Small Cars Are Taking off Again

Increased demand from booming rental services is reshaping the car sales scenario

The introduction of smaller cars in the Hyundai Santro and Maruti Eeco/Omni size range, coupled with app-based taxi services which offer fares lower than auto-rickshaws, has transformed the public transport scenario in Delhi and the National Capital Region. How this will impact the sales of new cars is yet to be seen; but friends in the dealership trade are expecting a shakeout and change in the business model, where fewer outlets in prime areas are anticipated.

One of Delhi’s oldest car dealership showrooms, British Motor Car Company in Connaught Place, appears to be re-inventing itself as a mall of sorts.

Likewise, many car dealerships and automobile garages in the Scindia House complex, that occupies much of the space between Connaught Place, Janpath and Kasturba Gandhi Marg, are rapidly giving way to other businesses. Even the Delhi Transport Corporation office at Scindia House has been pushed back into a by-lane and can just about be reached by foot now.
There is certainly a big change in the offing, with the way automobiles, especially cars and two-wheelers, will be sold. Expect many of these changes to creep in with the huge volumes of 2014 manufactured cars and bikes lying unsold as we move into the new year—2015. Barring a couple of models that have a waiting list, the rest will, eventually, need to be sold cheap and probably not through dealerships, as we know them.
A Simpler Babudom
The cars which have a genuine waiting list largely include the sub-four-metre sedans like the Maruti D’Zire, Tata Zest and Hyundai XCent. One reason for this is the increased demand from government buyers, with the new rule that the total cost of a new replacement car should not exceed Rs4.75 lakh and fuel consumption per month should be within 200 litres. This also applies to cars that are rented for official purposes.
A friend of mine who is secretary to the Central government, was spotted in a Maruti D’Zire, a few days ago, considering that it does not get higher than that in the IAS, I hope the message—that large cars are little more than vanity—filters down to the rest of us car-buyers too.
A Checklist for Car Servicing
With service intervals for cars now reaching 15,000 kilometres or a year, some simple maintenance chores have to be performed by owners without waiting for the service, even if it means heading for a workshop. Here’s a shortlist:
Get the air filter or filters cleaned at least every four months. Dust is no longer the only culprit; simple air pollution and smog is playing havoc with air filters in many Indian cities. Many car-owners cannot do this on their own. I write on automobiles, but hesitate to mess up the air filter in our new car, because I simply do not have the correct tools. And blowing a pressure hose through the filter can ruin the filter!
Check the engine oil levels. While modern cars and engines do not lose engine oil like older cars and engines would, trouble is that stop-go driving as well as the over-use of air-conditioners, at low engine speeds, is also playing havoc with engine oil consumption.
Tyre rotation is another problem. Typically, I would like to see tyre positions rotated every 5,000km at least; but, if that is not possible, they should be inter-changed at least once between services.
Finally, blow through or clean-out air-conditioner units. Again, don’t wait till the annual service for this; since, along with the others, this impacts fuel consumption too.
(Veeresh Malik started and sold a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing. He is also involved in helping small and midsize family-run businesses re-invent themselves.)
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