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Wheels of desire

Big names debut at the biggest auto show ever in India. Bikes apart, this year will see a long line-up of cars — new, small and eco-friendly, reports Sumant Banerji.

autos Updated: Jan 01, 2010 23:33 IST
Sumant Banerji

At the Indian Auto Expo in 2008, the Nano was the centre of attention. There’s no Nano this time, but this year’s edition of the biggest event for car and bike lovers in the country will not lack talking points.

Biggest Ever

For the record, this will be the biggest ever Auto Expo in India, with over 2,100 participants from 30 countries. In 2008 there were 2,000 participants from 29 countries. “With automotive exhibitions the world over declining in size and duration due to recession, the New Delhi auto expo is now one of the biggest in the business next only to, may be, Shanghai and Frankfurt,” says Pawan Goenka, president, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, the industry’s apex body. But it remains to be seen if enough people queue up to match the 1.8 million that thronged to get a first glimpse of the Nano in 2008.

Small will be big

With small cars, hybrids and concepts galore the limelight at the auto expo will surely be shared. The small cars from Toyota and Honda are already the talk of Motown. Despite being at a conceptual stage, they promise to be bigger than any of the other mundane launches.

Toyota that has been going through a rough time in the US and Japan, has suddenly woken up to the potential of the Indian market, and has realised time is not on its side. The Toyota car codenamed Etios (EFC800L) will be the company’s smallest and possibly the cheapest built for markets like India.

Honda with its small car concept at the expo will give Toyota some stiff competition. This car will be smaller and cheaper than the Jazz and is being made for India as the lead market. Set for a 2011 debut, Honda would hope for a better reception to this new kid on the block than the Jazz.

GREEN BRIGADE

The number of hybrid and electric cars with ‘green’ thrust lining up is also huge. On top of the list is the Toyota Prius, the world’s best-selling hybrid for well over a decade. It is set to hit the Indian roads in the second half of 2010, though the Japanese car maker is hoping to get some import duty cuts to make it happen.

Also on show will be General Motor’s Volt and the Spark electric, apart from Hyundai’s i10 electric. While the Korean auto giant is yet to launch the product in India, the Spark electric will hit roads here in the first half of 2010, giving the country the first real taste of alternate technology.

NEW KIDS IN TOWN

The iconic American bike maker Harley Davidson that had made a high profile entry into the Indian market in 2009 will make its debut in the Auto Expo. At Rs 7 lakh up, these bikes are not within everybody’s reach, but it will still find takers. The company is expected to showcase a range of models including those that are not sold in India.

On the commercial vehicle front, new entrants like Mahindra Navistar and Volvo Eicher are set to add colour to the otherwise not-so-glamorous side of the industry. Also on offer would be cutting edge technologies on hybrid electric buses from heavy weights Tata and Ashok Leyland.