Manufacturers can't afford to skip the Expo

A decade earlier, when the Indian auto market was stagnant and there were not many new models to talk about, there were years when even Maruti Udyog, the market-leader, gave the Delhi Auto Expo a miss. Few manufacturers can afford to do so today.

R C Bhargava, chairman of Maruti Suzuki, said the growth of the Indian car market (close to two million cars are sold every year; growing by 240,000 annually), there’s a great deal of interest among makers to showcase their products. Nearly 1.5 million people are expected to visit the Auto Expo, starting Tuesday. Earlier, only those who visited the expo were able to see the exhibits. Today, thanks to television coverage and media hype, it has a huge multiplier effect, says an auto-parts maker.

“It’s a great forum for brand-building, to showcase new products, create awareness and excitement,” says Bhargava. Car makers also use it to exhibit new concepts and seek consumer feedback. Tata Motors used interactive screens to seek consumer feedback on the Nano, which was launched at the last Auto Expo, in 2008. This year, Honda and Toyota will display their concept cars and hybrid cars.

“If you look at the quality of presentation at the show, it is world class. It has graduated from a sombre, mundane show to an international fair which offers a complete package of components, accessories, vehicles, technical seminars, workshops on trade-related issues and meetings. People come to see, buy, sell and strike alliances. It is a serious place to do business,’’ said Ashok Taneja, President, Shriram Pistons.

It’s both a B2C (business to consumer) and a B2B (business to business) event. Part-makers use it to strike new relationships (with vehicle makers, international companies looking to enter India, and the after-market), said Vishnu Mathur, executive director, Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India. “There are fleet owners, freight operators and state transport undertakings, who are big buyers of components and come looking for suppliers.”

Vehicle makers are always looking to increase the local content in their cars, while there are new manufactures, like Volkswagen, who are trying to develop a supply chain. The auto show provides an opportunity for part-makers to find new customers and vehicle makers to identify new suppliers. Part-makers also use the event to reach out to the after-sales market, authorised services centres, mechanics and garages.

The Indian market has changed and acquired scale, which is generating international interest. “Twenty years back, people were willing to buy only a low-priced car, and were not willing to pay for air-conditioning, stereo. Today, people are not willing to buy a car without an AC and stereo,” said Mathur. Only, given the rising congestion on roads in urban India, manufacturers will be worried if people can keep buying cars forever.