With the tumultuous and confusing 2017 behind us, 2018 is looking bright for transportation. And it’s not just new products, but also services, infrastructure and safety that we can get excited by. Here are a few trends to look forward to in the year ahead.
The banquet continues
Everyone’s favourite hatchback is back — the Maruti Swift is getting a proper refresh, but Mahindra won’t be left behind. There’s the redesigned XUV500 SUV, a lengthened TUV300 Plus that will be able to carry more people than the current model, which at under 4m in length, is about the size of your average hatchback. They will also introduce a brand-new MPV to the market — codenamed the U321 — which will use a monocoque body (as used in cars and the XUV). It should provide a good mid-range alternative people-carrier, a segment that is currently under-served.
Ford and Hyundai will also be face-lifting their Figo, Aspire and i20 models respectively, rounding up the new offerings. However, it is the above-average income folk that will be having the time of their lives in 2018, with a slew of launches from Audi (Q5), Volvo (XC40), BMW (M5, 6-Series GT, i8 Coupe and Spyder).
Auto Expo 2018
One of the largest automotive expos in the world, the Delhi Auto Expo, returns with its biennial show in Noida, UP. If you happen to live in the NCR region, or are there in mid-February, you have the chance to take a look at many of the upcoming launches in one place, as most participants will not squander the opportunity.
However, this year also marks an ebb, with a large number of prominent players not taking part. The reasons vary, but usually centre around the high cost of participation that runs into crores of rupees. Still, if you’d like to see new vehicles from BMW, Hero, Honda, Hyundai, Kawasaki, Maruti, and even new entrants such as Korean brand Kia, Greater Noida is the place to be, starting from February 9, 2018 (going on to February 14). However, you won’t see popular brands such as Audi, Skoda, Ford, or the upcoming MG Motor at the expo.
Infrastructure and policy
While infrastructure projects take a long time to come to fruition, we are already seeing some movement. For instance, Mumbai will see the introduction of seaplanes operated by budget carrier SpiceJet. Trial runs have taken place and they expect deliveries of aircraft this year.
We will also see the completion of several remaining segments of the golden quadrilateral and NSEW corridor projects, expanding many highways to four lanes and making travel much quicker and safer. Cross-border trade with SE Asia could also get a boost with the Eastern developments of these projects.
Parliament is expected to amend the Motor Vehicles Act, which should go into effect in 2018. The amendment makes significant changes to insurance liabilities, criminal and civil liabilities for infrastructure and road works deficiencies, and higher fines for offences. The focus is on increasing road safety and reducing mishaps by a great degree.
Bharat NCAP — India’s new car assessment programme that crash-tests new vehicles and rates them — has gone into effect with proposed standards in October 2017. We should start seeing the ratings in the coming year and beyond, making buying a safe car much easier for consumers. The government also proposes to make driver airbags, seat belt warnings and reverse parking sensors mandatory after March 2019, so we should see these effects starting now.
Manufacturers, too, will be under the scanner with the amended MVA. Vehicle makers found to be selling faulty products can be fined up to ₹500 crore, and making vehicles accessible for the disabled will be a priority.
If you’re active on social media, there’s a high probability of you having seen someone adventuring up in the Himalayas on a motorcycle or car. ‘Experiential’ travel is seeing a surge.
For the national traveller, local outfits such as XTLO and Mahindra Adventure allow you to explore offbeat locations in our vast country, either with supplied cars or your own. Both also do expeditions across the border, to Thailand, by way of Myanmar. For the well-heeled and free-spirited, companies such as MotoRover and Viktorianz provide motorcycle holidays in exotic locales such as Kyrgyzstan and Scotland, riding high-end BMW adventure bikes. Prices start from as low as ₹1.15 lakh,
Even auto manufacturers have woken up to the trend, to take you where roads don’t go. BMW Motorrad is expected to launch their G 310 GS motorcycle, made in India by TVS Motor. Kawasaki already released their small-capacity adventure bike — the Versys-X 300 — this year-end, and Triumph is also expected to bring their new 1,200 large adventure bike to India soon.
If YOLO is your rallying cry, 2018 is going to be good for you.