After two successive years of decline, car sales rebounded in financial year 2014-15, that ended on Tuesday. And it has happened not due to a new government at the centre, or low fuel prices or a dramatic improvement in the country's economic outlook (though these factors may have played a small part) but due to a barrage of new products coming out during the fiscal. Here is our list of cars that grabbed eyeballs and helped change the dynamics.
Perennially trapped in the image of a small car maker, this was Maruti's third attempt after duds like Baleno and SX4, at punching above its weight. Though Ciaz does not seem to have enough in its tank to dismantle the grip of Honda City in the mid size sedan segment, it has usurped the number 2 position from arch rival Hyundai Verna and given Maruti's track record with sedans in the past (Dzire notwithstanding), it is a sprightly start to the innings for the Ciaz.
Maruti Alto K10 AMT
The automated manual transmission technology took the industry by storm when Maruti first introduced it in the Celerio in February 2014. It was plonked on to the Alto, India's bestselling car for a decade, in October as the company hoped consumers would quickly graduate to this no frills gearless car. The results have not been as celebratory yet but for being the cheapest automatic car in the world, the K10 AMT cannot be ignored.
Hyundai Elite i20
The Elite i20 was by far the biggest success of 2014-15 and the fact that there is a backlog of nearly 50,000 vehicles and no discounts on it 7 months down the line is proof enough. While it is mechanically no different than the outgoing i20, it is significantly high on quality, features and much better aggressively styled. Elite i20 also highlighted that even when the times are not the most optimistic the Indian consumer is willing to put money on a great car.
The Mobilio is Honda's first 7 seater multi purpose vehicle and was launched when the company was on a high after the back to back successes of the Amaze and the new City. The car had a lot going for it including space, equipment and a decent engine but a hyper active Maruti did its bit with discounts to ensure it usurp the Ertiga. Still, the addition of a global MPV in India is reason enough to celebrate.
Mercedes CLA sedan
At Rs 30 lakh plus, Mercedes' entry level sedan isnt exactly cheap but is definitely one of the better looking sedans around. CLA was a case of Mercedes' flexing its muscles on styling having flummoxed rivals with the new S Class, A class and GLA crossover earlier in the fiscal. With the new C Class that was also launched in the fiscal going up a notch in the ladder, the CLA plugs the gap left void by the outgoing C Class. It does not get the best engines in Merc's line up and is short of space at the rear but the killer looks more than compensate for it.
Mercedes GLA crossover
Mercedes' lack of small SUVs have for long been a handicap in its battle with Audi and BMW. The launch of GLA that is based on the A class/CLA platform was the first step towards nullifying those handicaps. It isn't a true blue off roader nor does it have a butch look but has the equipment and refinement that befits a crossover. Even though it is priced on the higher side (Rs 34 lakh plus) the relative failure of the BMW X1 makes the GLA the only serious challenger to Audi Q3.
Audi A3 sedan
With Mercedes launching a virtual product blitzkrieg to settle scores with its two German counterparts in 2014-15, Audi produced a counter punch in the form of the compact A3 sedan. At Rs 22.95 lakh (at the time of launch in August) the A3 was the most affordable luxury sedan in the country. It does not score high on style (unlike the CLA) but is a practical vehicle that is scores brownie points on value for money, something that a first time luxury car owner would appreciate. Jury is still out whether it has met the expectations that preceded its launch but the launch of A3 cabriolet (Rs 45 lakh) in December 2014 and the A3 hatchback expected in 2015-16, Audi is indeed betting big on the A3 series.
Tata Zest & Bolt
Homegrown Tata Motors began its attempt at scripting a turnaround with the compact sedan Zest that also happened to be its first "from the scratch" new car in 4 years. Easily, this was the best car that Tata had made in a long time but intense competition (Dzire, Amaze and Xcent) meant it had a tricky road and Tata's deplorable brand equity in passenger cars did not help either. In January, Tata also launched the small car Bolt that is also based on the Zest platform. Bolt also highlighted that Tata was improving but it may have just lost the plot in its uncanny resemblance to the Vista.
It first made its appearance on the streets in Mumbai (or so they would have us believe) in the Tom Cruise starer Mission Impossble Ghost Protocol. Then it vowed us at the Auto Expo 2014 in Greater Noida where despite being surrounded by equally swanky cars (Audis on one side, Mercs on the other), i8 was clearly the show stopper. We could not actually believe it then that it would actually come to India but it has. A plug in hybrid, that promises the performance of a sports car, the fuel economy of a compact car and a lifelong guarantee to turn heads. All this for Rs 2.3 crore, need we say more?