Former senior principal correspondent at Forbes (India). Since 2008, I have been writing on corporate strategy in the automobiles, clean technology and supply chain space. Before I got onto this assignment, I was part of the team that covered feature articles at The Economic Times. I actually started out as a trainee journalist on the ET desk in 2006. I graduated in commerce from Shri Ram College of Commerce in New Delhi and now live in Mumbai. I love automobiles and spend hours reading up on them and then devote painfully long hours to work on old cars that attract my fancy. Right now I own four cars (my colleagues call them fancy, junk or whatever) and a bicycle which outside my work hours get most of my attention.
Earlier today Maruti Suzuki launched its multi-purpose vehicle, Ertiga. A seven seater, diesel plus petrol power train- Maruti claims fuel efficiency of 16.02 kmpl for the petrol and 20.77 kmpl for the diesel version. Available in seven colours, with safety features such ABS and front airbags, one can buy the Ertiga at an ex showroom price of Rs. 5. 45 lakh for the petrol (base variant) and Rs. 8. 45 lakh for the top end diesel. This is an unbeatable package from the largest car manufacturer in the country.
Without even a single car sold, the Ertiga has already got the biggest pundits in the automobile business talking. “Expect Ertiga to cause carnage in the market. It will hit everything from Maruti’s own Dzire, other sub 10 lakh saloons, the Xylo and even Innova,” tweeted Hormazd Sorabjee, Editor of AutocarIndia. The excitement at a Maruti dealership in Mumbai was high. A senior sales manager I spoke to said, “We are expecting it to do very well considering Maruti has never had any product in this segment. It will be an ideal car for people who have large families and want to travel together.”
It looks the part and Ertiga will be a serious challenger to car companies (people movers/utility vehicle manufactures) like Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) and Toyota. Although at this stage, it is not clear how it will impact sales of the Innova and what Toyota has up its sleeve. But don’t expect M&M to just let Maruti to conquer its turf. A senior official at M&M reveals that the company is readying its counter to the Ertiga- a compact Xylo. To be launched sometime in August-September this year- M&M has been working on the mini Xylo for about three years.
The story goes that it was in January 2011 that M&M called its dealers and vendors to its Nagpur plant to show them the compact Xylo and the XUV 500. “There was a huge interest in the mini Xylo, people were very bullish about it…even more than the XUV 500 and everybody was crowding around it,” says the M&M official who did not want to be quoted. By now you already know the huge success of the XUV 500. M&M believes the compact Xylo will surpass that success story.
To be able to do that M&M has put everything it has got in its engineering & styling department to build this product. The compact Xylo will be powered by a 1500 cc, 3 cylinder CRDi engine. Getting its existing M hawk 2.2 liter engine (which powers the Mahindra Scorpio) down to that size was a big challenge. “While the product has been ready for sometime but there were issues with vibrations and high sound level but those have been taken care of now,” added the official. Expect the price of the compact Xylo to be absolutely competitive with the Ertiga. And of course, the fight in the utility vehicles space becomes very interesting.