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Hot New Compact SUV segment emerges from Renault, Ford and Maruti Suzuki

By Motortrend India Staff   |   05 January,2012

Sports Utility Vehicles have emerged as the new hot category at this year’s Auto Expo, as auto makers such as Renault, Ford and Maruti Suzuki are vying to sell rugged, stylish diesel vehicles to young, aspirational customers.


Ford unveiled its compact SUV EcoSport on Tuesday and Renault will unveil its Duster model today. Both are expected to be priced under Rs 10 lakh, as they benefit from tax exemptions that hinge on limiting the size and power of the vehicle. Maruti Suzuki launched a concept called XA Alpha, another compact SUV.


It is perhaps a sign of a maturing domestic market that carmakers are moving away from the old formula of making smaller and cheaper cars, and are placing their bets on more aspirational segments even as predictions of shaky economic growth loom.


"Our surveys show that there is a big gap in this segment and this is an area with growth potential," said IV Rao, managing executive officer for engineering at Maruti. Indeed, SUV sales rose 11 percent in the eight months between April and November last year from a year earlier, while overall passenger car sales fell 4 percent, according to data from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers ( SIAM).


According to Rao, Maruti’s designers spent time living with young professionals to understand their needs and the XA Alpha prototype has evolved from the insights they gathered. If the company decides to manufacture the model, it will be at least two years before it hits the market.


"They want a styling and rugged car and it must be diesel. It must be affordable to them, unlike most of the existing SUVs available in the market," Rao said, referring to Maruti’s potential young customers. Maruti has suffered this year both due to labour troubles and slowing sales of its well-known stable of small cars.


"They want a styling and rugged car and it must be diesel. It must be affordable to them, unlike most of the existing SUVs available in the market," Rao said, referring to Maruti’s potential young customers. Maruti has suffered this year both due to labour troubles and slowing sales of its well-known stable of small cars.


Hyundai unveiled a concept multi-purpose vehicle called Hexa Space.


Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, the traditional leader in multi-utilityvehicles, launched its South Korean Ssangyong brand in India on Thursday, unveiling four new SUVs of which two could be on sale in the country by the end of 2012.



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