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New car models to beat the blues

While the headline grabber continues to be Tata’s Nano, the world’s cheapest car, some exciting offers are on their way from Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai and Fiat, among others. Sumant Banerji reports.

autos Updated: Jul 22, 2008 20:06 IST
Sumant Banerji

After a tepid first half this year, car makers are planning several new launches in the coming months, hoping these will bring buyers back to a market that has seen demand dwindling amid spiralling inflation and rising cost of finance.

While the headline grabber continues to be Tata’s Nano — the world’s cheapest car, some exciting offers are on their way from Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai and Fiat, among others.

Come October and the festive season, the auto market is set to see a lot of action.

Tata has promised to launch the Nano that will coincide with Maruti’s indigenously developed small car — the A Star. The latter is also likely to bring another hatchback – Splash – before end of the year. Hyundai Motor, now the No.2 in the Indian car market, plans to introduce i20, which will be based on the i10 platform.

Italian auto major Fiat SPA is trying to stage a comeback with two of its best models — the Grande Punto and the Linea — planned for an India launch in September. The Punto, launched in 2005, has revived the company’s fortune in Europe and it is hoping for a repeat in India.

Toyota is refreshing its flagship Corolla in August, while archrival Honda Siel Cars India may go for a makeover for Honda City by November.

The new launches come at a time when sales are tapering off and growth has been sluggish. After rising by 17 per cent and 14 per cent in April and May, respectively, growth in car sales skids to 6.1 per cent in June. With interest rates and inflation continuing to firm up, sales are likely to remain under pressure.

“Cars are no longer just a mode of transport but more of an extension of a personality reflecting needs, aspirations and status of the owner,” said Pradeep Saxena, senior vice-president at research firm TNS Automotive. “Hence a new car with its novelty factor often does the trick … and is a potent tool of generating some excitement in the market."