Compact is the king of this Auto Expo

Automobile companies raced to garner eyeballs on Tuesday, before the 13th edition of the Auto Expo throws its doors open to media, by lifting the veil off some of the most anticipated cars and motorcycles of the year. Even though the Expo will see 80 launches across segments, the two much awaited compacts - Volkswagen's Ameo and Maruti Suzuki's Vitara Brezza - stepped on the gas on Tuesday to race ahead of others.

Affordable compacts are expected to be the central theme of this Auto Expo, with Hyundai, Maruti Suzuki and Volkswagen queuing up to lure Indian consumers. Korean car brand Hyundai is preparing to jump onto the compact sports utility vehicle (SUV) space even as rival Maruti Suzuki readies to unveil the sub-four metre SUV Vitara Brezza on Wednesday. Ahead of the launch of Brezza, Maruti released the compact SUV's first look on Twitter. The rush to launch compacts is not surprising, as these have driven 70 per cent of volumes over the last couple of years.

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Hyundai, however, has kept its compact SUV plans under wraps so far. The company has been silently working on its compact strategy and will showcase a concept car on Wednesday, on which it will base its sub-four metre SUV. Hyundai's compact SUV, which will compete with Maruti's Vitara Brezza, will hit the road by 2017.

WHAT TO EXPECT 80 product launches
  700,000 visitors in five-day gala
  Large number of compact SUVs, sedans
  Hybrid variants of existing and new models
  Clean technologies that would define future of mobility
  India's first lithium ion-battery operated electric scooter
  Mind-boggling superbikes and concept cars
  New luxury offerings from Mercedes Benz, Audi, Jaguar Land Rover and Ford
This launch will bridge the gap in Hyundai's product line-up in the SUV space, which also has Creta, Tucson and Santa Fe.

Besides Brezza, Hyundai's small SUV will compete with Ford EcoSport and Mahindra TUV300. The compact space is set to see a lot more action. Maruti's Vitara Brezza will be positioned below the S-Cross and will come with a 1.3 litre MJD diesel engine, also seen in Ciaz. The SUV has been positioned as a peppy city drive and will also escape the Supreme Court's ban in the National Capital Region. The SUV is expected to be priced Rs 7-10 lakh.

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Volkswagen also unveiled the Polo platform-based Ameo, a sub four meter sedan which will be launched in the second part of the year. The Ameo, which made its world premiere on Tuesday, has been designed and engineered for the Indian market and will be made at the Chakan plant in Maharasthra. The start to the VW proceedings was slightly unusual with the global head of sales and marketing apologising for the emission scandal. In India, it announced biggest recall till date of three major brands - VW, SkodaAuto and Audi.

Jurgen Stackmann, board member for sales and marketing Volkswagen Passenger Cars, said, "India ranks high on the agenda of the VW brand. I am fully aware that the most important task at this level is to solve the global emissions issue. Volkswagen made some big mistakes and I am truly sorry and I apologise to our valued customers, apologise to the valued authorities of this country and to our dealers. We are committed to making things right. We want to win back the trust of our customers."

Exterior design of the Ameo is identical to the Polo hatchback except for the added 330 litre boot space in the rear, created and designed by Indians with help from German engineers. The Ameo will be available with two fuel options - 1.2 litre 3 cylinder petrol engine and a 1.5 litre 4 cylinder diesel engine. All variants of Ameo will come equipped with dual front airbags and ABS. Stackmann also said that VW will soon start testing plug-in hybrid cars for the Indian market. In addition, three other launches will happen later this year, Passat, Polo GTI and Tiguan.

Ameo isn't the only product to be developed ground up for India. Iconic motorcycle brand Royal Enfield on Tuesday launched its on/off road motorcycle Himalayan. The much touted motorcycle boasts of a single cylinder air cooled 411cc engine with a five speed gearbox. The company which last came out with its Cafe Racer style motorcycle Continental GT said that the new bike has been developed in-house from ground up. "We wanted to ensure that the motorcycle has both on road and off road capabilities. To build a motorcycle that would hold its line in cross winds of Himalayas but also be nimble for off-roading," said Siddhartha Lal, managing director, Eicher Motors. The motorcycle has been tested thoroughly in varied conditions.

The announcement of the price tag of the motorcycle would be in March this year. According to industry insiders, the motorcycle would be priced around Rs 2 lakh without any accessories. The company would sell accessories such as saddlebags or luggage bags, jerry cans for liquids, specialised backpacks among other things required for touring separately.