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Industry to uncover its best at Auto Expo 2016

As many as 650,000-700,000 visitors are expected to visit the biennial Auto Expo in Greater Noida, making it Asia’s largest auto show. Some of world’s major vehicle manufacturers will showor launch as many as 85 passenger cars, sports utility vehicles (SUVs), two-wheelers and commercial vehicles at the event, nearly twice compared to 2012 and five more than 2014.

Over 22 passenger and commercial vehicle makers and 18 two- and three-wheeler makers will take part in the Expo, which will be thrown open to the general public this Friday.

While the auto industry is upbeat about the event and is putting its best foot forward, demand in showrooms is bleak. Auto sales grew just 1.3 per cent in the April-December period on the back of multiple launch failures and continued high discount levels.  

Recent rulings over diesel vehicle sales and bringing forward of stringent emission norms — both of which were business negative for vehicle makers — has defused enthusiasm to some extent. “We do not know who is making the decisions and who should we be listening to – the ministry or the courts,” a senior executive of a Mumbai-based company had said.

But with just 15 Indians in every 1,000 owning a car (compared with 40 in China and 700 in Europe) manufacturers cannot ignore the market despite the adversities. According to Ford Motor Company’s calculations, India is going to be the world’s third-biggest automobile market by 2020 with sales of seven million units per annum.    

Manufacturers are driving into uncharted territories. For example, Maruti Suzuki — the country’s largest car maker — will make its entry into the compact sports utility vehicle (SUV) segment, an area which has seen robust growth in the last two years. Maruti will launch the sub-4 metre SUV Vitara Brezza that will challenge the Ford EcoSport and the Mahindra TUV3OO.

Unlike the passenger car segment where it has defended a market share of 53 per cent despite stiff competition, the company is a late entrant into the utility vehicle space. However Maruti’s focus wont deviate from the small car segment entirely as a new addition would be made with the launch of the Ignis, a compact hatchback slightly bigger than the Celerio. The Expo will be the biggest and most crucial for Tata Motors as it readies the showcase of more than two dozen products and concepts across passenger and commercial categories making it the widest display at the event.

Some recent setbacks notwithstanding, Tata Motors will unveil four new products, including two cars and two utility vehicles (UVs) in the passenger car category. These will be the Zica (hatchback), a compact sedan based on the Zica, Hexa and Nexon (both UVs).

Chrysler’s iconic SUV brand Jeep will finally mark its entry into India after a delay of nearly two years. Italian car maker Fiat, which owns Chrysler, will launch two models, the Wrangler and the Grand Cherokee at the Expo.  

French car maker Renault will display new derivatives of the hugely successful, SUV-style compact car Kwid alongside an updated version of the Duster SUV. Like Maruti, Honda too will enter the compact SUV segment with the BRV, a seven-seater people carrier. However the Honda will be bigger than the Brezza and will instead compete against the Renault Duster and Hyundai Creta.  

Other interesting launches at the event will be the Volkswagen Ameo (a compact sedan), Datsun Redi-Go, Mercedes-Benz S Cabriolet and GLC, a new multi-purpose vehicle from Toyota and the Mahindra XUV Aero.

The show-stopper among the two-wheeler companies will be Honda, which is going to showcase a new secret vehicle that is for the time being called NAVI. A total of six products — four refreshed and two new products — will be launched alongside four concepts, by the company, the second largest two-wheeler seller in India.

Two-wheeler market leader Hero Motocorp will also display a string of products that could include performance bikes, new scooters and clean-tech models such as electric hybrids. The company is desperate to increase its share in the burgeoning scooter segment where it has a share of 15 per cent while Honda has a lion’s share of 56 per cent.  

TVS Motors will showcase its first product born out of its partnership with German giant BMW whereas Japanese companies Yamaha and Suzuki will unveil new motorcycles and scooters. Mahindra will display an electric scooter, which is already on sale in the US.

In the light of increased awareness for clean air, especially in the national capital region, alternate fuel and low emission technology such as all-electric, hybrid, fuel cell and CNG/LPG will take centre stage across almost every stall of participating companies.

Toyota Kirloskar, Maruti, Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra, Ashok Leyland to name a few, will be showcasing not just hybrid and electric cars and SUVs but heavy duty buses and light trucks which also run on such clean fuel technology.  

With the rise in threats of terrorist attacks, the Auto Expo will have a three-layer security check. The first layer will largely comprise of traffic police while the state police on special duty will take care of the second layer. The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) would handle the security of the innermost area of the venue. X-ray baggage scanners, dog squads and woman constables would also be present.