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Hot auto trends in 2012

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Sub 4-metre cars
Tata Motors created the idea some four years ago with the Indigo CS, but not much has happened so far. Come 2012, the Indigo CS may be joined by several other cars. Take the shortened Mahindra Xylo (which will be powered by a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder diesel motor) or a shortened version of the Verito. Not to be left behind will be a new Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire and maybe even a Volkswagen Vento and Skoda Rapid. Last, but not the least, Tata Motors will make another attempt at a shorter sedan, this time it will be with the Manza.

 

Small car battle
Okay, so let's rephrase that. It's the mini commuter segment that is ready to explode, since every other year is the year of the small car. After the entry of the Eon and an updated Tata Nano, will come Bajaj's interpretation of a small car, the RE60 (sorry, they insist it's a four-wheeler and not a car), Maruti's small car that might replace the Alto and of course, possibly, even the Volkswagen Up! that is aimed at the likes of the Hyundai i10. If that's not enough, Tata will up the ante with its diesel version of the Nano. It is all powder keg material, folks!

 

Badge engineering
India may be new to the whole concept, but the world isn't. The Suzuki A-star is badged as the Nissan Pixo, the Toyota Aygo is badged the Citroen C1 and Peugeot 107 and so on. But now, India is gearing up for a rather similar trend, what with the Nissan Micra being badged a Renault Pulse and the Volkswagen Vento as the Skoda Rapid. Later the Renault Duster could be badged as a Nissan SUV, while the Nissan Sunny could feature Renault badges yet again. Sure it does bring down development costs and allows you to bring out models to the market faster, but will Indians bite the bait? Maybe 2012 will provide all the answers.

 

Luxury segment going compact
It started off with the BMW X1 in late-2010 and its success hasn't gone unnoticed. First off the block from its rivals' stable will be the Audi Q3. Designed to take the X1 head on, the Q3 maybe priced a little higher than the X1, but will boast petrol and diesel options and even a bit more space. Trailing, but just by a few steps is Mercedes-Benz with its B-Class. With the latest generation launched just a few months ago, this large-ish compact might come across as being ultra-niche, but who knows, it just might click with the Indian audiences.

 

Sub 12-lakh SUVs
To say that the Mahindra XUV500 has been anything but successful would be plain silly. But if Mahindra can pull it off, the competition believes it can too. While Tata Motors will launch an all-new Safari at the 2012 Auto Expo, Renault will showcase the Duster — a Logan based SUV that will be launched by mid-2012. Then there is more — Maruti and Hyundai will both show compact SUV concepts at the Expo, Ford will bring its Ecosport, while Toyota is keen to develop one on the Etios platform. And Mahindra isn't stopping there — it's developing a compact SUV too that might spill over into 2013. All we can say is, start saving now!

 

Traditional imports to be assembled in India
The lopsided duty structure has meant some cars that have traditionally done well around the world have failed to excite the masses in our country. In an effort to turn things around, manufacturers of these cars are now going the assembly route. Toyota and Honda, which will launch the Camry and CR-V respectively, are mulling assembly of these cars in India to make them more competitive. Mercedes-Benz, which will launch a new generation ML is also considering the CKD route and may also add the GL to that kitty. And after beginning assembly operations of the Land Rover Freelander 2, Jaguar Land Rover might even unveil its assembly operations of the Jaguar XF. These are exciting times indeed!

 

Entry of new motorcycle marques
The biggest news on the new marques front is definitely Triumph. To drop a few names, on the menu for India are the Bonneville, the Street Triple, the Daytona 675 and Triumph's flagship — the Rocket III. Yes, standing out on that list is the Daytona 675, which, if Triumph's strategy is in sync with our wishful thinking, could be priced only slightly above the Kawasaki Ninja 650R. Also finally setting foot in India is MV Agusta, who will bring in the Brutale street fighter and the F4 RR Corsacorta superbike. MV, of course, is a premium marque and you can expect prices to be as much as, if not spectacularly more than, those of the Ducatis and Aprilias. Cashing in on the BMW Group's substantial presence in the country will be Husqvarna, revered maker of off-road motorcycles also recently famous for some incredible supermotards. Lastly, but importantly for touring aficionados, 2012 will also see Victory set up shop in the country. Victory will be coming in thanks to Polaris, who've only recently introduced their range of off-road vehicles in the country.

 

The 200-250cc bike scene is gung-ho!
The Honda CBR 250R has a lot to its credit, but beyond the essentials, what the CBR has done is created a proper scaled-down big bike segment in the Rs 1.5 to 2 lakh bracket. Going by the CBR's success, it's only obvious that manufacturers will follow suit. First to bite the bait is, of course, Bajaj-KTM which, with its KTM Duke 200, has generated enough buzz in the enthusiast circles for us to tag it the most popular motorcycle of 2012. Suzuki, on the other hand, is sorely lacking a performance motorcycle in its stable and will use the Expo to dish out the Inazuma 250 — a mild mannered, 250cc twin sans a fairing that should appeal more to the tourer than the hardcore track-day enthusiast. Lastly, Hyosung, which has had a decent debut year with its two sub-700cc motorcycles, should bring in its more mass-oriented motorcycles based around a 250cc motor which could probably be in the twin-cylinder format.

 

Track specials
While 2011 was the year for supercar brands making their entry (read Maserati, Ferrari, Aston Martin and Koenigsegg among others), 2012 will be the year for track specials. Both Caterham and Ariel have announced their plans to enter India in the new year, courtesy the Dabur group and The ESTD respectively. Priced in the range of Rs 25 lakh to 90 lakh, these cars are lightning fast, while exhibiting the nimbleness of a fly. What's more, most versions are road legal as well. Looks like the MMST track in Chennai and the Buddh International Circuit will be buzzing with quite a few of them in 2012.