Sucheta Dalal :This is the age of 'compact' vehicles
Sucheta Dalal

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This is the age of 'compact' vehicles  

October 30, 2009


When Tata announced the launch of their small, compact car 'Nano' priced at Rs1,00,000, many raised questions about the sustainability of such vehicles. Many were worried over Nano's small size and its capacity to carry a load of four fully grown people. Nano answered most of the criticism and now many companies are eying the 'compact' vehicle segment.

While Premier Ltd, the maker of the ubiquitous Mumbai taxi, is making a comeback of sorts again, with its compact sports utility vehicle (SUV) 'Rio', Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd (M&M), has launched a new compact truck 'Gio'.

Mumbai-based Premier has been absent from the passenger car segment after Fiat Uno and the failed collaboration with Peugeot in 2001. The company also tried to make a comeback in 2004 with a new diesel van called Sigma, loosely based on the Mitsubishi Varica from the 1980s.

At first glance, Premier's new offering Rio looks more like a small car, mostly Maruti Wagon R or Skoda Fabia on big wheels. But it can accommodate four adults. Rio is a re-incarnation of Daihatsu Terios mini-SUV of late 1990s vintage. China-based Zoyte Auto bought the rights of Daihatsu Terios and renamed it Zoyte Nomad. Premier, in a deal, will bring the entire vehicle, sans the drivetrain in India as completely knocked down units and after fitting its own, modified Peugeot TUD5 diesel engine, will sell it as Rio.

Rio is priced between Rs5,25,000 and Rs5,95,000 ex-showroom Pune and is available in three variants. Premier plans to produce 500 units of Rio per month till March 2010. But at the same price, you can get a better built, second hand Scorpio, so whether the reincarnation of Premier would be successful or not, only time will tell.

On the other hand M&M, India's largest utility vehicle maker has launched a new compact truck Gio. M&M said Gio is the country's first four-wheel 5 tonne compact truck priced at Rs1,65,000. Gio comes with a 9.1HP Kohler engine and the company claims it gives a mileage of 27km per litre.

"As city limits gradually expand and distribution needs increase, the Mahindra Gio presents a high earning potential for customers who will benefit from its high mileage, low maintenance cost, optimum utilisation of space and low acquisition cost,” said Dr Pawan Goenka, president, automotive sector, M&M, in a release.

Although both Rio and Gio are different from each other, their launch signals the coming of age for the 'compact' bug, originally started by Tata Nano.
-Yogesh Sapkale
[email protected]

-- Sucheta Dalal