Sucheta Dalal :Winners and losers from the 10th Auto Expo
Sucheta Dalal

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Winners and losers from the 10th Auto Expo  

January 15, 2010

The just concluded 10th edition of the Auto Expo in New Delhi witnessed the launch of more than 100 vehicles from global as well as domestic automakers, including 15 concept vehicles. Even the number of visitors, at about 1.2 million, surpassed all the previous editions of the Auto Expo.


Although there were launches in all categories like passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles (CVs) and two-wheelers, small car launches by global auto companies coupled with media hype turned out to be the main attraction of the show.


Global auto majors like Volkswagen (VW), Toyota and Honda entered the compact car segment in India. The small car category saw the unveiling of the VW Polo, Toyota Etios and the Honda small car. Most of the new launches are likely to be positioned in the premium range of the A2 segment, with reasonable levels of localisation initially—VW Polo at 50% and Toyota Etios at 65%-70%. Other models which will hit the market this year include the Ford Figo, GM Beat and the Nissan Micra.


"While most new launches would be pegged against the mid and premium end of Maruti's A2 segment product portfolio, ramp-up in Nano volumes from mid-CY10, and launch of the Nano diesel in CY11, could disrupt Maruti Alto's dominance in the lower A2 segment that has a current run-rate of about 18,000 units," said Ambit Capital Pvt Ltd in a research report.


Maruti Suzuki's show was limited to its Eeco, which is an upgraded variant of its Versa, and its multi-purpose vehicle (MPV), the R-III concept. Eeco, the low budget MPV, is priced at Rs2.59 lakh to Rs2.99 lakh and is capable of ruffling some feathers. On the other hand R3, the indigenously designed MPV, is an impressive vehicle considering that the company's engineers developed this concept vehicle in just nine months.


"Although we believe the new car launches would expand the existing compact car market, over the medium term, we believe Maruti Suzuki, which holds 57% of the domestic compact car share (YTD December 2009), would concede some share in the segment," said Ambit Capital.

In the CV space, incumbent Tata Motors Ltd and Hinduja group company Ashok Leyland Ltd displayed some high-powered vehicles or trucks. Tata Motors showcased their world truck range, Prima, that spans from 10 tonnes (T) to 75T, with greater than 49T used for off-road applications. The Tata group company is also planning to launch a 49T tractor trailer and 31T tipper in this calendar year.


Ashok Leyland displayed its U-truck platform that would have an option to use either the new Neptune series or older H series engines. The company is planning to launch vehicles based on the new platform from its Pantnagar facility and may adopt an aggressive pricing policy to leverage the tax benefits it gets from the facility.


The joint venture between India's largest utility vehicle maker Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) and Navistar of the US, Mahindra Navistar Automotive Ltd, displayed its range of trucks in the 25T and 31T segment. Mahindra Navistar is planning to launch two more trucks in the higher tonnage range during the current year. It is also planning to establish a distribution and service network along the golden quadrilateral, where 60%-65% of the freight movement takes place.

"We believe the new entrant (Mahindra Navistar) could become a formidable player in the next two to three years, considering its product strength (renowned MaxxForce engines), competitive pricing (BS-III range) and M&M's lineage," said the Ambit Capital report.

Tata Motors is giving nightmares to three-wheeler automakers, like Bajaj Auto and TVS Motors. Earlier, Tata Motors took away a major chunk from three-wheeler CVs with its mini truck, ACE and now the company is all set to launch a new vehicle in the passenger carrier segment. The company displayed its passenger carrier Magic Iris that is based on its ACE platform. Tata Motors plan to price the Magic Iris in the range of Rs125,000.


Ambit Capital, in the report said, “In our view, the commercial vehicle industry is set to adapt to the altering business models in the logistics industry. Implementation of GST is expected to promote the hub and spoke model. CV manufacturers are therefore focusing on introducing higher powered trucks, which would increase the frequency of trips. The LCV range is also witnessing increased segmentation across various payloads to cater to inter- and intra-city movement.”


In the two-wheeler category, there were no new launches at the Auto Expo this time. Automakers, however, displayed their recently launched bikes. TVS Motors, the third largest two-wheeler maker in the country, displayed its 110cc, clutch-less motorcycle Jive, while Honda Motors and Scooters India Ltd (HMSI) showcased its entry level 100cc bike, Twister. Both the bikes are priced between Rs41,000 to Rs42,000.


Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) Two Wheelers Ltd displayed its existing range of three power scooters in the 125cc category, mostly developed by Kinetic Motor Co Ltd, whose assets were bought over by M&M.


Integration issues with Kinetic having been over and done with, the company expects to achieve sales of 100,000 units in the next 18 months. In the forthcoming year, M&M Two Wheeler is planning to launch motorcycles across all product segments.


The gainers from this year's edition are from the passenger car segment, which is set to create waves over the next few years. And since two-wheeler makers could not offer much in the show, they remained at the bottom during the 10th edition of the Expo.

Yogesh Sapkale


-- Sucheta Dalal