In a few years, cars in Amsterdam or Los Angeles may sport desi chic. Loopy motifs, folk patterns and other elements have already started what could become a full-blown coup on the visual culture of global automobiles.
Foreign carmakers are setting up design centres in India and asking engineers in their Indian subsidiaries to contribute to the styling of their future machines. Renault and Suzuki are among those who have declared that they would be using India as one of the centres for styling for their global cars. Others such as Magna International are sponsoring competitions like the first National Automotive Styling Challenge organised by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM).
There is huge scope for automotive engineers in India. According to a 2007 KPMG survey, average annual wages of an Indian auto designer is Rs 2,94,712, compared with Rs 27,62,000 in the US and 24,79,000 in the UK. French carmaker Renault is setting up a design centre in Mumbai. To be operational by March 2008, it will be its fourth such facility globally, besides South Korea, France and Spain.
“We will seek insights from Indian culture and incorporate them in our next generation cars,” said Patrick le Quemont, senior vice president, Reanult Group.
This change in attitude is reflecting among component manufacturers too. In China, component manufacturers make different kinds of seats, mirrors and stereos to suit individual tastes. “A China-like situation could emerge in India, where small car buyers would want high levels of customisation,” said Frank O'Brien, executive vice president, Magna International, a Canadian automotive component supplier.