An analysis of major events of 2019 that shaped the automotive industry

2019 saw its fair share of ups and downs, ranging from the high-voltage arrival of new carmakers on one hand, to one of the worst sales slumps in decades. We take a look at the events that marked the year 2019 for the automotive industry.

The new players

The arrival of British brand MG and Korea’s Kia in India were among the highlights of the year. MG entered the Indian market with the Hector, a large 5-seat SUV that is big on space and technology. These factors won Indian buyers over and demand for the Hector was so strong, MG had to temporarily close bookings to keep waiting periods in check.

Kia hit the bull’s eye with the Seltos. This mid-size SUV has been a sales hit since its launch, having sold over 40,000 units (as of end-November) since its launch in August. With these numbers, the Seltos is amongst India’s best-selling SUVs of the year.

Over the year, the PSA Group also confirmed that it would arrive in India in 2020 with the Citroën brand. The Citroën C5 Aircross SUV will be the first model for India, with more mass-market products lined up for launch in the following years.

Safety first

An analysis of major events of 2019 that shaped the automotive industry

2019 saw the roll-out of newer, more stringent safety norms for cars and bikes. A driver airbag, ABS, front seatbelt reminders, speed warning system, and rear parking sensors have now become mandatory in cars, while two-wheelers require either combi-braking systems or ABS. Crash safety also got a fillip with the roll-out of more stringent car crash-test norms. First mandated only for new cars in 2017, the new norms became applicable to all cars on sale in the country in 2019.

The Government also passed the long overdue Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill. While the final Act provides for far-reaching changes, the sharp increase in penalties for traffic offences gathered the most headlines. While some states stuck to the measures, public outcry over the fines did see some others roll back the penalties.

Additionally, Global NCAP released the crash-test results for a new batch of cars under its Safer Cars for India campaign. The models tested were the Maruti Ertiga (3 stars) and Wagon R (2 stars), Hyundai Santro (2 stars) and the Datsun Redigo (1 star).

Emissions check

An analysis of major events of 2019 that shaped the automotive industry

From April 2020, all cars in the country will have to comply with BS-VI emission regulations and 2019 proved to be a year of major transition on this front. While most manufacturers started rolling out BS-VI-spec petrol cars, there were some big announcements with respect to BS-VI diesels. India’s leading carmaker, Maruti Suzuki, announced that it would stop producing diesel cars entirely; Tata confirmed that it would axe its 1.05-litre diesel motor, while VW, Skoda, Renault and Nissan also made it clear that diesels won’t be a part of their line-ups in the future. Mahindra, Hyundai, and Honda, on the other hand, outlined their BS-VI diesel plan.

Retiring the warhorses

An analysis of major events of 2019 that shaped the automotive industry

The new safety norms and imminent transition to BS-VI marked the end of the road for many long-running models in India. 2019 witnessed the end of production for the iconic Maruti Gypsy, the Maruti Omni van, Tata Sumo, Tata Safari and even the Tata Nano. At the same time, Maruti also upgraded the Alto for crash-compliance and emission norms, and even Mahindra made it clear that the fast-selling Bolero will be upgraded for the future.

Sales crunch

The year was also tough on carmakers in terms of sales volumes, with many reporting huge dips in month-on-month figures, as compared to 2018. While the economic slowdown and uneasy buyer sentiment took a toll on sales, the confusion over BS-VI emission norms only added to the issue, with many buyers deferring their purchases to 2020. However, those who opted to buy in 2019 are sure to have saved quite a bit, thanks to carmakers rolling out big discounts and benefits to clear BS-IV stocks before their sell-by date of March 31, 2020.

Electric future

An analysis of major events of 2019 that shaped the automotive industry

India seems to be taking baby steps towards electric mobility, with 2019 being another small step forward. The FAME II scheme didn’t have anything for private car buyers, but the incentives for EVs for commercial use should increase uptake. Later in the year, the government did announce a GST cut on EVs and income tax benefits on loans to buy them. The Hyundai Kona Electric was the big EV launch of the year, while the Tata Tigor EV was also finally made available to private buyers. Of the two-wheeler makers, Bajaj revived Chetak as an electric-scooter, Ultraviolette took the wraps off the F77, and start-up Revolt revealed the RV400 e-bike.

Connectivity tech

An analysis of major events of 2019 that shaped the automotive industry

The next step in in-car connectivity arrived in the form of the embedded-SIM based connectivity system that allows owners to monitor, diagnose and activate in-car functions from their mobile phones in real-time. Hyundai was the first to introduce the system on the Venue, with MG and Kia offering their own systems in their SUVs. On the luxury market front, Audi and Mercedes have also delved into the technology in India.

Collaborations and partnerships

There were plenty of tie-ups and mergers seen in 2019. The FCA-PSA Group confirmed their merger, and BMW-JLR also announced a collaboration for EV development. For India, the big news was Mahindra and Ford announcing a joint venture, with the latter transferring its India operations to the new company that will be operationally led by Mahindra. The partnership will give rise to seven new models, ranging from SUVs to EVs. On another note, Toyota launched its first product under the Suzuki-Toyota partnership in the form of the Maruti Baleno-based Toyota Glanza.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 2:47:26 PM |

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