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Auto-Expo 2010 Engineering Excellence

Updated: January 16, 2010 11:55 am

The Indian economy managed to drive past comfortably the rough months of global sluggishness thanks mainly to the near unprecedented boom in the auto industry, led by the passenger car industry. India’s passenger car market leader, Maruti Suzuki, led the surge at its parent Suzuki Motor Corporation, giving the Japanese auto major the rare distinction of being the only profitable auto company this year in Japan.

Back home, the 16 per cent growth during the year in the passenger car industry gave the manufacturing sector a new confidence manifest in the brave appetite amongst consumers here to graduate to the four wheels. It is against this rather boom play that the New Year would herald the 10th Auto Expo beginning January 05. Nano, the showstopper last year, might not be here to dazzle one and all, but the expo has all it would take to put the Indian auto industry into the top most gear.

Announcing the 10th Auto Expo here, Pawan Goenka, president of the Automotive Division of the Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd and Chairman of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers Association (SIAM) said, “The Indian auto industry and its market have become so important internationally that no one can ignore. Indian auto industry, especially the passenger car segment, is the obvious focal point.”

The passenger car market is not the only one that promises to be a big draw at the week long auto extravaganza: it is going to be a feast of new products, innovations, technology firepower, and engineering excellence across product segments. It is an unmatched bouquet of offerings from the ‘who is who’ of the global auto industry, which would turn out here to make the most telling impression on what clearly is the single biggest market ever in the making.

It is, therefore, in this context that the 2010 Expo in New Delhi is significant. The venue, Pragati Maidan, is already packed with halls booked months in advance. As always, Tata Motors leads the pack, in terms of space booked, with nearly 5,500 square metres. Maruti is not too far behind with around 4,700 sq m with almost every big name in the global auto business part of this parade. Each one is vying to take the top honours. The message is that if your are talking auto, it has to be India, and in India, if you are anyone and everyone in the auto space, a sterling presence at the Pragati Maidan atuo expo is a must.

It is not surprising thus that the top brass of different companies would be present in New Delhi from January 5 when Pragati Maidan throws open its gates for aspirations on wheels to materialise: Be it Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen, Renault, GM, Hyundai, and Fiat, the big wigs have already confirmed their presence here at India’s trade fair centre. They are going to be here to see for themselves the Indian success story and take home the learning and most importantly aim to take a slice or two or more from the ever- growing Indian auto growth story.

Said Tutu Dhawan, auto expert, “For instance, Volkswagen, that launched itself as an aggressive global player in 2009, making two big investments decisions, latest being to pick up about 20 per cent in Suzuki Motor of Japan, would be keen to re-write their India story courtesy the expo.” Volkswagen would likely showcase the Polo that will be launched in the coming months. The German carmaker, one of the most powerful players in the world market, has taken its time about entering India possibly because it had had a good run in China.

VW’s subsidiary, Skoda, has been around longer (since 2001) and has established itself as a premium

player. It is now up to the parent to carve its own niche here. The German carmaker is keen to log on to the Indian story and it has made its intent clear with the spate of ads already on air here.

Shashank Srivastava, general manager, marketing, Maruti Suzuki told media that the company would showcase an array of 17 vehicles. The last Auto Expo in 2008 Maruti Suzuki adopted the theme ‘Colours of Life’. However, this time it is its extension with the theme called ‘Joys of Life’. Maruti Suzuki’s luxury Sedan, Suzuki Kizashi, which has been imported exclusively for the show, would also be a star attraction.

Renault’s stint in India with the Logan too has got them just not what they desired in the first place. The French carmaker would be anxious to send the right message home at the Expo. Its Chairman, Mr Carlos Ghosn, said during a recent India visit that some important announcements were likely to be made around this time, which would reiterate the company’s long-term commitment to the market here.

Ford would have on display its Figo small car that was unveiled by its President, Mr Alan Mulally, in New Delhi some months ago. It would be banking on this car to boost its India presence. Ford has often been criticised for being too slow on launching new products and the Figo could be a beginning to set right this perception.

Honda and Toyota would showcase their small-car concepts at Pragati Maidan. Codenamed 800 L, the Toyota product is scheduled to debut during end-2010 while Honda’s will follow a year later. Both Honda and Toyota are expected to use India as the launch pad for their small cars though they might consider using the base as a strong export base as well.

General Motors’ Indian operations will now be part of a new 50:50 joint venture with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation. This will see the launch of Chinese-made light trucks and passenger cars in the near future, which are intended to increase GM’s market share in India. The company will be launching its Beat mini-car on January 4, a day ahead of the official opening of the Expo.

India’s two-wheeler industry has also been doing brisk business of nearly 700,000 units each month. It witnessed the growth of a new emerging contender for the top slot in Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India, HMSI, that sough to challenge the top three two wheeler companies here-Hero Honda, Bajaj Auto and TVS Motor. All these companies would be present at the expo in a big way. HMSI, the leader in the gearless scooters would use the expo to increase its penetration driving home the importance of its regular scooter and motorcycle products.

By K Anjna

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