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Smart car... Saif had it, but India won't

It may have been driven by actor Saif Ali Khan in Salaam Namaste. But the Smart car by German auto giant Daimler-Chrysler is unlikely to be launched in the Indian market any time soon.

autos Updated: Aug 30, 2007 03:27 IST

It may have been a rage in Europe and America and was even driven by Bollywood star Saif Ali Khan in the film Salaam Namaste. But the Smart car by German auto giant Daimler-Chrysler is unlikely to be launched in the Indian market any time soon.

The 698 cc (799 cc for the diesel version) Smart car has been lapped up in most countries across Europe and is selling well in the US, Britain, Australia and Canada too, given its compact design and agility for city driving.

But the two-door wonder car is not being launched in India even though the country is considered one of the biggest markets in the world for small-segment cars.

"There are no plans now to introduce Smart in India," Daimler-Chrysler managing director and CEO Wilfried Aulbur told IANS in Chandigarh.

"The cost of the car in European markets is around Euros 8,000 (approximately Rs 450,000) and that is expensive given the prices of small cars in India," Aulbur said.

The advantage that Smart car gives is its compact design that makes it suitable for city driving in heavy traffic and congested roads. The car is also easy to park, as it is just eight-feet long and five-feet wide.

"If launched in India with a reasonable price tag, Smart can be a real hit here given the traffic volumes and congestion in metros and big cities. Since most people drive to work alone, and public transport is not preferred by executives, the Smart car could be a good option. I understand it is very easy to handle," says automobile engineer Gurujot Singh.

The all-aluminium engine in the Smart car uses latest technology and has minimal CO2 emissions. It does not sport the famous Mercedes triangle logo on the front even though it is from the stable of Daimler-Chrysler.

Mercedes has sold nearly 1,400 units of its luxury sedans - the C, E and S class - till July this year. The company achieved 22 percent growth over last year.

Its luxury cars are priced from Rs.2.8 million to over Rs.15 million. It has launched the high-end CL-class and other expensive variants.

India saw its big success story of small cars starting in 1984 when the four-door Maruti-Suzuki was launched. The car continues to be the bestseller of all times in the Indian automobile market, particularly liked by the significant middle-class.

The non-AC version of Maruti is available for less than Rs.200,000 while the air-conditioned version is just a shade more expensive. Easy finance options have made many people convert from two-wheelers to Maruti owners.

First Published: Aug 29, 2007 11:31 IST