3 lakh. Korean superbike maker Hyosung launched Aquila 250 at Rs 2.69 lakh. Mass market players, too, joined the fray - Hero MotoCorp showcased a 620cc sports bike Huster 250cc HX250R, while Bajaj Auto Pulsar took covers off Pulsar SS400 and Pulsar CS400, both of which will go into production in FY15.
Vimal Sumbly, managing director of Triumph Motorcycles India, said: "The demand for such performance bikes in India has been growing rapidly and Triumph wants to become a part of that growth."
Sales of motorcycles with engine capacities above 800cc grew by a scorching 47 per cent during the April-December 2013 period. With an average price of over Rs 600,000, the segment clocked almost 1,500 units during the nine months, according to data by the Society Of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM). However, the segment between 250cc and 800cc grew even faster. With sales of 143,713 units, it posted a growth of 65 per cent against 86,905 units during the comparable year-ago period.
The demand for scooters, which has gone up by around 20 per cent till December 2013 (compared to a 2.48 per cent growth clocked in the motorcycle segment), made two-wheeler makers aggressively display products in the category. Market leader Honda Motorcycle and Scooter unveiled Activa 125, which would hit roads in the first quarter of 2014-15. Not to be left behind, Hero MotoCorp, too, announced it would launch three products in the scooters market – 150cc Zir, 110cc Dash, 125cc Dare by March 2016.
Yamaha chose to launch a new scooter, Alpha, priced at Rs 49,518. Suzuki unveiled 110cc scooter called Let's, which will go into production in May this year. TVS showcased the Zest and Piaggio Vespa S.
* Sub 4 metre vehicles segment emerges as a favourite among car makers. Tata Motors showcases sedan Zest, Hyundai XCent and Ford Figo Concept. General Motors (Adra), Volkswagen (Tiguan), Fiat (Avventura) among others working on introducing compact sports utility vehicles in the sub 4 metre space.
* Maruti Suzuki bridges price diffenrential between manual and automatic transmission variants with the Celerio AT tagged upwards of Rs 4.29 lakh. Tata Motors, Hyundai set to join the AT bandwagon with Zest and XCent.
* With sales of diesel vehicles on a downswing homegrown auto majors Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra talk of increasing offerings in the petrol market. Both companies are working in-house on petrol engines.
* Premium motorcycles steal the show in the two-wheeler category. From Harley Davidson Street 750 (Rs 4.1 lakh), Hyosung Aquila (Rs 2.69 lakh), Suzuki V-Strom 1000 (Rs 14.95 lakh), bike makers leave consumers spoilt for choice in the midrange to superbike categories. Mass motorcycle makers too join the fray with Hero taking covers off 620 cc Huster 250cc sports bikes HX250R and Bajaj Pulsar SS400 AND CS400.
* Scooters seemed to be the future for driving volumes in the industry. Yamaha launched Alpha at Rs 49,518. TVS Zest, Suzuki Let's, Vespa S, Honda Activa 125, Hero Dash and Dare to hit roads over the next few months.