India’s mega automotive show the biennial Auto Expo 2016 got underway on Wednesday at the India Expo Mart in Greater Noida with vehicle makers unveiling their new and upgraded models -- ranging from two-wheelers to luxury cars -- several of which are likely to ply on Indian roads.
The event also saw the showcasing of India’s first adventure utility vehicle (AUV) by Japanese automaker Isuzu Motor India.
For a change, the shining vehicles were the cynosure of those who were present at the venue where celebrities and the skirted beauties distracted eyeballs.
Amidst the razzmatazz, a certain disquiet could be sensed among the industry officials, their minds bogged with a sense of regulatory uncertainty over diesel engines and emission norms.
Here are the top ten highlights from media day one of the expo, which grows 30 years old this year:
1. Hyundai and Maruti Suzuki make their point
Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSI) started the day on a high note with the launch of Vitara Brezza, a flamboyant crossover that will give Renault Duster and Hyundai Creta a run for their money. This was first of the series of cars following the ‘Transformotion’ philosophy that the common man’s carmaker plans to enter the premium segment with.
While Hyundai also set the pace with premium sports utility vehicle (SUV) Tucson, the Genesis and the concept i30 also got some praises.
2. International biking brands ride into India
While major international brands like DSK Benelli, Indian and UM launched their powerful, massive-engine bikes, domestic producers looked more concerned for the mother nature as Hero Motocorp launched a series of iSmart bikes with eco-friendly technology.
3. Domestic bike makers go green
Mahindra scooters also stole the show with Genze 2.0 an electric pickup scooter for delivery businesses specially. Besides, the Indian automaker also unveiled the first indigenously produced Formula racing car and a Moto Gran Prix bike MGP30.
4. Just when India steps up, German technology raises the bar
Indian automakers are trying hard to compete with the global competition in the Auto Expo. But the ‘big three’ from Germany showed them on Monday what’s the next big thing in tech from their unmatchable engineering.
Mercedes Benz launched the premium family sports-utility vehicle GLC, S-500 Cabriolet, which is the first open top four-seater cabriolet from Mercedes since 1979 and premium sedan Maybach S-600 Guard.
Then came a humble Volkswagen boss Jurgen stackmann’s voice: “We need back the trust of the customers to do more and come back good and clean.” He sounded a bit mellowed down when he said “ I apologise for all the inconvenience caused…” but suddenly the confidence boosted as he launched a premium plug-in hybrid sedan Passat GTE, a premium compact SUV Tiguan and the compact sedan Ameo on the day one.
BMW had the best reserved for the last. They first unveiled a facelift of their successful X1, then came a a 7-series sedan pushing the bar, already high, further higher. The cherry on the top at the launch was Sachin Tendulkar.
5. Renault knows what India needs
Renault launched the highly successful mini-SUV Kwid in a 1.0 litre version and also an automatic version. But the two concepts Renault launched, the Kwid Climber and Sports were showstoppers of the French carmaker’s lounge.
Kwid Climber was an off-roader concept with more rugged looks and larger wheels, while the Sports version needs no explainer - a more powerful version whose looks are enough.
6. Tata Zica no more Zica
Two days ago, they made it public that their latest hatchback won’t be called Zica as the homophonic Zika virus is causing panic across the world. Just in time, they managed to have no Zica on those posters. Only the actual car had ‘Zica’ logos on front and rear (since a car with no name could be worse). Also those Google cardboards for media personnel for the launch were spared from the “sanitization”. The Tata Motors arena was all about “#Fantastico”.
By the way, a compact sedan based on the Zica was also displayed as Kite S. Kite was the initial moniker for Zica and Tatas can go back to the name, as reports suggest.
7. Bollywood, cricketers help industry sell vehicles
Only two things sell in India: Films and Cricket. And both these came together to sell cars and bikes on day 1. Cricketers Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Zaheer Khan and Mohinder Amarnath made their star value count for the automakers, Bollywood stars like Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Alia Bhatt and Karan Singh Grover also marked their presence. Models were posing with rest of the bikes and cars all across the venue.
8. Racers at the launch
India’s Formula 1 racer Narain Karthikeyan marked his presence at the launch of Tata Hexa, while Karun Chandhok, another F1 celebrity, launched the Nissan GTR which will roll out of showrooms in India.
9. Katrina + British engineering = Housefull show
There was hardly any room for media personnel at the power-packed lineup launch from Jaguar Land Rover. They showed the Discovery Autobiography, a Range Rover Evoque Convertible and when Bollywood actor Katrina Kaif came to unveil the entry level premium Jaguar XE, the rush was close to a stampede.
10. Mobiles vs Cameras
Day 1 of Auto Expo was a race of who will deliver the news, and multimedia first. The media personnel were of two species— those with professional cameras and those with fancy smartphones. While professional cameras were big and heavy to handle as usual and not connected, the photographer could only do send his content across in batches and at delayed intervals, while mobile users were fighting issues like batteries and network in order to deliver the content live. The bone of contention was use of selfie sticks used by mobile users, which obstructed views of others, causing some tension at multiple launches.
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