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Celebrities add to the shine of the mean machines

Incessant camera flashes greeted every visitor on the first day of the Auto Expo, as celebrities posed along with the swanky cars they launched and unveiled, grabbing as much, if not more, attention.

Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Katrina Kaif, Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhat all turned up at the 13th edition of the gala car fair, adding to the shine of the mean machines.

Kapoor was spotted taking a selfie with Hero MotorCorp's Pawan Munjal and their first indigenously developed motorcycle, Splendor iSmart, and Kohli, along with Bhatt, unveiled Audi's sports car R8 V10, priced at Rs 2.47 crore (ex-showroom, Delhi).

Kaif presented the stunning Jaguar XE, which rivals Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and is priced at Rs 39.9 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).

Tendulkar unveiled the BMW 7-series flagship saloon, priced between Rs 1.1 crore and Rs 1.5 crore (ex-showroom, Delhi). Reportedly, he had to run as fast as during his on-field days to escape a posse of cameramen.

But, the real stars of the Expo were the compacts - sedans and sports utility vehicles (SUVs).

Given the Indian consumers' penchant for compacts, auto makers continued to focus on the sub-four-metre segment. As four out of five vehicles sold in the country measure less than four metres, the segment continues to dominate the market constituting nearly 1.5 million units per annum.

Scooters, mini cars and luxury sedans were lined up by companies on Wednesday, but most merely unveiled their models instead of actually launching.

Maruti Suzuki, the flagbearer of the small car segment, was the first off-the-block with the unveiling of the Vitara Brezza, a compact SUV which will be commercially launched in the next two months. US-based General Motors, seller of the Chevrolet range of cars, followed immediately and unveiled the Essentia - a compact car to be launched in 2017.

Hyundai showcased HND-14, a concept SUV while Tata Motors unveiled a compact sedan codenamed Kite 5 and Nexon, a compact SUV. Meanwhile, Renault gave a little more power to its best-seller Kwid with a one-litre engine. "It makes more business sense today to commercially launch products at a later stage and have it lost in an event as big as the Expo. An unveiling now and a launch later ensures sufficient build-up of excitement about the product", said an executive of Honda Car India which unveiled the BR-V sports utility vehicle on Wednesday.

Tata Motors was the stand-out company in terms of number of products showcased as it lined up four models - Zica, Kite 5 (compact sedan), Nexon and Hexa and several concepts at the event. Hyundai unveiled the Tucson SUV while Japanese brand Isuzu showcased the D-Max V-Cross, a utility vehicle.

With the recent clampdown on large diesel engines by the Supreme Court, several launches steered clear of the court-defined limit of 2,000cc engines. Hyundai, Honda and Volkswagen unveiled Tucson, BR-V and Tiguan SUVs, respectively having diesel engines smaller than 2,000cc. This allows companies to circumvent the ban on sales of vehicles with engine more than 2,000cc in the Delhi-National Capital Region which is effective till March 31.

Pawan Goenka, executive director, Mahindra & Mahindra said, "We had planned on smaller engines mainly for the export market and this had been under development since a year ago. It is a coincidence that the SC announced the ban. Had there been no such decision in place, we would have launched the 1.99 litre engine three-four months later".

Besides compacts, crossovers attracted many eyeballs. These were not just limited to cars where Chevrolet unveiled the Activ crossover (based on Beat platform), two wheeler maker also surprised visitors with their innovation.

Amongst them, Honda was the star attraction. The company launched Navi, a cross between a scooter and a motorcycle. It is a gearless bike with the size similar to a scooter and is priced at Rs 39,500 (ex-shworoom, Delhi). Italian bike maker Piaggio followed suit with the unveiling of Aprilia SR150. The 150-cc engine crossover has 14-inch wheels like that of motorcycles and automatic gears akin to a scooter.

However, even two-wheeler makers did not make any further commercial launches. While Suzuki Motorcycles unveiled the new Access 125 scooter and upgraded Gixxer, Yamaha unveiled the Ray ZR.

The 2016 Auto Expo Motor Show in Delhi saw a myriad of launches on its first day. Here's a list of some of the various vehicles that were launched:

Model: Jaguar XE
Price: Rs 39.9 lakh and Rs 46.5 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi)

Model: S-Class Cabriolet, GLC, Maybach S 60 Guard

Model: Jeep Wrangler, Jeep Cherokee

Model: R8V10
Price: Rs 2.47 crore

Model: 7-series
Price: Rs 1.1 -1.5 crore (ex-showroom, Delhi)

Model: D-MAX V-Cross
Price: Rs 15 lakh

Model: NAVI
Price: Rs 39,500 (ex-showroom)