Auto Expo 2008 - Launch appointments!


General Motors India flexed its muscles big time at the Auto Expo and added a big SUV to its comprehensive Chevrolet line-up. The Chevrolet Captiva has the looks of the Honda CR-V (which has had a successful run as an import in India) and has the added advantage of a new generation common rail diesel engine. The car that undercuts the Honda by a couple of lakh rupees at Rs 17.74 ex-showroom Delhi is powered by a 2000 cc diesel that is good for 150 bhp. The Captiva comes with a full complement of safety features such as airbags and ABS.

Mercedes-Benz pavilion is bang across that of Audi and both the German giants unveiled their entry level luxury cars. While the all new Mercedes C-Class officially launched the Audi A4 was premiered. The fourth generation C-Class is closer to the BMWs when it comes dynamics and features sharp, sporty look without losing the ‘carved out of metal’ USP of Mercedes sedans. The car will be assembled in Pune and will be available only with two engine options the C200K will be powered by a 174 bhp supercharged four cylinder unit while the C220 CDI will get propulsion from a 170 bhp common-rail diesel. Unfortunately the more powerful C350 featuring the mighty V6 motor won’t come to India, let alone the C63 AMG which packs 457 powerful horses under the hood. The C200 K will carry a price tag of Rs 27 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) while the diesel version will cost three lakh more.However for the price of two C-Class cars Mercedes can offer you a swanky two door coupe. Also launched by Mercedes-Benz was the CLK 350 with a V6 engine good enough for 272 bhp.
Rivaling the C-Class on looks, performance and price, come May 2008, will be the brand new Audi A4. The A4 will be launched in India with a 2000 cc diesel engine but the line-up will grow to accommodate two more petrol and diesel engines by the end of the calendar year. Initially the car will be imported to India but assembly will start in Aurangabad by end 2008. Audi, a late comer in the luxury car market has already sold 350 cars in the country.
How about a thoroughly modern European hatchback for the price of a Suzuki Swift? That too complete with the safety features like airbags and ABS throughout the range? That is what the Skoda, the Czech arm of VW, is promising with the all new Fabia. The car will initially be available with 1.4 litre petrol and diesel engines and a 1.2 litre version will soon join the club. Prices start from a mouth watering Rs 4.99 lakh ex-showroom Maharashtra and goes up to Rs 7.68 lakh for the top-end diesel model. The diesel engine of the Fabia is extremely frugal and is expected to be more refined and powerful than the small capacity diesels available in India.
The Sumo Grande represents Tata's second generation of MUVs (multi utility vehicles) in India. A complete grounds-up development of the MUV, the Sumo Grande features the Safari's 2.2 Dicor engine, but with 120 bhp instead of 140 bhp. It features new aggregates, such as new front and rear suspension, a longer wheelbase, more space on the inside and new interiors with improved fit and finish. Developed over a span of two years, the Sumo Grande is positioned as an urban utility vehicle, that will take on Mahindra's Scorpio and the Toyota Innova. It is priced between Rs 6.50-7.50 lakh, ex-showroom, New Delhi, and is available in three trim levels.
Tata Motors big launch, second only to the much anticipated one lakh car was the Indica. Longer and sleeker than the current Indica, the new car is designed keeping international markets in mind that demand better creature and safety features. Tata Motors claims that the car is 120 mm longer with a 70 mm extra wheelbase. Besides featuring a more European exterior and interior design, the company has also worked at addressing their engine range. Motive power will come from a 1.3-litre quadra-jet diesel engine, a variant of the 1.3 multi-jet engine from Fiat that also powers the Maruti Suzuki Swift diesel. A new 1.2-litre variable valve petrol engine will also feature in the engine bay, a technology that has so far been a preserve of the likes of Toyota and Honda. Tata also featured the Indigo CS, a compact sedan with a notchback that allows the Indigo to fall within the 16 per cent excise duty bracket. The shortened Indigo is available in both petrol and diesel engines. The Indica Dicor completes the Dicor-isation of its entire car range. The common-rail diesel produces 70 bhp from a 1.4-litre engine and Tata claims it gives 15 per cent better fuel-efficiency. Tata also showed its Xenon pick-up, a stylish ute that has so far been available for export only.
Volkswagen unveiled their award winning Up! concept, the rear-engined, four-seater small car that is destined for Indian shores. But that will happen once the Pune plant is ready, sometime in late 2009. Meanwhile, Volkswagen will expand its product portfolio this year, with the launch of the Jetta sedan and Tiguan mini-SUV. The Jetta's imminent India launch was reported first by Business Standard in August, 2007 and we had accurately judged, down to the engine specifications. Volkswagen will launch the premium C-segment sedan with a 1.6-litre, 102 bhp petrol and 1.9-litre pump deuse engine with 105 bhp. Volkswagen state-of-the-art, DSG gearbox will also be available on the diesel. Expect it to be priced in the range of Rs 8-10 lakh, with local assembly to begin besides the Passat at Skoda's Aurangabad plant. The Tiguan on the other hand is currently being evaluated for India, with both petrol and diesel options. Andreas, MD, Volkswagen India said that the car will be priced to compete with the likes of the Honda CR-V and Nissan X-Trail, both of which are available in the Rs 19 to 24 lakh price band. He also mentioned that it is being strongly considered for assembly in India.
BMW has added another sporty car to its India lineup. But it is two-door coupe with 420 bhp available for the right foot to play around with. Ladies and gentlemen, BMW have launched the M3 coupe, and although it isn't cheap (Rs 74 lakh!), it surely is fast. The 4.0-litre V8 propels the car to 100 kph in 4.8 seconds and a restricted top-speed of 250 kph. De-restrict it (which BMW can do for a fee)and it can do northwards of 280 kph. BMW hopes to sell a couple of these in 2008, not enough to disturb Tata and the One lakh car, but enough to make Audi and Mercedes sit-up and get their sportier RS and AMG variants.
Honda kicked off the two-wheeled adventure at the 9th Auto Expo with the unveiling of their fourth scooter for India, the Aviator. The Aviator, to be launched nationwide on March 6, is based on the Activa, but aims for a more mature, male audience. The scooter uses the same 102cc engine that powers the popular Activa, but the big changes are in the chassis department. Honda will introduce the countries first 12-inch wheels on a scooter, expected to make a significant different to the stability and feel of the scooter. The top-end variant will also get alloy wheels and the disc brake mounted to the front telescopic fork. Honda expects the Aviator to continue the success of Honda's gearless scooters, which currently hold a dominant 54 per cent market share. The Aviator's styling is all new, using a combination of metal and plastic panels. The design also boosts the practicality of the scooter with a larger under-seat storage space. Honda will sell the Aviator for an Activa-like price tag of Rs 39,675 ex-showroom when it goes on sale in early March.
Also at the Honda stall were two Unicorn-based concepts labelled CBF, both showing off a more aggressive look for the motorcycle. Significantly, both motorcycles were shown with twin rear shocks. Honda officials said, 'These concepts were primarily intended to gauge market response.' Honda also showed off the CBR600RR (middle-weight supersports), the CB600F Hornet (a naked bike based on the CBR600RR engine and the CBR1000RR (Honda’s sportbike flagship). Honda is considering a CBU line of products and Honda says that 2009 is a good bet should all the legalities fall into place.

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