India's second-largest carmaker, Hyundai Motor India Ltd (HMIL) on Thursday launched its smallest and cheapest offering yet, the Eon, priced between Rs 2.69 lakh and Rs 3.72 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), looking to unsettle the over six-year -long hegemony of the country's largest selling car, Maruti's Alto.
The Eon, powered by a 814-cc engine (smaller than its own Santro), has been developed with an investment of Rs 900 crore over close to four years.
Its price tag still leaves it more expensive than the Alto, but archrival Maruti already seems to have gone on the backfoot. The Japanese carmaker has launched a lux variant of the Alto, named Explore, with added features like leather seats and a music system.
"This is not just a basic car but a very aspirational product," said Arvind Saxena, director marketing and sales, HMIL, said of the Eon. "It offers much more to a consumer than basic mobility. This is a mass market car but not a low priced compromise."
Commenting about the pricing, he said: "We never intended to sell 25,000 or 30,000 units of this car a month and hence it is priced differently."
The Alto has for long been the largest-selling car in India. Its average sales are in excess of 2.5 lakh units per annum.
Its position was strengthened last year when it added a peppier version, named the K10, which added over 10,000 units to its monthly sales for some time.
Hyundai's entry in the segment is being viewed as a game-changer not only for the Korean auto giant but also for the Indian automobile industry.
"The Eon has been specifically built keeping in mind the varied Indian conditions and special requirements of the customers here," said HW Park, managing director and CEO, HMIL. "It will further expand our market share in the fast-growing small car segment in the Indian market."
The Eon however does suffer from a lack of features in its cheaper variants. Its entry level variant for example, does not have either air conditioning or power steering, features that are now considered as mandatory in the industry.
What works for the car though, is that it looks much bigger, boasts of better build quality and is more modern than all its other competitors. The Alto for example, is now a 13 year old product with K10 the only new significant addition. Similarly the Chevrolet Spark that costs as much as the Eon, also looks dated in comparison.
For the time being, the Eon will be sold only in India but as in the case of the i10, it may be exported eventually.