Auto Expo 2018
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
Editor Garipoint
Auto Expo 2018 India highlights: From EVs, concepts, hybrids.
India’s largest motor show, the Auto Expo 2018. With close to 40 exhibitors, this year’s Expo promises something for everyone - from hardcore auto enthusiasts to severe car buyers. This is the event where attendees get a chance to get up close and personal with new and upcoming cars, bikes, scooters, trucks, buses, electric vehicles (EVs) and radical concepts that present a peek into the future.

Motown India's biggest event is on. The 14th edition of the Auto Expo, held in Greater Noida every two years, wraps up on February 14. The statistics look good. Spread over 58 acres, the expo has had 53 automobile companies unveiling 10 concepts and launching 22 new models. But figures tell only part of the story. Beyond the visible vroom and the oomph, once you speak to executives, the worry is palpable.

Auto Expo has evolved over the years from providing a platform for auto ventures to a more focused and modern Motor Show of India. This platform is being used by a variety of auto brands for their new product promotion and corporate image development by exhibitors. Since years, Auto Expo has always witnessed large footfall visiting the show and has emerged as one of the biggest motor show of the world. Auto Expo attracts presence of all the automobile players from over 30 countries including China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, South Africa, Singapore, Sweden, U.K., U.S.A. etc.

The auto industry is at a crossroads — and is overwhelmed with confusion and uncertainty. Policy disruptions have been in large quantities. The leapfrog to Euro VI emission norms has been tough. The industry, with its century-old focus on ICE (internal combustion engine), is feeling the heat with the government's big push for electric vehicles (EV). Inequitable industry growth has amplified the pain.

This year's Auto Expo holds a mirror to these realities. The number of dropouts has surged. Over a dozen companies, counting the Volkswagen Group, Ford Motor and Nissan, have given it a miss. Many have cited poor return on investment as the reason. With an accent on concepts, the number of models unveiled has been fewer compared with previous years. Over 11 startups — many of them EV-focused — have, meanwhile, rushed to participate. More than anything, Auto Expo reveals numerous transitions in the Rs 4.5 Lakh Crore industries.

Constant Leader
A lot has changed in India's Motor sector over the last three decades. Sales have increased multiple times. Decks have shuffled. Policy norms — from emissions to safety — have been overhauled. Many companies (think General Motors) have come and gone. Some came with a big bang, riding aggressive ambitions (think Volkswagen), but have had a muted existence. But over all these years, one thing didn't change. The leader has been constant — Maruti Suzuki launched the all-new Swift.

M&M's E-Wave
Mahindra & Mahindra's pavilion was predictably buzzing in the show. The Electronic technology wave helps India's SUV king (and the third largest passenger vehicle seller) strengthens its grip on the country's roads. M&M, which acquired Reva Electric in 2010, has the first mover advantage in EV space. The company showed off a bevy of interesting products — its convertible SUV called TUV Stinger, G4 Rexton, and India’s first e-SUV called e-KUV100. There were other EV concepts like UDO, Atom, Treo and an e-bus e-Cosmo.

M&M boss Anand Mahindra drew parallels between today and the early 1990s. In the first flush of liberalization, as MNCs like Ford, Honda and Toyota rushed to India, homegrown car companies like M&M, Hindustan Motors, Premier Automobiles Ltd felt the heat. Some survived. "We were at a crossroads then. We are at a crossroads again. But of a different kind," Mahindra said. At that time, it was all about how to build good products and technology.

Today it is about how we can redefine our existence"

Late & Latest
Kia Motors is a late entrant in India, which has over 20 carmakers jostling for space. At the Auto Expo, Kia made up for good gathering around. In a huge, jazzed-up pavilion it showcased 16 models, including Kia SP Concept, a compact SUV it is readying for an Indian debut.

"Der aaye par durrust aaye (We have come late but we have come stronger)," says HW Park, Global CEO of Kia Motors. It is the world's eighth largest carmaker, selling over 2.8 million vehicles in 180 countries, which is targeting millennial and targeting over is investing over 1.1 billion $ is investing to setup a plant in Andhra Pradesh. It hopes for an India debut in 2019 with big pipeline for EVs by 2025.

Wheels are turning 
Tata Motors' pavilion bore witness to the changes a foot at its headquarters. In 2014, Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry had marked their joint presence even as Narain Karthikeyan and Priyanka Chopra added glamour to the JLR pavilion. In 2016, Mistry alone held fort (he was sacked later that year as Tata Group chairman), with Jaguar Land Rover ( JLR) models being the star attraction and Katrina Kaif holding the crowd's gaze.

This year, the new Tata Group chairman the fuss-free N Chandrasekaran, took the stage. While Akshay Kumar infused some Bollywood glitz, JLR dropped out.

The Conflict Within
India's Motown is a fractious place these days. There are divergences on policy. Just before the Auto Expo, Tata Motors' MD Guenter Butschek wrote about the need for a level playing field for homegrown companies. "Some of our (foreign) competitors have a much easier game. They have the solution already (referring to Euro VI norms). So for them it was more a question of customization," he wrote.

There is now an active hybrid lobby, led by Toyota Kirloskar, demanding tax concessions. A slew of EV makers have formed a new lobby group called the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV.

Innovations Every Year
In comparison to Auto Expo 2016, this year saw the number of EVs surge 10-fold to over 50 electric and hybrid vehicles as car makers drew up plans for electrification of their fresh line-up of products. Alongside, there were lot of concepts on offer from the 22 exhibitors who unveiled 65 products with 14 fresh launches on day one, most of which were about two or three years away from making their way on to the road.

The Auto Expo 2018 kicked off on Wednesday with car makers and commercial vehicle manufacturers unveiling a slew of electric and hybrid vehicles, in line with the government’s aggressive target to electrify all new vehicles by 2030. The thrust on electric vehicles was a unifying theme across the lineups of vehicle makers that were on display.

Auto Expo 2018 was all about startups, electronic vehicle players and new firms entering India who showcased a range of products from scooters to bikes to cars. About 12 startups have participated in the 14th edition of Auto Expo, with an aim to be a part of India’s story of transition from internal combustion engines to electric mobility. Big news was the much-awaited launch of the all-new Maruti Suzuki Swift. It was launched at an introductory price ranging between Rs 4.99 Lakh to Rs 8.29 Lakh (ex-showroom Delhi).

Maruti Suzuki India unveiled its electric concept compact SUV ‘e-SURVIVOR’ and said products alone will not be enough to realize India’s grand vision of bringing down emissions considerably, reduce dependence on imported fuel, and secure a leadership position on clean technology . Speaking at the Auto Expo 2018, MSI MD and CEO Kenichi Ayukawa said while unveiling the Concept e-SURVIVOR, “India will need a comprehensive ecosystem that supports cleaner technologies, including electric vehicles.”

Maruti Suzuki India also made the global unveiling of its concept compact car with “SUV like characters” named Concept Future S. The car is an exclusively styled compact car with distinct SUV like characters and will characterize the next generation of design for compact vehicles in India, the company said.

Ayukawa said, “Compact is the natural choice of India’s car customers. Compact needs a fresh design language, one that is bold, confident and dynamic. Our designers have created this brand new design, aggressive on the outside, and bold and inviting interiors.”

Toyota Motor revealed Yaris sedan, marking its entry into the mid-sized premium car segment in the country. The company said it will launch the sedan by April this year. The vehicle would compete with the likes of Honda City, Maruti Suzuki Ciaz and Hyundai Verna in the Indian market.The vehicle comes with a 1.5-litre petrol engine and various features such as 7 airbags, roof-mounted air vents and all-wheel disc brakes. The bookings for the model open from April, the company said.

French automaker Renault showcased its electric concept cars TREZOR and ZOE e-Sport at the Auto Expo 2018 and said it is awaiting a clear policy and roadmap on infrastructure for electric vehicles to take a long-term strategic decision. The company also showcased its Formula One car R.S. 17, the first car put together from scratch by the Renault Sport Formula One Team, Renault India said.

Japanese auto maker Honda also displayed its NeuVConcept and Sports EV concept but said it will wait for precision in policy for EVs in India before firming up any definite plans for the segment. “In order to stitch up a strategy (for EV segment) we are requesting to have a road map regarding plans of charging stations. Without a clear policy it will be difficult to select models,” Honda Cars India Ltd (HCIL) President and CEO Yoichiro Ueno told reporters here.

Cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar launched BMW’s 6 Series Gran Turismo Sports Line that will be priced at Rs 58.90 Lakh (ex-showroom). The diesel version of the vehicle will be launched in the second half of the year.

French automaker Renault also displayed its range of Kwid Super Hero Edition. Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra unveiled six new electric concept vehicles and models as it showcased its strategy to outline the ‘Future of Mobility’ at the Auto Expo.

The company’s products on display in the EV segment consist of UDO, a concept two-seater electric mobility pod; ATOM, a last mile urban mobility concept vehicle and a lithium ion battery-powered three-wheeler, Treo along with e-KUV100, an electric version of its compact vehicle KUV100.

German automaker Mercedes Benz also exhibited the Concept EQ, an electric vehicle with the appearance of a sporty SUV. It gives a preview of a new generation of vehicles with battery electric drives, the company said. It will have a powerful electric drive of 300kw total output with a range of up to 500 km along with driver assistance systems for utmost safety.

South Korean automaker Hyundai launched a new version of its premium compact hatchback Elite i20 priced between Rs 5.34 Lakh and Rs 9.15 Lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). The company, which operates here through its wholly-owned arm Hyundai Motor India Ltd (HMIL), also unveiled its global electric vehicle Ioniq. The petrol versions of the car are priced between Rs 5.34 Lakh and Rs 7.9 Lakh while the diesel trims are tagged between Rs 6.73 Lakh and Rs 9.15 Lakh.

Maruti Suzuki India (MSI), country’s largest carmaker, launched the all-new version of its most-awaited popular hatchback Swift at an introductory price ranging between Rs 4.99 Lakh to Rs 8.29 Lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). The new Maruti Suzuki Swift is wider and has a longer wheel-base. It comes with additional cabin space, headroom and luggage space than the outgoing Swift. According to the company, the next generation Swift is 40 mm wider with 20 mm longer wheel-base getting DRLS.

The DC sports car at the Auto Expo
In the passenger vehicles (PV) segment as part of the two-architecture strategy, Tata Motors made the global unveiling of the ‘H5Xconcept’ from the ‘Optimal Modular Efficient Global Advanced’ Architecture – the 5-seater luxury SUV. It also showcased the ’45X concept’ – the premium hatchback based on the versatile ‘Agile Light Flexible Advanced’ Architecture. Speaking at the event, Tata Group Chairman N Chandrasekaran said Tata Motors is committed to the future of mobility, especially vision in the electric vehicle space.

Tata Motors made the global unveiling of the ‘H5Xconcept’ from the ‘Optimal Modular Efficient Global Advanced’ Architecture – the 5-seater luxury SUV. The company also showcased its E-Class All-Terrain sedan at the Auto Expo here.

Japanese auto major Honda released three new products, including the all new Amaze, which will hit the market during the upcoming time. While Amaze will build up Honda’s presence in sedan segment, all-new CR-V and comeback of Civic will help the company make its presence in the premium segment.

Organizers of AUTO EXPO 2018: ACMA CII SIAM OICA