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Why this car has four names!

By Suveen K Sinha in New Delhi
October 15, 2008 12:28 IST
Car lovers often ascribe personality to their precious possessions. So it was only a matter of time that cars would develop multiple personalities, though there is no sign of disorder yet.

A-Star, Suzuki's new world car that will be made only by its Indian subsidiary, Maruti Suzuki India, will have four different names in markets across the world, which will indicate the role it is expected to play in the Japanese car maker's stable as well as of compatriot Nissan Motor.

There have been several instances of a car bearing two names in different markets. It has often happened in the case of the vehicles made by General Motors, which has followed a philosophy of manufacturing alliances with different companies in different parts of the world. Suzuki, too, has done it. But four names for the same car is believed to be unique.

Historically, Suzuki's entry-level offering in Europe has been called Alto. A few years ago, it used to export what was called Zen in India to Europe under the Alto brand. Over the years, the Alto brand has become a distinct signal of the car's positioning.

Thus, A-Star, which will become Suzuki's new entry-level car in Europe, will wear the Alto badge. It is already being referred to as the new Alto in European markets.

The first one to be fitted with Suzuki's new KB series of engines, this car's positioning in Europe will talk a lot about its environment-friendly nature.

However, in India, the existing Alto will continue and A-Star, slated for commercial launch in a month or so, will not be the entry-level offering. The expectations are that it will be priced in the vicinity of Rs 4 lakh and will be positioned against Hyundai's i10 and other hatchbacks with 1,000cc engines or bigger in the market (Alto is powered by an 800cc engine).

The car is the product of Project A- (pronounced "A Under" by the Japanese) probably because it fits into the A segment in Europe's market. The Japanese, who like to keep it simple, have decided to call it A-Star in India.

In West Asian markets, the Indian Alto is already present, and A-Star will therefore have to, just like in India, retain its identity as distinct from Alto. Therefore, it has acquired a new name there: Celerio.

The fourth dimension is provided by Nissan, for which Suzuki is making this car under a manufacturing contract. Maruti will start with an initial production of 130,000 units of this car, which may be scaled up later. A certain portion of this, yet to be finalised, will be delivered to Nissan, which will give it its own name: Pixo.

"A-Star is Suzuki's fifth world strategic model," said a spokesperson for Maruti. The first four are Swift, SX4, the new Grand Vitara, and Splash.

In keeping with the A-Star's tag of a world car, Maruti hopes to export 100,000 of it every year. About 50,000 -subject to the market conditions, of course - will be placed in the Indian market.

It will be manufactured at Maruti's new plant in Manesar, whose capacity is flexible - the plant is constructed in a manner that it is easy to take out machinery and install new ones.

Suveen K Sinha in New Delhi
Source: source