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Bigger models to dot 11th Auto Expo

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The Auto Expo is set to get bigger and bolder this time, with compact cars making way for swankier utility vehicles. The 11th edition of the exhibition, one of the largest in the world in terms of participants, will kick-start on January 7.

While Indian market leader Maruti Suzuki has lined up the global launch of multi-purpose vehicle Ertiga (based on the RIII concept), also on display will be a five-seater concept sports utility vehicle (SUV) from the company. The SUV is the company’s first attempt in years to look beyond the ageing Gypsy and the not-so-popular Suzuki Vitara.

Not to be left behind, Korean auto major Hyundai (currently in the UV segment with the sole offering Santa Fe) has beefed its portfolio with two new offerings: a concept SUV HND-7 and a crossover UV Veloster.

Ford is tight-lipped about the next global product for Indian roads but buzz is that the mini-SUV EcoSport is on its way from Brazilian shores. Vying for attention would also be Renault Duster, the third of five products the French car maker has scheduled for launch in the country by 2013, and Rexton and Korando C from the Ssangyong fold. Toyota would take the covers off the upgraded Innova and Fortuner.

From Mahindra & Mahindra’s sub-four-metre Xylo to German luxury car maker Audi’s Q3, Indian consumers would have options to purchase SUVs tagged at Rs 6-25 lakh.

An industry official said at the last show, global auto giants had focused on India-specific small cars to lure buyers in the world’s second fastest growing automotive market. In 2012, he said, companies were attempting to introduce products in less price-sensitive niche segments.

In all, 50 new vehicles will be unveiled at the expo. That will include 32 passenger cars, nine two-wheelers and six commercial vehicles. Of these, eight passenger car unveilings would be global firsts.

Interestingly, small cars would be showcased both by budget car maker Maruti Suzuki and German luxury giant BMW. Maruti Suzuki is bringing in two 660-cc cars based on the Kei platform. BMW will unveil premium hatchback Mini Cooper (priced around Rs 25 lakh). The much-awaited “four-wheeler” from Bajaj, too, would make its debut.

Around 600,000 visitors are expected to visit the show over January 5-11 (it opens to the public on January 7), down 50 per cent from the 1.2 million footfalls it attracted in 2010. The organisers have decided to restrict the number of entries to 100,000 people a day. There will be 1,500 participants from 24 countries. All the major global players have confirmed participation.