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Auto Expo: About 70 cars to be launched this year

February 05, 2014 10:25 IST

Auto Expo: About 70 cars to be launched this year

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Sharmishtha Mukherjee & Swaraj Baggonkar in New Delhi

The 12th edition of the Auto Expo is set to start on Wednesday at Greater Noida, against the background of a prolonged slowdown in the domestic automobile sector and with top global auto chiefs deciding to skip the show.

As many as 55 vehicle manufacturers are set to take covers off 69 new passenger cars, utility vehicles, two-wheelers and commercial vehicles, making it the largest exhibition in the country’s automotive history.

Open to the media and industry representatives from Wednesday, the expo will be open for the public from Friday.

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The focus for passenger car makers is compact cars and utility vehicles, the only segments that saw an increase in sales in the past 12 months. Top car makers such as Maruti Suzuki will introduce automatic manual transmission (AMT) in small car Celerio.

The technology, a first in the segment, would enable the driver to change gears without engaging the clutch. AMT, unlike automatic transmission variants, would not hit fuel efficiency.

While Nissan would showcase its small car Datsun GO, Renault has scheduled the global premiere of a compact car.

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Tata Motors has already showcased two new offerings, compact sedan Zest and premium hatchback Bolt.

Fiat, too, is expected to join the hatchback bandwagon with its 1.4-litre Abarth.

However, it is the sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs) that have caught the companies’ fancy this year.

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Indians will have their maiden tryst with Honda’s MPV Mobilio, Chrysler’s Grand Cherokee (the SUV that heralds the brand’s entry into the country), Datsun’s MPV GO+, a compact SUV from Mercedes GLA, Korando C from the stable of Mahindra & Mahindra’s South Korean subsidiary Ssangyong.

Also slugging it out for attention will be Korean giant Hyundai, showcasing the new Santa Fe, and Renault, introducing the Lodgy (an MPV).

Besides, concept compact SUVs are likely to be showcased by Tata Motors, General Motors and Hyundai.

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However, the focus in the Auto Expo is not only in passenger cars. Despite a poor performance in terms of sales, manufacturers will showcase for the first time globally eight new products in the commercial vehicle segment.

These include VE Commercial Vehicles (which will offer new products from the Eicher Pro range), Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland that have kept their launches under wraps.

In the two-wheeler category, there will be three global launches which include the 600-cc sports bike from Hero Motocorp, while Suzuki Motorcycles and Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India will unveil four new two-wheelers each for the domestic market.

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One clear trend is the increasing use of information technology in passenger cars, which will be unveiled by many players. Hyundai, for instance, in its to-be- launched Xcent offers a one-touch electric trunk opening, steering mounted audio controls and bluetooth amongst other features.

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The record number of launches at the auto show — touted to be Asia’s largest — is happening at a time when passenger car sales in the domestic market have registered a decline for the first time in 11 years in 2013.

Car sales fell 10 per cent to 1,807,011 vehicles as customers continued to defer purchases amid weak macroeconomic cues.

The troubled state of the market compelled manufacturers to cut production of passenger cars 13 times over the past 18 months.

Demand was no better in the overall passenger vehicle segment (cars, utility vehicles and vans) and for commercial vehicles, where wholesale numbers dropped by seven per cent and 16 per cent, respectively.



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