The 5 big talking points at this year’s Auto Expo

For the domestic automotive industry staring at a second straight annual decline in sales, the Auto Expo could not have come at a more appropriate time. The impact of the sundry concepts and launches on actual revival in demand may yet be notional but for motoring enthusiasts and scribes like us it has given good fodder to chew upon.

Here are the five big talking points from the biennial extravaganza.

Semi automatic cars
The need for more automatic cars on the road in these times of congested city traffic doesnt need to be underlined. What was needed further was a viable affordable alternative. Hence, the launch of the Maruti Celerio deserves mention.

The auto gear shift version of the car that drives just like any automatic car sans some degree of refinement, is just Rs 40,000 expensive than the geared version. And there is no loss on fuel economy either. In effect, for the first time we have an automatic small car that can be had for less than Rs 5 lakh on road.

If you need more reasons why it is special..consider this. Others like Mahindra and Tata are also considering bringing this technology in their cars like Quanto, Zest and Nano respectively. I would assume there would be more companies that would join the queue should the Celerio bring in decent numbers to Maruti’s kitty.

Compact is the word
India is an overtly price sensitive market and manufacturers look at every possible trick in the book to make their products cheaper. Hacking a car’s length and bringing it below 4 metres may not be the easiest but the best legitimate way to do it.

Lower excise duties of 12% mean the cars can be cheaper by upto Rs 80,000. The Auto Expo saw new compact sedans in the Hyundai Xcent, Tata Zest and Ford Figo Concept. Sedans arent the only ones joining the party either. There were also crossovers like Fiat Avventura, Tata Nexion concept, Volkswagen Taigun concept, General Motors Adra concept and the cross Etios. In short, small was really big at the Motor Show.

The crowds at luxury car pavilions

You dont need a surveyor to tell you that all of the 5.61 lakh visitors at the motor may have missed some stalls but not Hall number 15 that housed the three German brothers–Mercedes, BMW and Audi.

To come to a motor show and not visit their cars would have been stupid anyway. Audi had the baby A3 sedan and also a gorgeous cabriolet version of that, Mercedes had its full line up and its two upcoming models–CLA AMG and GLA compact crossover and BMW, which is fast running out of new products in India had the showstopper i8–a hybrid sportscar with a fuel economy of a compact car and the price of a Bentley.

Audi's new entry-level sedan - Audi A3. (Agency Photo)

Audi's new entry-level sedan - Audi A3. (Agency Photo)

Adjacent to them was our own colonial cousin Jaguar Land Rover. They were a cynosure of all eyes as well with the CX 17 concept–Jaguar’s first crossover vehicle and the F type coupe. Luxury car sales maybe missing a turbocharger or two in India right now but the crowds that at various points of time gave headaches to the organisers would also have given the companies hope. Even if they cant own one of the cars, there is no harm in aspiring for them. And aspirations cost a truckload more than achievements.

Big bikes and small bikes
Perennially overshadowed by their four wheelers counterparts, in the last 3-4 years motorcycles have really come to the party. In 2010, it was Harley that made a big splash with its entry into the country at the Auto Expo.

Two years later it was the turn of its arch rival Triumph to do an encore. This year, all of them combined to gives us a stellar show. Harley shocked us all by pricing its Street 750 for as low as Rs 4.1 lakh. Some of us are already dreaming of what the even smaller Street 500 would cost when it is ready next year.

Harley Davidson's Street 750 – the cheapest Harley in town – will be launched at the Expo. (Agency Photo)

The commuter end manufacturers werent sitting idle either. Bajaj gave us the jaw dropping Pulsar 400. It made us feel proud as finally an Indian bike was giving its global counterparts a run for their money in design. Hero offered us world’s first diesel mobike as also its most powerful bike till date–the 620cc Hastur.

Three cheers for the organisers
There was skepticism abound on whether the show would be a success this year. The last two editions was marred by poor crowd control and absolute lack of management at the venue. This year, it found a new place 50 kilometers away from the hustle and bustle of Delhi. Some were anxious whether people would actually come this far.

Other doubted whether the management would still be as callous. Contrary to such apprehensions, the motor show went off spectacularly well. For a show that is still as big with over half a million in attendance, there was hardly a traffic jam or an untoward incident.

The venue remained neat and tidy throughout, the policemen were firm but polite, and the toilets weren’t jammed. Only the mobile networks were. For a change, it did feel like a motor show of global standards.

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