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Auto Expo evokes keen interest

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SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME: A scene at the Maruti pavilion at the Auto Expo 2006.
SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME: A scene at the Maruti pavilion at the Auto Expo 2006.

Seven-day extravaganza saw automobile majors unveil their big plans for India

The changing face of India was quite visible at the recent Indian Auto Expo in New Delhi.

TILL THE 1980s India had to live with outdated technology and second hand machinery dumped by the developed countries. No attempt was made to update these and the people were denied the fruits of modern development. Only in the Eighties did the country start experiencing some real development in selected sectors.A similar dumping scenario was witnessed in the Nineties when the economy was opened up. Companies from the developed countries tried to transfer to India technology and equipment which they wanted to discard but to their dismay these were not accepted in this country thanks to an alert media _ electronic and print _ that could educate the public about these obsolete technologies. Today India is a dynamic country offering numerous opportunities for the multinationals to further their business.The changing face of India was quite visible at the recent Indian Auto Expo in New Delhi. Beamers, Stars, Maybach, Aston Martin, Carrerras and the like which are vying with one another to show up on Indian roads, have excited the imagination of Indian auto users. All these high profile products were however conspicuously missing from the 2006 Auto-Expo as the promoters believe that potential customers of such marques do not have to come to the Expo and presumably they are right in their judgment. Some Indian car manufacturers also thought that it was not value for the money spent on the display at the Expo and had their own parallel road shows. However, the footfall of the public at the expo was quite high, going up from 8 lakhs in the 2004 Auto-Expo to 12 lakhs this time, despite the fact that the entry fee was doubled.

Sizable investment plans

The Eighth Auto Expo concluded on January 17 with companies announcing investments of around $1.2 billion for the Indian market even as business deals more than trebled to cross $150 million. A platform for new launches and futuristic models, the seven-day extravaganza saw auto majors announce big plans for India, one of the fastest growing automobile markets. A major highlight of the event was the agreement between Indian giant Tata Motors and Italy's ailing carmaker Fiat. While Tata gave Fiat access to its dealerships in India, the latter agreed to help the Indian company in growing abroad as well as in supply of technology. This, according to auto forecasters, is a great barter for the future development of the two companies. A lot of enthusiasm was noticeable among the foreign participants. Delegates from Iran Khodro Investment Development Co. (IKIDO), Iran Auto Parts Co. and Nirou Moharrekeh Industries Co. looked at the available avenues for them to enter the Indian market and export Iranian cars and related components in this segment to India. Over 1,000 participants (300 overseas companies) from 22 countries, including 24 vehicle manufacturers, country level participation from China, Iran, Germany, Taiwan, Korea and England, and the largest ever participation by the Indian auto component industry, covering an area of 70,000 square metres, made India Auto Expo 2006 the largest auto exhibition in Asia. At one time the organisers had nearly run out of space to sell!

New launches

Apart from Bosch and Maruti, big-ticket investment announcements included those by Hero Honda (Rs 320 crore), Yamaha (Rs 300 crore), Ashok Leyland (Rs 550 crore), TVS-Delphi (Rs 500 crore) and Bharat Forge (Rs 400 crore). The new launches at the Expo included `Rhino', a multi-utility vehicle from the homegrown Sonalika group. With an entry price of Rs 5.4 lakh, the vehicle is certain to create a few ripples in the segment, dominated by Toyota's Innova and General Motors' Tavera. Honda unveiled its hybrid and other futuristic vehicles and also displayed the `Civic', the soon-to-be launched car from the Japanese company's stable. The expo was organised jointly by the Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India (ACMA), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), and supported by the Association of State Road Transport Undertakings and All India Motor Transport Congress. Conferences and seminars held during the event drew some of the best industrialists, technocrats and policy makers in the industry from around the globe. With the Indian component industry already raising the red flag over import of cheap vehicle parts from China, it was interesting to notice the presence of a delegation from the Chongqing province of China looking for business opportunities in India. Skoda of the Czech Republic showed all the major products from its stable _ Skoda Fabia, Skoda Laura, Skoda Octavia Combi, Skoda Superb and Skoda RS. A top SkodaAuto India official said the company was eyeing the small car market in India. Maruti, Tata and Hyundai better watch out. The hottest seller of the Sixties, the Ford Mustang (once driven by the Hollywood legend Marylyn Monroe) came back in a new avatar and what a stunner it was. This may be offered as the cheapest sports car available to Indians in spite of being a completely built unit (CBU)!Not to miss were the exhibits of Indian automobile and auto ancillary manufacturers trying to keep pace with competition, not from the West this time but from the Koreans, Chinese and Taiwanese. They could offer to the Indian car manufacturer spares and equipment at mind boggling low prices provided the import duties were kept low. In fact, if our import policy becomes a bit more liberal, the Indian customer can probably enjoy the luxuries of life at half the price they are paying today! That's the way to go in the future _ create so much competition and make the world so small that the consumer on the road is the ultimate beneficiary!

TUTU DHAWAN


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