TEN years ago, when Tata Motors launched the Indica at the 1998 Auto Expo, the first glimpse vox populi verdict was, ‘Eh gaddi Maruti ka baap hai’. When the ninth Auto Expo kicks off at Pragati Maiden in less than 48 hours, yet another Tata product will hog most of the limelight. Only this time round, the glare will be international as well. The Rs 1 lakh ‘people’s car’ will be the star of the expo this year as the global media and nearly every automotive company under the sun participates in the biennial event. India’s growth story is hot. But India’s small car story is hotter. Which makes this year’s expo, something more than the usual gawk fest.
Like 1998, the focus this year too will be on the small car. But unlike then, this is the second wave with the focus strictly above and below the current B-segment range. Lined up for a dekko at the expo this year is a formidable roster. The Honda Jazz, the Volkswagen UP! concept, Polo, Fox and Beetle, the Suzuki Splash and A-Star concept, the Fiat Grande Punto, the Skoda Fabia and the Bajaj ‘lite’ four-wheeler will all vie for attention this year. Of course many of these small cars have already been world premiered.
The Splash and Jazz at Tokyo in October for instance, the UP! concept at Frankfurt in September and the Skoda Fabia at Geneva. But their debut in Delhi is important because they are all due for a roll out on Indian roads. The Grande Punto, Jazz, Splash and A-Star in 2008-2009 and the Polo in 2010. The Fabia is officially debuting at the expo.
The small car focus this year is understandable. Apart from the Rs 1 lakh car and the A-Star (which was developed with Indian expertise), all the other models are global platforms. India’s growing importance as a small car hub is attracting the attention of a cross-section of MNC players looking for a bigger footprint here along with some cost-saving sourcing for their home markets. That’s why the expo premieres are important this year with as many as 20 local and international launches lined up for the next one week.
Says Rajiv Dube, president-passenger vehicles division, Tata Motors: “With global developed markets registering a slowdown and the growing focus on carbon emissions, the attention of the world is turning to emerging markets and smaller vehicles. Small cars constitute more than 60% of the passenger vehicle market in India and have caught the attention of the world not only for being the product of choice for the large first time car owners but also for their relatively benevolent footprint on the environment. It’s good to see that India showcasing its strength to the world in a significant way.”Of course that doesn’t mean the adrenalinpumping luxe car drool factor will be missing this year. The line-up there too is formidable with the creamy layer car segment totting up fabulous growth in 2007. Due for debut or dekko at the expo is the new BMW M3, the iconic Mini and the rest of the Beamer stable. Daimler will launch the new C Class and show the SEM SLK sport, CLS Class and CL Class apart from its entire local range, Volvo Cars will showcase the S80 executive and D5 sedans, the XC90 D5 SUV and the soon-to-debut C70 convertible