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With a little over 5.26-L visitors, Auto Expo fails to pull crowds

India's biggest auto extravaganza, the Auto Expo, which had attracted dozens of companies, came to a close on Tuesday, but not without concerns being raised over its declining popularity. 

The week-long biennial event, promoted by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), has largely been dubbed as a non-event this time with just 5,26,914 general visitors. The number was well short of expectations of the organisers, making it one of the worst in over two decades. In December, the automobile lobby body had stated that it was expecting a rise of at least 7% in general visitors, which would, in absolute terms, be more than 6,00,000.

According to the numbers disclosed by SIAM, 75,000 people, including journalists, visited the event in the first two days. The first day was exclusively reserved for media, while the second day was opened up for organisers and exhibitors. 

There has been a steady decline in the number of visitors to the event. During its peak, the event had clocked a million visitors. In 2014, the event witnessed 5.6 lakh visitors — well below the 7.5 lakh visitors to have thronged the event in 2012. 

This is despite the fact that the number of launches or unveilings have only increased during the years. In this year’s edition, as many as 108 new products were either unveiled or launched by 65 manufacturers across two and three-wheelers, car and sports utility vehicle (SUV) makers and commercial vehicle makers. 

In comparison, only 69 launches and unveilings had taken place in 2014 by 53 manufacturers, while 2012 had witnessed 47 launches and unveilings, according to SIAM. The Auto Expo was moved out of Delhi and in to Greater Noida, about 50kms away, to add more space and accommodate more companies.

However, at least half a dozen companies, including Bajaj Auto, Harley-Davidson, Royal Enfield to name a few chose to stay out of the event this year citing reasons like high costs among others. A Religare Capital note on the expo termed the event as a no-show as far as the two-wheeler companies were concerned. 

With the exception of Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI), the third largest two-wheeler manufacturer, no other two-wheeler company was able to raise excitement levels amongst the visitors. HMSI showcased and launched a new concept called Navi, an automatic gear motorcycle, which is inspired by the conveniences offered by a scooter. 

No mass-producing passenger car brand, with the exception of Fiat, commercially launched its product at the expo this time. Maruti Suzuki, General Motors, Hyundai, Tata Motors, Honda, Toyota Kirloskar, Renault, Datsun to name a few, only unveiled their products. 

Amongst them only the Vitara Brezza from Maruti Suzuki, the sub-four metre compact SUV, raised interest amongst visitors even as one of world’s biggest automakers General Motors announced their entry into this space with the unveiling of the Essentia, a compact sedan rivalling Maruti Suzuki Dzire.       

Wilfried Aulbur, Managing Parter, Roland Berger India said, “It was a good auto expo at a standard, which is adequate though it is dramatically better than earlier years. Yes, there were no major cars launches that stole show. But there were some interesting concepts for alternative fuel showcased by Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland and JBM which showcased and electric bus. It was interesting to see the focus was shifting to zero emission technology.”