The recently concluded Auto Expo saw many carmakers unveiling new models, production ready concepts, look-into-the-future concepts and even we-don’t-care-a-damn concepts.
Some manufacturers also introduced new technologies that would have high relevance in the future.
In the first part of our analysis of the Auto Expo, we had looked at what every manufacturer had on display at the show. In the second part of the series, we look at some of the trends that defined the Expo this year. ×
In the first part of our analysis of the Auto Expo, we had looked at what every manufacturer had on display at the show. In the second part of the series, we look at some of the trends that defined the Expo this year.
In the midst of all this, analysts at EMMAAA observed everything at the show to identify some core trends that defined the show as well as likely to define the future industry. We take a look at some of these trends:
Sub Four-Meter Sedans
They look strange to the point of design compromises but sub four-meter sedans are here to stay and make merry. What started of as an experiment by the Tatas with the launch of the Indigo CS in 1998 to provide a better alternative to the fleet segment became a strong trend with the introduction of the second generation Maruti DZire in Feb 2012. The crispier new shape of the DZire was much appreciated in the market to the point that DZire sales have doubled after the introduction of the new shape.
Since then, Honda has joined the party with the introduction of the Amaze and has seen brisk sales with the car. In both cases – Dzire and Amaze – the sedan manages to outsell the donor hatchback comprehensively.
In every case, the small sedan presents a unique advantage for the buyer, manufacturer and suppliers (Part of a future analysis) that make them a compelling case for consideration.
Little wonder then that anyone who doesn’t have a small sedan in their current line-up is working on one. Many of them were unveiled – as production versions or concepts – at the Auto Expo.
Leading the pack was Hyundai with its Xcent. Essentially an i10 Grand with a boot, the Xcent is not the most stylish of designs. In fact, for a company that has won accolades in the recent past for its fluidic design language, the Xcent is terribly ill at ease. However, the likely value-for-money case that Hyundai is going to make with the Xcent cannot be denied.
The new model, to be commercially launched in the next few months, will finally provide Hyundai with a competing model to pitch against the DZire’s 20k-a-month sales. The car will share its engine, transmission and majority of its mechanicals with the donor i10 Grand (new generation i10) and that wil make its suppliers very happy. We expect volumes of 12,000-15,000 per month in the domestic market, though a chunk of that would come from the cannibalization of the i10 and i10 Grand models.
Knowing Hyundai, the Koreans may also be working on exporting the Xcent and that would mean additional volumes for the suppliers of the i10 Grand platform.
Apart from the Hyundai Xcent, another car that attracted a lot of showgoers was the Figo Concept from Ford. Based on the B2E platform, the Figo Concept is a face reveal of the next generation Figo / Ka. The importance of the compact sedan for the Indian market can be judged from the very fact that Ford decided to reveal the compact sedan first while a hatchback would also be coming on the same architecture some time in 2015.
The Figo Concept is a sub-four-meter compact sedan that manages to carry forward the current global Ford design language in its compact shape. The car is expected to launch only by early 2015 but Ford’s unveiling of the almost production ready design concept is an indicator of the company’s seriousness about the segment and the confidence in the product.
Similar to the Xcent, the Figo Concept (and its hatchback version) is likely to have significant export volumes. We expect 40%-50% of the platform’s volumes to be headed for exports.
Apart from the Xcent and the Figo Concept, another compact sub-four-meter sedan is expected to enter the Indian market in the next few quarters. Volkswagen is preparing a shortened version of the Vento sedan to bring it under four-meter and attract lower duties. Sadly, the company did not display the compact Vento at the Expo.
The passenger car market is struggling while newer body-style segments like compact segments and softroaders / crossovers are thriving. In such times, manufacturers who don’t have a readymade crossover bodystyle on their hatchback platforms are opting for dressed up, plastic cladded hatchbacks, trying desperately to look like crossovers. These hatchbacks are dressed up aggressively in grey plastic, have raised suspensions for better ground clearance, carry their spare wheel on the tailgate and come with skidplates and underbody protection.
Volkswagen has already launched the CrossPolo in the market to a lukewarm response and Fiat and Toyota had similar contraptions on display. Toyota has named the Cross variant of the Etios as the Etios Cross and the same would be launched in the market in a few months. Fiat comes across as significantly more serious for the segment and the Punto cross has been adorned with a unique new name – Avventura.
Again these cross variants of traditional hatchbacks are important for carmakers in a depressed market, as they manage to extract 10%-20% more volumes from the same platform and with better profit margins.
Small SUVs are hot in the Indian market but most of the spoils are currently being shared between Renault-Nissan and Ford. Shockingly, Maruti, Hyundai, Tata and Mahindra have all been caught napping in the market to the point that they didn’t have anything to show at the show.
Instead, the small SUVs at the Expo came from concepts from Volkswagen and GM. VW had the Taigun small USV on display. Based on a stretched Up! Platform (PQ12), the Taigun is an early stage concept that may see serious reworking before it enters the Indian market. We expect a launch date of early 2016.
The Chevrolet Adra is an even earlier stage concept that is just an indicator of Chevrolet’s design language for the segment. The actual product is likely to come only by mid 2016.
Concepts with India at the Core
The Indian market is maturing and its significance is improving for the global car manufacturer. As a result, we are moving from the “India gets whatever we sell in the world” to the “we sell to the world whatever sells in India” situation. At the Expo, we noticed a number of products and concepts that have been designed keeping the Indian market at the core.
Two of these concepts were the Ford Figo Concept and the Hyundai Xcent compact sedan. The compact sedan sells in no other markets apart from India but as Honda has managed to take the Amaze to other markets, other manufacturers would be tempted to do the same. Both the Xcent and Figo Concept have been designed keeping India in mind but will likely find a significant export market as well.
The other India centric product at the Expo was the Datsun range. Designed for markets like India, Nissan’s budget brand is likely to find acceptance in many other markets as well.
Automated Manual Transmission
Another major trend at the Expo was the advent of Automated Manual Transmissions (AMT) in the Indian market. Basically a manual transmission with automated clutch and gearshift actuation, AMT technology has been around for a few decades. However, shifts were jerky, costs high and that was the prime hurdle for manufacturers interested in adapting AMTs.
Now with the advent of latest generation AMTs, most of the issues have been taken care of and the cost of the transmission has also come down significantly. As a result, an unprecedented number of new models with AMTs are about to enter the market.
Maruti has just launched the Celerio hatchback with AMT transmission option. The Celerio is being offered with a manual transmission as well as an AMT though the latter is the most visible in the publicity campaigns for the car.
At the Expo, Tata and Mahindra had AMT equipped vehicles on display. While Mahindra had the Quanto AutoShift, Tata had the Bolt hatchback and the Zest compact sedan, both equipped with AMTs.
Even Ashok Leyland had the Boss medium truck with Leyshift – the company’s version of an AMT.
Apart from the above, the Expo was hot on most regular two-wheeler manufacturers getting high on bigger engine bikes. Hero had the 250cc HSR and the Hastur 620cc twin-cylinder bike concept. The company also had the Zir 157cc power scooter. TVS had the Draken 250cc, Honda launched a 125cc Activa and announced plans for the 650cc CBR 650F. Similarly, Suzuki had the Gixxer 150cc.
Surprisingly, not many manufacturers had a new 100cc bike on display.