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Wheels worth the wait

business Updated: Mar 05, 2010 21:23 IST
HT Correspondent

It may hark back to the License Raj days and limited production when consumers had to wait for a decade after booking a Bajaj Chetak, but even today some cars and two-wheelers command a waiting period.

Toyota's latest blockbuster SUV, the Fortuner, for example, is such a rage in the market that the Japanese car-maker has had to close bookings — twice. Today you can’t book the vehicle. And existing allotees have to cool their heels for 8 months before they can drive it home.

"The demand for the Fortuner exceeds our expectations but shows how much the market was waiting for it," said Sandeep Singh, deputy managing director, Toyota Kirloskar Motor. "We are trying our best to increase production so that customers get the vehicle early."

The case of world’s cheapest car, Tata Nano, is no different. Grappling with production constraints at the makeshift Pantnagar plant, the car is not available under normal booking route and some of the cutomers who booked the car in April last year will get the vehicle only by the end of this year. So when can one buy a Nano off the shelf? Even the company doesn’t have an answer.

“We are yet to decide on whether to open free bookings of the car or continue with the allotment procedure,” said P.M. Telang, managing director India operations, Tata Motors. “It is difficult to say what kind of waiting period there will be on the Nano if open bookings is allowed. Seven lakh motorcycles are sold every month in India; the maximum a small car sells is a little over 20,000 units. Nano’s demand could be anywhere in-between.”

Nano’s mother plant in Sanand will start production in April with an initial capacity of around 4,000-5,000 units per month. It has a terminal capacity of 2.50 lakh units per annum (20,800 units per month) — comparable to the country’s current best selling small car, Maruti Suzuki Alto. The Sanand plant is expandable upto 500,000 units per annum.

Surprisingly, only one motorcycle commands a healthy waiting period in the world’s second-largest two wheeler market — the Royal Enfield Bullet Classic, launched in November last year. Even the company is surprised at the market response for the bike that costs almost as a Nano — today it has a waiting period of 4 months.

There are other wait-listers. The Maruti Swift Dzire (both petrol and diesel variants) and the good old Honda City prove nothing can beat value for money. The Dzire is by far the biggest success in a segment that is beset with such ageing cars as Hyundai Accent, Mahindra Renault Logan and Ford Ikon. Ditto for the Honda City, which sells more than double its nearest competitor despite costing over a lakh rupees more.