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Coming soon: Maruti's nano



Maruti Suzuki has decided to enter the sub-800cc segment. Two cars in this segment, already in operation in Japan, will be unveiled during the Delhi Auto Expo in January, to gauge viewers’ response.

Called Palette and MR Wagon, these cars are powered by parent Suzuki’s smallest engine till date. On the basis of the feedback at the expo, a production version would be readied for the Indian market and either one or both of the compact cars would be launched in the next two-three years, sources familiar with the developments said.

Although both models are powered by 660cc petrol engines, the company is steering clear of the world’s cheapest car, the Tata Nano, which carries a price tag of Rs 1.53 lakh and has a 624-cc engine. The price gap between the entry-level Tata Nano and the 800cc engine-powered Maruti Alto is Rs 1.43 lakh.

The Alto, Maruti’s current bestseller, will remain the entry-level car for the automaker in India and the new cars will be positioned on par or above Alto’s price tag of Rs 2.96 lakh.

Although the size of the engine is smaller than the Alto’s, the new small cars will have greater interior space, thanks to the improved height, compared to the Alto 800. Additional features of the two cars will be announced by the company later.

The move to bring in new small cars was triggered by the constant slide in Maruti’s market share in the passenger car segment. The market share of the Delhi-based company has declined by seven percentage points to 38 per cent till October this year from 45 per cent in the same month last year.

The country’s largest car maker is also planning a blitzkreig of new launches and to debut in the multi-utility vehicle (MUV) segment. This yet-to-be-named new vehicle, with seating capacity of up to seven people, will remain compact in dimensions and is expected to be the next big volume driver for the company. The MUV has been developed by Maruti’s Indian engineers with help from Suzuki’s research and development wing.

Sources said the vehicle was ready and would hit the local markets by March next year. Other MUVs currently in the market include the Mahindra Bolero and Tata Sumo. Maruti also plans to export the MUV.

The company will also bring a compact multi-purpose vehicle (MPV), popularly referred to as a van, in India. Christened ‘Ertiga’, the MPV will come with a diesel-cum-petrol engine.

Also on the anvil is a compact sport utility vehicle (SUV), a concept version of which will be unveiled in January, while the production version is expected to hit the market later. Apart from the ageing Gypsy, mostly used by the armed forces, Maruti does not have a product in this category.

The company’s managing executive officer (marketing and sales), Mayank Pareek, says: “As the market gets more competitive, we have to gear up for the new dynamics. We are thus showing the best we can offer. The new models like the Kei cars and the SUV, MPV and MUV will prove to the world that we are future-ready. We need to get first-hand feedback for this.”