Big fight for small sedan: Tata Motors unveils Zest; Ford, Figo Concept

The Indian market is set to see a spate of launches in the sub-four-metre sedan segment over the next few months, with Tata Motors, Ford India and Hyundai Motor India Ltd (HMIL) unveiling entry-level products in the category in the run-up to International Auto Expo this week.

While Tata Motors introduced its new sub-four-metre sedan, Zest, powered by the company’s new Revotron gasoline engine, Ford India made the global premiere of sedan Figo Concept on Monday in New Delhi. Hyundai will unveil its compact sedan based on the Grand i10 platform on Tuesday.

Zest would hit the road in the second half of this year and would also be available in diesel versions. Ford declined to specify a launch date for the compact sedan but Ford India President Nigel Harris said, “It is close to production and would not take several years.”

Kumar Galhotra, vice-president, engineering, Ford Motor Company, said, “With the Figo Concept, we are showing that choosing a compact sedan does not mean compromising on premium design or smart solutions. The Figo Concept was envisioned with the Indian market in mind and created with global standards of design, quality and performance.”

The Figo Concept builds on the automaker’s compact car offerings in India. The company has already introduced a sub-four-metre SUV EcoSport last year, which has been a big success and currently has an order backlog of around 60,000 vehicles. Ford estimates compact car sales in India will double to two million vehicles annually over the next four years from about a million vehicles sold in the domestic market currently, and aims at consolidating its presence in the category with its latest offering the Figo Concept.

Tata Motors, on the other hand, is looking at rejuvenating its product portfolio with Zest by the second half of this year. Ranjit Yadav, president (passenger vehicles business), Tata Motors, said, “The car has been engineered for global markets, through global teams across India, the UK and Italy to set new standards in their respective segments. With this, the important part is that we would now be able to address petrol car market.”

Puneet Gupta, associate director, IHS Automotive India, said, “Excise duty on sub-four- metre vehicles at 12 per cent is less than half of that levied on larger vehicles (27 per cent). Manufacturers can reduce the length of the vehicle and introduce products at aggressive price points in the market. This has made such compact sedans an attractive proposition in India. The segment holds a lot of promise and all car makers be it Ford or Hyundai are exploring opportunities.”

Between April and December this year, as many as 169,724 entry-level sedans were sold in the country, which is an increase of around nine per cent over the 156,160 vehicles sold in the same period last financial year. Passenger vehicle sales fell six per cent in the period.

The growth in the entry-level sedan segment has largely been driven by the introduction of sub-four-metre sedans Amaze by Honda Cars India (launched in April 2013) and DZire by Maruti Suzuki. Honda has already clocked sales of 66,859 vehicles of the Amaze, which accounts for over 65 per cent of its overall volumes in the first 10 months of the financial year.

Maruti Suzuki has, in the meantime, sold 162,095 vehicles of the DZire, which is an increase of 23.6 per cent over the 131,177 sold in the same period last year.

Apart from the Zest, Tata Motors also showcased premium hatchback Bolt.  Both Zest and Bolt are based on the company’s enhanced X1 platform, on which the existing Vista and Manza models are built. The new models will co-exist with Indica and Indigo. Yadav said, “Both Indica and Indigo are very strong brands and will continue to sell in the market.”

Zest would be available in both petrol and diesel versions, while the Bolt will come only with petrol engine. The diesel variant of the Zest will come with F-Tronic 90 PS-powered engine.

 

Tata Motors has been struggling to arrest slide in its car sales amid a prolonged slowdown in the domestic market. The company’s volumes in the passenger vehicle segment have dropped by 37% t0 155,571 units till December this fiscal. The new models, introduced after a hiatus of three years, are expected to turnaround sales for Tata Motors by the latter half of this year.