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The Showroom Of 2010

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 The Indian car industry has ended this decade at an all-time high and it looks like the next 10 years will see India’s love affair with cars continue unabated. The recession is over, car sales are going through the roof, and manufacturers are launching new models with renewed frenzy. The Auto Expo — the ultimate launch pad for any new model — in January will showcase some of the upcoming cars. Year 2010 will see action in every segment of the market. No niche will be left untapped and new ones will be developed.  

What makes 2010 significant for the car industry are the next level of emission regulations that come into effect from 1 April 2010 — five years after the last regulation changes. Stricter emission standards are forcing manufacturers to upgrade or completely change engines. The cars are becoming cleaner and fuel efficient, but all this clean-up technology are making them more expensive too. 
India is a small-car country, so there is going to be a rash of new compact cars being churned out of factories. Heavyweights such as Volkswagen (VW), Nissan and Toyota have all got spanking new hatchbacks lined up, while Ford and General Motors (GM) are spending big bucks to launch their small cars in India. But Maruti Suzuki, the king of small cars, is not going to make it easy for its upstart rivals and has plans to freshen up its model range as well.  
 India is no longer a dumping ground for outdated models. In fact, many models will be launched in India before markets such as Europe. Here is a snapshot of some of the most significant models to enter showrooms in 2010.  
Chevrolet Beat (Launch in January): This is the car that could catapult GM India into the big league. The Beat looks stunning, inside and outside. It is a well-built car that glides over bad roads and is quite nimble in traffic. It is not as well-rounded as the Hyundai i10, but we expect it to undercut its rival by around Rs 35,000 to make it an irresistible deal for you.  
BMW 5-series Gran Turismo (Launch in January): The Gran Turismo is BMW’s crack at creating an entirely new segment. It is a luxury vehicle that is part sport utility vehicle (SUV), part hatchback and part saloon. It has a brilliant 3-litre diesel engine, which gives 241 bhp (break horse power). The interiors are practical, though it is not quite a five-seater. There is loads of luggage space and ground clearance is good too. 
Nissan 370Z (Launch in January): The 370Z could be the most practical sports car to arrive in India, thanks to its reasonable price (around Rs 45 lakh), easy maintenance and terrific reliability. 370Z is as comfortable around a race track as it is doing a school run (with one child, of course). The 332-bhp, 3.7-litre engine is a fire-cracker and propels it to 100 km/h in around 5 seconds.  
New Maruti Suzuki WagonR (Launch in March): The new WagonR promises to deliver greater practicality and improved driving dynamics. The launch in March 2010 is perfectly timed. It comes on the eve of stricter emission norms, which would have necessitated a major engine upgrade. Maruti cleverly decided to upgrade the entire car. Known internally as the Y9R, it bears a strong resemblance to the present WagonR. But under the skin, it is all new. It will have a stiffer chassis — for better ride and handling — and will use Maruti’s tried and trusted 1-litre, three-cylinder engine. A starting price of around Rs 3.5 lakh will make the new WagonR pretty enticing.
Ford Figo (Launch in March): Ford hopes to redefine the concept of value for money with the Figo. Ford has targeted the base model of Hyundai i10 (Rs 3.6 lakh) as its price benchmark for the 1.2-petrol Figo. The 1.4-litre diesel Figo is aimed at the Indica Vista and can be priced around Rs 4.6 lakh. Though Figo is essentially a re-skinned version of the outgoing Ford Fiesta in Europe, Ford’s striking Kinetic design updates give this hatchback a contemporary look.  
Volkswagen Polo (Launch in April): Polo is perhaps the most significant launch of 2010 as it has the entire might of VW behind it. The car has won the European Car of the Year award and will set new standards amongst premium hatchbacks in India. The sporty styling, superb build quality and top-notch interiors should make Polo a hit. Polo is expected to come at a sub-Rs 5 lakh price tag. At launch only the 1.2-petrol version is expected, but more engine options are planned. VW is investing heavily in its dealer network in preparation for the Polo.  
Nissan Micra  (Launch in May): The all-new Micra is not just a Nissan for India, but a new Nissan for the world. And it will be made only in India. The car is aimed at Maruti’s Swift and will come with a compact, 1.2-litre petrol and 1.5 turbo-diesel engine. It has been designed to make sense in the emerging markets such as India — special attention has been given to the rear seat space. Nissan has concentrated on keeping the Micra light and simple to keep weight and costs down. 
Suzuki Kizashi (launch in July): Maruti Suzuki has not given up the luxury-car market and wants a serious crack at it with the upmarket and distinctive looking Kizashi. Though Kizashi looks like a Suzuki, it has distinctive European features. It will be available in only one engine option, the 2.4 litre, borrowed from the Grand Vitara and mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox. Being a part of the Maruti stable, the Kizashi is expected to be very competitively priced.  
Tata Crossover  (launch in August): When the Tata Crossover is unveiled at the Auto Expo, it will be the biggest and most expensive model in the Tata Motors line-up — retailing for around Rs 12-13 lakh when it eventually goes on sale. Tata’s new flagship is more spacious and comfortable than the Safari, and comes with a host of features and equipment not seen before in a Tata car. The Crossover will use the same 2.2-litre, 140-bhp diesel engine that powers the Safari, so performance is expected to be more than adequate.  
Skoda Yeti (launch in October): Skoda’s first SUV is a clever mix of hatchback practicality and off-road capabilities. Yeti’s appeal lies in its versatility. Its compact dimensions are a boon on city roads. It is also brilliant on highway and off-road, thanks to the brilliant suspension, huge ground clearance and strong engines. The 2-litre turbo diesel is expected to be the mainstay of the Yeti range, and the new Skoda is expected to cost around Rs 16-17 lakh for the top-end model.   
Toyota’s small car (launch in December): The much-awaited car will first be launched as a saloon and then as a hatchback. Like the Nissan Micra, Toyota’s small car is a direct rival to the Swift and will come with a petrol and diesel option. Toyota has designed the car after extensive research in the Indian market and has made space, fuel efficiency and low running costs a priority. The car is unlikely to be the cheapest in its class, but it is likely to have the best quality. Toyota is also banking on its solid and well-developed dealer network to woo buyers. 
The author is editor of Autocar India 
bweditor at abp dot in
(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 04-01-2010)

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