Every second buyer of a car in India today uses social media–facebook, twitter, official webpages, online portals or the good old google–to research vehicles. So what goes online has a big influence on the final decision. To have a robust presence on the internet then, is perhaps as important today as being visible in the dealerships. Read more
The government’s decision on Monday to reduce excise duties on cars, SUVs and MPVs across the board was so unprecedented that it has created a peculiar problem for the industry.
While the reduction in taxes was much needed and the industry had been lobbying hard for it over the last 6 months, the inventories piled up at with the dealers that were charged at the higher rate of duty is a headache for the manufacturers. And as the sales have been underwhelming over the last 7-8 months, unsold stocks are high both with the dealers as well as the companies’ own supply chain.
On an average, any car maker carries with itself an inventory of 2 weeks and in an ideal situation–10 days. But estimates suggest that currently the inventory level is at least 6 weeks and in some cases stretches to over 10 weeks. In effect, there are some companies where stocks dating back to 2013 are still unsold with the dealer.
On any given day, these cars are a problem and could be very difficult to liquidate. And in cases like this one, when taxes go down, it assumes significant financial implications. While the company and the dealer has paid a higher duty for the car as excise duty is charged at the factory gate, when it actually gets to the intended customer for delivery, the prices would change and customer would be obliged to pay the lower value. It is a situation that results in a windfall when excise duties go up but it turns into a loss to be absorbed when they go down.
Considering that around 150,000 cars are stuck as inventory across the country and the average ex-factory sticker price of a car is Rs 6 lakh (mind you it would include the marquee super cars as well), the entire industry is sitting at a potential loss of Rs 360 crore. This amount would either have to be absorbed by manufacturers entirely on their own, or in conjunction with their dealers. Or, some manufacturers could be inclined to pass on only part of the excise duty reduction to the consumers to account for the loss in inventory.
The peculiar problem is the reason most of the companies have gone into a huddle and were not able to decide by how much prices ought to be reduced. As a car buyer, if you were waiting for the budget you may now laugh your way to the bank at the expense of your manufacturer.
With an estimated 70 new models and concept cars set to be unveiled – 15 of them for the first time globally – this year’s Auto Expo, which opens to public on February 7, couldn’t have come at a better time for the Indian auto industry. Read more
In the last 18 months, Osamu Suzuki, the chairman of Suzuki Motor Corporation that owns India’s largest car maker Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, has been a regular visitor to India. He makes it a point to attend almost all of company’s board meetings (around 6 every year), and is a routine visitor to the firm’s Annual General shareholder’s Meeting generally held in September. Read more
All the major car of the year awards for the year that has gone by have been divided between the Ford EcoSport and Grand i10. But who gets the coveted title of being the worst to hit the roads.
Between the four nominations for that title, it has been a sort of a photo finish this year. But lets start from the bottom. The candidate that is most undeserving of this crown is the Volkswagen Cross Polo. It received just 8 vote and though I put that name up among nominees, I would have myself been disappointed had it not been the fourth in the list.
Next in the line is the Mahindra Verito Vibe. Some existing owners of the car actually wrote stinkers for the blog post. Overall it received 22 votes and though I remain unconvinced about its strengths, perhaps it is not as bad as I had initially thought.
The top two obviously are the Chevrolet Enjoy and Maruti StingRay. And the Chevy beats the Maruti to the pole position by a margin of just 9 votes. There is little room to defend a vehicle like Enjoy. It is boxy, dated and lacks the quality levels one expects from a company like General Motors.
Like I had wished the last time, I sincerely hope there will not be a need for a blog like this in the new year. For now, congratulations to Chevy for making a car that benefits nobody in India. Not even themselves.
Its a three way fight between Honda Amaze, Ford EcoSport and Hyundai Grand i10 for the best car of 2013. There are juries dime a dozen to decide that. I wont join that league. What I would rather look at is the worst of the lot. Like I have done in the last 2 years.
Nobody talks about it, writes about it, thinks about it. But surely, in the dead heap of two dozen cars–big and small–launched in 2013, there are a few that are not worth the effort. And why do we need to look at them? Besides filling up space and giving you something to read about, to those unfortunate ones who do land up here, it will perhaps show some humble car manufacturer what kind of cars ought be made or launched in India.
What is heartening this year that except maybe a couple there werent any new cars that were specifically bad. Which goes to show that there is something that the manufacturers are doing right.
There are two ways to decide the nominees. One, based on where the product is at fault either in yours truly’s humble standards or when compared to those in its segment. The other is when despite being a good car, factors like price or cost of service and spares have relegated it to the margins.
Like in the past, those that figure in this list are not bad cars per se. They are only not as good as the others. With the disclaimer taken care of, lets get down to the business.
Its a little hard to imagine that a Volkswagen would ever make it to such a list. But that is exactly what I meant when i said there werent many outrightly ludicrous cars launched this year. The Cross finds itself here because it does not, bar some tacky cladding, offer anything beyond the existing Polo.
In Europe, this version comes with a higher ground clearance that gives it better versatality. We would have loved to have it here. Instead we are charged more for changes that are neither classy nor necessary. This is a result of a company trying to conceal an obvious dry product pipeline. We would have been better off without the Cross.
General Motors would want to forget 2013 in a hurry and that is not because its car features in this list. (I dont even think they care). They had two launches this year–Enjoy and Sail sedan– both have Chinese origins and both have their own set of problems.
But while the space and practicality saves the sedan, it could not rescue the Enjoy. Suspect build quality, tacky interiors, underpowered engines and lack of refinement are its myraid problems. And GM’s mess with the Tavera was so big that Enjoy could not even get a decent marketing push. This one, is a disaster and one of the prime contenders for the crown.
Like VW, another surprise here. A Maruti actually makes it to the list. And the fact that this was the sole launch from the company in 2013, proves what an underwhelming product it is. Basically a souped up version of the boxy Wagon R, the Stirngray does not bring anything new to the table.
And it is a mighty disappointment because there was so much that could have been done with the car. The projector headlamps and chrome garnish on the grille only makes it look even more ungainly. And uncool. And the tagline — my thing, everything–does not help either. The sting is clearly missing here.
Mahindra Verito Vibe
Such a list is not complete without the customary entry from either a Tata or a Mahindra. This year the toss up was between the Indica Vista D90 and the Vibe. The latter makes it for the loss of opportunity.
Given that Mahindra’s hands were tied due to its estranged partnership with Renault, the Vibe isn’t a bad product. Whats got my goat was the ridiculous boot lid.
Neither a proper small car nor a sedan, a notchback design would have done a world of good to the car. Instead it falls in the no man’s land.
I am still confused what to call it…a compact sedan or a hatchback, because it is none. Perhaps the market is as confused for only that can explain the lack of takers.
Rave and rant, post comments, fight, jostle….you are most welcome. Or abuse me at email@example.com. Want something else, vote on and let us boot one of these out. Let the mud slinging begin.
This year has been rather unforgettable for most in the domestic automobile industry. Sales have been sluggish, sentiment has been low, excitement lower and footfalls at showrooms the lowest. Read more
For a market that is one of the largest and fastest growing in the world, the performance of European car makers in India has been appalling. Read more
The Amaze maybe the best thing to have happened to Honda in the last 5 years and in the coming years there would be other more significant products to hit the roads but the City will always hold an important emotional position. Almost like first love. Read more
1100 kilometres of asphalt – some welcoming, others not so forgiving – across three states, four cars, two scheduled night halts reduced to one and nearly 30 hours of relentless driving. In short, a perfect test for a car that is emerging as the winner of 2013.
The best way to really get under the skin of a car, unearth its hidden vices and put to test its obvious virtues is a road trip. One that is exhaustive on the human body as also the machine and which offers a variety of terrain – from carpeted tarmac to craters on the moon.
Along with six other motor heads, we decided to submit the Honda Amaze through the gas chamber. Why the Amaze? Because it is a Honda, a company that never tires itself of proclaiming its credentials as a quality car manufacturer. Also, because Amaze has its first diesel engine, something that is not quite its forte.
Driving on the usual western ghat sections between Delhi and Goa, or the boring stretches up north around Delhi or even the narrow roads in the South was a passé. Everybody has done that numerous times over. We decided to head to the East and experience some sections where we thought we will find roads untouched by modernity.
After a night’s stay at Vizag, the second largest city in Andhra Pradesh and one that has India’s oldest ship yard, we headed out northwards early morning towards Puri, the best known beach destination on the Eastern Coast. A journey of nearly 500 kilometres running parallel to the coast, it ordinarily takes 7 hours to get there. There were an awful lot of surprises though.
For one, getting out of Vizag was a painful exercise that cost us a good hour and a half. On leaving the city, the highway opens up and you get some of the cleanest stretches of road you can get in India. Which exposed almost entirely, the one big problem that the Amaze has… noise.
With endless stretches of glitch free road ahead of us, we throttled the vehicle mercilessly. At various points of time, all four cars were going bumper to bumper at speeds touching 140kmph, the maximum that Honda allows the Amaze to run. One wonders why a car that has a 1.5 litre engine underneath its hood and 100 horses pushing it ahead should have a top speed that is so low. The answer lies ahead.
Every time, the accelerator was floored, the engine noise seeped into the cabin. No amount of careful or careless wheeling around changed that opinion.
Judgment One: This car is indeed noisy.
But at the same time, the stability at high speeds and the confidence that it inspires there is unmatched. Which is why we could go bumper to bumper without a care in the world.
We also realised how deserted the NH5 or as the navigation device would constantly say, the Asian Highway 45, really is. For miles on end at least inside Andhra Pradesh there are no good eateries to be found. An indication of how rarely people travel on these roads.
And there are speed breakers too the kinds one would find only in this part of the country. Willy nilly in the middle of nowhere and in traffic so sparse, you would encounter a jam. A jam that would clear out just as inconspicuously. After encountering such mysteries that may cost you between 15 to an hour of your life’s precious time, a couple of times we finally realised the cause. Whenever political parties need to honour or felicitate somebody in small villages or hamlets in Andhra Pradesh, they encroach the highway, set up chairs, pull up banners and carry on with their festivities. After a good show, the gathering disperses matter of factly in double quick time. As if the traffic chaos around, does not matter at all.
The surroundings change somewhat the moment you enter Odisha. There is more traffic on the road and there are quite a few eateries for the starving. The best part of that is all of them serve and cook very good fish and mutton. The chicken is untrustworthy though as one of the members in our gang realised.
The road stays more or less as faultless. Even though we had heard there were a few stretches in Odisha where work on the Golden Quadrilateral was incomplete, we never encountered any such patch. The most exciting section is when you hit Chilka Lake before turning right for Puri. As the world’s largest fresh water lake, it is a sight not to be missed. Too bad we reached while the sun was setting which restricted the time we could spend there.
Heading out of Chilka, we committed hara kiri. Instead of following NH5 and taking a longer detour via Pipli, we followed the navigation map that gave us the shortest route. Only, that it wasn’t quite the shortest in the real world. Turning right from Bagheiput towards Nua Jagannath Sadak we immediately felt like we had reached moon. The road deteriorated with every passing kilometer to the point that maintaining a speed of even 15kmph was a task.
However, it was a test of the vehicle in conditions that can be found only in India. Through the large craters and over the nonexistent roads, only sporadically did we scrape the floor of the vehicle. And even at the end of the 2 hour ordeal, only the drivers were more relieved. The car remained unfazed.
Judgment Two: The suspension of the car has been well and truly tuned for Indian road conditions.
Whatever little time we had to rest our battered bones after 9 hours of driving on day 1, we had to be ready to resume our journey in the morning the next day. Our destination this time was to head to Digha, a fast emerging coastal weekend destination just across the Bengal border.
The distance was a mere 350 kilometers but it was a dark continent for us as we had no prior information on what road conditions await us. To make matters worse, half of the group wanted to visit the Sun temple, which meant a detour of around 70 kilometers. Coming so close to the world heritage site, there was no way we could have given that a miss.
The road from Puri to Konark and then onwards to Cuttack was the most challenging of the whole trip. We had to leave the national highway after just a few kilometeres and let the two lane state highway assault us. The road was narrow with the oncoming traffic on your face but it was very well paved and allowed us to maintain a pretty high speed. It was surprising because nobody had expected such well made state highways in a state that is one of the poorest in the country.
After a brief stop and a hearty meal at Konark we headed towards Cuttack, the second largest city in Odisha. It took us almost the entire day to get there and while we were lucky to bypass Bhubaneshwar, Cuttack was unforgiving. We got stuck for another two hours meddling with the chaotic stop go traffic of the city. As always, the car did not flinch.
On the outskirts of Cuttack, we had to stop for our first refuelling. We had done nearly 665 kilometers in one full tank of 35 litres. Considering the conditions and when the air conditioning was working full time, we got an astounding mileage of 19kmpl. And that is the reason why the top speed of the car is not 170 or 180 kmph though I would presume it is more than capable of it. Higher speed is directly proportional to lower fuel economy. Where would you drive faster than 140 kmph anyway?
Judgment Three: The Amaze diesel gives you an economy that is as good as you can get. Driven sensibly, 20 plus is a given.
By the time we left Cuttack behind, it was early evening and with over 200 kilometers still to go, we were destined to spend the night driving. The road though was kind on us and thin traffic ensured that we were cruising along. We reached Balasore in a jiffy and with the clock striking 10, we stopped over for dinner and a grand idea emerged – of subjecting the car to the extreme test and driving through the night directly to the City of Joy. That meant another 250 kilometers and 5 hours of driving.
With a full stomach and the lure of Kolkata, we took the plunge. What followed was a race with just one pit stop at Kharagpur. We were hell bent to test both our capabilities as driver and the durability of the vehicle. By the time we reached Kolkata it was 4:30 in the morning. The car had been on the road nonstop for over 19 hours. And it never did give us a problem. Not even a niggle.
Distance: 1153 kilometers
Fuel consumed: 64 litres
Fuel economy: 18.01 kmpl
Top speed: 143 kmph
Engine : 1.5 litre IDtec diesel
Max power: 100 PS@3600 rpm
Max torque: 200 NM@1750 rpm
Verdict : Honda passes the diesel test.