Macho wheels will take centre-stage at the upcoming Auto Expo as SUVs are set to emerge as the watch-outs at the week-long automobile extravaganza that kicks off on January 5. On display will be a host of new SUVs that are set for a run on Indian roads even while some of the existing ones get upgrades.
The SUVs that will be unveiled include Audi’s Q3 mini, Ford’s Eco Sport, Renault’s Duster, Tata’s new Safari (codenamed Merlin), Mercedes’ new M-Class and the Rexton and Korando from Mahindra-owned Korean-maker Ssangyong. Apart from these, there will be upgrades to some of the existing models including the Toyota Fortuner, Chevrolet Captiva and Force Motors’ Force One.
So what is the reason that SUVs have emerged as the focus segment at the Delhi expo. The SUV segment has witnessed fantastic growth rate in India over the last few years and holds the maximum potential in terms of demand.
Better road connectivity between cities has been among the reasons fuelling the growth. “Also, people want bigger cars as they travel from one city to the other with families,” says Debasish Mitra, director (sales & marketing) at Mercedes Benz India.
And the expo is sure to spoil them for choice. While Ford is still not forthcoming to reveal details about the Eco Sport, the mini 5-seater SUV is expected to be based around its Fiesta sedan. On the other hand, Renault will bank a lot on the Duster which will be manufactured at its Chennai plant. The vehicle is expected to be priced aggressively, around Rs 8 lakh if initial estimates are to be believed, and the company will hope to make some real inroads into the Indian market. The Merlin is also an eagerly-awaited vehicle from the Tata stable, and will offer refinement over the Safari.
But one of the game-changer will be the Q3 mini SUV from Audi, a model that will compete with BMW’s entry-level hot-seller X1 which costs Rs 22.4 lakh (ex-showroom all-India). Audi has always dominated the luxury SUV segment in India and the Q3, which is expected to debut around the middle of next year, is seen as the vehicle that will take Audi ahead of Mercedes Benz in India and become the second-biggest luxury maker, behind BMW.
It will also be interesting to see what strategy Mahindras adopt with Ssangyong’s Rexton and Korando. The two products will mark the company’s entry into the luxury SUV space and Mahindra would like to see whether the market is as eager to lap up products from Ssangyong as it has done with its XUV500 and Scorpio SUVs.