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This week in Auto: Here’s what dominated Auto Expo 2020 - SUVs and Electric Vehicles

Here is a complete look at what made headlines in the automotive space during the week

The India Auto Expo 2020, the biggest automotive extravaganza was marred by three factors.

Coronavirus made sure no senior executives from China participated in the event, two-wheeler and premier car making companies stayed away from the show and the cut-throat competition for Delhi Assembly elections restricted people movements.

But yet there was a peculiar theme that swept the week-long event. In today’s auto wrap we discuss what that theme was, but first here is a complete look at what made headlines in the automotive space during the week.

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Tata Motors unveils Sierra, HBX, Gravitas at Auto Expo

Tata Motors launched a number of vehicles at Auto Expo 2020. This includes two commercial vehicles (CV) and all that can be expected in the near future. The event started off with the showcasing of the Tata Gravitas and the Nexon EV.

Kia Motors launches Carnival, unveils Sonet

Korean brand Kia Motors launched the Carnival multi-utility vehicle in India at the Auto Expo. The base version starts at Rs 24.95 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), with the top-end version costing Rs 33.95 lakh. More than 3,500 bookings have been received for the Carnival since it opened in January.

Mahindra launched electric KUV at Rs 8.25 lakh

SUV-specialist Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) launched the electric KUV, priced at Rs 8.25 lakh ex-showroom Delhi including FAME II benefits, at the Auto Expo 2020. The eKUV is powered by a 15.9kWh motor that generates peak power of 40kW and 120nm of torque. The eKUV has a range of around 150 km and is targeted at the commercial buyer. The vehicle, it claimed, can be fast-charged to 80 percent in 55 minutes.

Great Wall Motors debuts at Auto Expo

Chinese auto manufacturing company Great Wall Motors launched its Haval brand of sports utility vehicles (SUV) in India by showcasing two concept cars at the Auto Expo 2020. The first car showcased at the GWM pavilion is the Vision concept car. Scheduled for 2025, it is a fully electric SUV with a tonne of loaded features.

Volkswagen unveils new SUVs

Volkswagen showed off three new cars -- the Taigun, T-Roc and the Tiguan Allspace -- on Day 1 of Auto Expo 2020. Volkswagen said the future lies in SUVs and to that end promises to bring in four new SUVs to India in the next four years. For the time being, pre-bookings for the T-Roc and the Tiguan Allspace have commenced.

Sports Utility and Electric Vehicles dominate Auto Expo 2020

Only two themes dominated Auto Expo 2020, SUVs and electric vehicles (EV). Such was the pull for these two themes that almost no model other than these two segments of vehicles was unveiled or launched at the event leaving aside the Mercedes-Benz A35 sedan and AMG GT63S.

Even the Bharat Stage VI (BS-VI) upgrade of the Ignis, a five-door hatchback, was redesignated as ‘SUV’ by Maruti Suzuki, India’s largest carmaker. Volkswagen was the only other company to unveil hatchback called Race Polo but not before unveiling four SUVs at the event.

Except for the odd Mercedes, no other carmaker dared to show a sedan or a budget hatchback at the Auto Expo. This very aptly showcased the road consumer demand would take in the coming times where the strong emphasis will be laid on SUVs and EVs.

India is perhaps the most dynamic car market in the world with trends changing every few years thus keeping all the involved parties on their toes. A few years ago when Maruti Suzuki launched the sedan version of the Swift and called it Dzire which too measured less than four meters almost each of Maruti’s rival jumped onto the bandwagon.

Even German giant Volkswagen forced itself to come out with a solution it called the Ameo. Ford (1), Honda (1), Hyundai (2), Tata Motors (3) also launched such compact sedans. Today demand for such micro sedans has shrunk dramatically and its buyers have shifted to SUVs or premium hatchbacks.

After the super success of the City Honda’s rivals used their strengths to get a piece of the pie. Maruti launched the Ciaz, Hyundai launched the Verna, Volkswagen introduced the Vento, Nissan got the Sunny, Renault brought the Scala, Skoda brought in the Rapid and more recently Toyota launched the Yaris. Such mid-size sedans are fast fading away into history and its buyers have shifted to mid-size SUVs.

And not so long ago carmakers struggled to meet the demand for diesel models. This was when diesel prices were still controlled by the government resulting in the fuel at a huge discount compared to petrol. Even Honda, which was known for its ‘petrol-only’ portfolio started development small diesel engines.

But from a peak share of 80 percent some years ago share of diesel-powered passenger cars have come down to around 30 percent now. Volkswagen, Renault and Maruti have said they will not develop or produce small diesel engines henceforth.

The current craze for SUVs is not just prevalent in India but the sentiment cuts across global markets. India is even getting ‘personalised SUVs’ wherein products are being developed purely for the Indian consumer which will be so exclusive that even Europeans and Americans won't get to drive it.

EVs may not be high on consumer’s wish list for now but there certainly is a huge interest for such ‘green’ vehicles. Due to their high price and impractically, low (compared to petrol/diesel vehicles) real driving cycles and lack of charging infrastructure EVs are still in the nascent stage of mass acceptance.

How long before consumer’s swing for SUVs and EVs moves into another direction? There are newer segments and technologies that are yet to be explored. A cross vehicle segment between a hatchback and an SUV, then there is a cross vehicle segment sedan and SUV, cross between an SUV and multi-utility vehicle to name a few.

In terms of new technologies, the latest to catch the fancy of automakers is hydrogen (fuel-cell), which is even cleaner than EVs. Then there is the technology of ‘range extenders’ vehicles that are powered by batteries which are in turn powered by very small petrol engines. It is a matter of time before such technologies become practical solutions of the future.
First Published on Feb 8, 2020 01:05 pm
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