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Auto Expo 2012: Watch out for 7 BIG launches!

Last updated on: January 4, 2012 13:25 IST

Auto Expo 2012: Watch out for 7 BIG launches!

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Srinivas Krishnan & Kyle Pereira

Auto Expo 2012 is the venue for the launch of seven all-new automotive brands in India. We take a look at them.

That's right. We are going to witness the introduction of seven new major automotive brands over the next few days at the Auto Expo in Delhi.

These are Peugeot, Mini and Ssangyong four-wheelers, Triumph and Vespa two-wheelers and BharatBenz and DAF commercial vehicles.

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Image: BMW Mini Convertible.


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Actually, it would have been eight. At what seems to be the last moment, Bajaj Auto decided not to introduce KTM at this point of time.

Bajaj holds a near 40 per cent stake in the Austrian manufacturer of sporty off-road and street motorcycles and was expected to introduce the first KTM for India, the Duke 200, at the show.

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Image: Duke 200.

Tags: KTM , BIG , Bajaj Auto , India

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Perhaps the flashy orange colour of the KTM brand was deemed too bright for the new Bajaj RE60 four-wheeler to bask in its own green glory.

Nevertheless, we can be sure that the trendy European motorcycle brand will make its India debut sooner rather than later.

As for the Auto Expo, seven new big brand launches still translates to plenty of action in this sector. Let's take them up one by one.

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Image: RE60 four-wheeler.

Tags: BIG , KTM , Auto Expo , RE60

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PEUGEOT

Actually, it's a re-entry for the French carmaker into the country, after the PAL-Peugeot debacle of the 1990s – so the brand is not all-new for us.

Still, it is a new Peugeot we are looking at – one with contemporary products and hopefully a wiser understanding of the market. With Peugeot in the country, India is finally home to all the top ten global automotive groups.

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Image: Peugeot 208.

Tags: Peugeot , BIG , PAL , India

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Strategy: The French carmaker will follow a top-down strategy. It will begin with the debut of the 508 luxury sedan – a large car that will compete with the Volkswagen Passat in terms of price.

It's no coincidence that the Peugeot stall at the Expo is close that of the German carmaker – in the coming years, we will see Peugeot models in the C and B+ segments, which will compete with the Vento and the Polo.

To position itself in the Indian market, the Peugeot brand will focus on styling, technology (especially diesel), reliability and quality.

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Image: Peugeot 208.


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Threats: The going may not be easy for Peugeot initially. For one, the memory of the PAL-Peugeot 309 is still fresh among those who can afford the 508 sedan.

By the time the Sanand plant is ready to churn out Peugeots by 2014, the carmaker has to rely on the rather expensive CKD route until then.

Besides, in India, the Peugeot brand may not be considered as premium as Volkswagen.

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Image: Peugeot 508.

Tags: Peugeot , CKD , BIG , PAL

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SSANGYONG

The Korean manufacturer had access to technology from Mercedes-Benz and derived its models based on the German firm's products.

Internationally, Ssangyong products were the butt of jokes for their poor design.

For Mahindra & Mahindra, which is at the helm, the Ssangyong brand gives it access to a premium market that the home-grown brand would have taken time to attain.

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Image: Ssangyong Rexton.


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Strategy: As the brand is relatively an unknown quantity in the country, Mahindra will have a free hand in shaping Ssangyong's future here.

Ssangyong does not have a cachet among SUVs that a Mitsubishi has, but trust Mahindra to ply the models with goodies but keep the price-tag attainable.

In its portfolio, the Rexton II is a large body-on-chassis SUV that needs a refresh in terms of its appearance, but the new Korando can easily take on the Chevrolet Captiva and the Renault Koleos.

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Image: Rexton II.


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Threats: We Indians have welcomed Korean brands and products across categories with open arms, so Ssangyong will not have too negative a perception as being Korean – but it will find the going tough against the established players.

It is important for Mahindra to introduce the new, good-looking range of Ssangyongs rather than the old, clumsily-designed ones.

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Image: Ssangyong Actyon.


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MINI

Luckily or unluckily for owner BMW, the original 1960s Mini does not have the same kind of fame in India as the original VW Beetle has.

So the new Mini, which has become the epitome of cool around the world, will have a clean slate to start on – it has not much of a legacy to either build on or erase.

BMW has done a terrific job of making the Mini brand desirable in these times and well-heeled young Indians have something cool to hang around with.

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Image: BMW MINI Cooper S.

Tags: BMW , BIG , VW Beetle , MINI

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Strategy: The Mini brand will follow the same strategy that it follows around the world. In India, it will have its own independent retail outlets that are extremely strong in the brand identity.

BMW will introduce three Mini variants from the six it has in its global portfolio – hatch, Countryman and the convertible.

The diesel versions or those with the smaller engines will not make it. Since it's fully imported and fits into a narrow niche, Mini could afford to do that.

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Image: Mini Countryman.

Tags: BMW , BIG , India

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Threats: The niche that Mini is entering has the VW Beetle and the Fiat 500 as competition – but it's not too much of a threat as the brand will be independent, as opposed to the other two which have to share showroom space with their siblings.

Price will remain a big issue as the cars will be imported.

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Image: Mini limited edition car.

Tags: BIG , VW Beetle , Fiat

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TRIUMPH

Most people don't know that Triumph has been around in India, but this was before Independence.

But today's Triumph is not the same one which was once one of Britain's biggest motorcycle manufacturers.

The firm got a fresh lease of life when entrepreneur John Bloor took it over in the 1980s and upgraded its capabilities in terms of manufacturing and marketing.

The company is now well known the world over among motorcyclists and its sales figures are growing with every passing day.


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Image: Triumph Bonneville.


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Strategy: Like Harley-Davidson, Triumph will fit into the high-end motorcycle niche. The models will be imported from its facilities at Thailand and the UK.

The models that are expected to be introduced include the Bonneville, Daytona and the Rocket III - estimated to be in the Rs 8 to 15 lakh range.

An India-specific model is reportedly being engineered, and this, when launched perhaps by 2013, will make the brand more accessible to more Indians.

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Image: Daytona.


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Threats: Pricing of the models is key. There are volumes to be made in India if the perceived value is spot-on.

Besides the brand may not be as desirable as its American rival and it has a following that can be best described as cult.

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Image: Rocket III.

Tags: BIG , India , American

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VESPA

The first scooter that resembled a wasp (vespa) created such a buzz across the world that it still has not died down. Like Mini, Vespa is the epitome of Italian cool.

Vespa too has had a past in India – where Bajaj and LML built scooters under license. Now that Piaggio has a strong footing in the country with its range of light commercial vehicles, the brand is making a comeback.

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Image: Vespa is the epitome of Italian cool.

Tags: Vespa , LML , BIG , Piaggio

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Strategy: Vespa is pretty much a common name, with almost all Indians having at least a faint idea of the marque.

The older generation looks upon Vespa with reverence. The market for the twist-and-go scooter is growing by leaps and bounds with the younger urban generation who want an easy-going and effortless mode of transport.

This is exactly what Piaggio is introducing – in all probability the LX150. Initially, this would do the hard work for the brand and other scooters will follow soon.

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Image: LX150.

Tags: BIG , LX150 , Piaggio , Vespa

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Threats: The world's second-largest two-wheeler market is not an easy one to operate in, though there is room for all.

Vespa will have to fight with formidable competition like Honda, Hero, TVS and Suzuki.

Hopefully, its trendiness should carry it through. And the market is extremely sensitive to price and operating costs.

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Image: Vespa LX150.

Tags: BIG , Hero , TVS , Honda

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BHARATBENZ

The only made-for-India brand in this lot, and it wears it proudly too.

BharatBenz is the brand Daimler has created for taking on the established players in the Indian commercial vehicle industry. By creating a brand like this, it could be a masterstroke.

The reason for creating a new brand instead of operating Mercedes-Benz trucks as in the past is to keep the luxury car brand away from the commercial side of things.

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Image: BharatBenz trucks.


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The other more important reason is that it allows the firm to de-content its trucks of those features that would be mandatory in trucks that wear the three-pointed star.

These features, which can be superfluous in Indian driving conditions, add to costs – which Daimler certainly doesn't want its customers to incur. But it also has the aspirational Benz attached to the name.

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Image: BharatBenz truck.

Tags: BIG , Daimler

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Strategy: BharatBenz has not revealed its products for the Indian market, but we expect two trucks of differing GVWs to be unveiled at the Expo.

With its facility near Chennai, BharatBenz can afford to be a strong player in the market as it can price its products competitively.

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Image: BharatBenz factory near Chennai.


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Threats: The CV industry has done quite well for itself and there is room for growth in the country.

Firms like Tata and Ashok Leyland have solid presence and capabilities, so BharatBenz will have to be satisfied with being a fringe player till it attains the muscle to become strong in India.

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Image: Ashok Leyland truck.


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DAF

Well, it's better to say DAF rather than Doorne's Aanhangwagen Fabriek!

The European heavy commercial vehicle brand is owned by Paccar of the US and it is taking its first tentative footsteps in the country.

At the moment, none of DAF's plans are confirmed – all it knows is this is the market to be in.
It is still undecided on its manufacturing plans for the country. But the brand is a heavy-hitter in Europe.

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Image: DAF truck.


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Strategy: DAF will be showcasing its CF-series truck at the Auto Expo.

It is a heavy-duty tipper truck and indicates that the brand is looking at the burgeoning construction industry in India.

Now DAF builds trucks on an on-order basis and ships to its customers. That could be a rather tricky thing to carry out in the country.

Besides it will have to import its trucks from Europe – that can be expensive, not just in duties but in the rupee-euro conversion rates as well.

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Image: DAF trucks.

Tags: DAF , BIG , CF , Europe

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Threats: Though DAF may harp about the lower cost of ownership of its trucks (reliability, bigger payloads, fuel efficiency, etc), it will still be difficult to convince Indian buyers to shell out huge figures.

Then of course distribution and access to parts and service is critical in the CV business – more so, with far-flung infrastructure projects.

Besides, the competitors are not just going to hang around and twiddle their thumbs.



Image: DAF truck.

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