The Auto Expo 2014 kicked off on Wednesday with Maruti Suzuki—the country's largest passenger carmaker—launching two futuristic models, the SX4 S-Cross, a crossover model of the current SX4, and the sedan Ciaz.
“The SX4 S-Cross and Ciaz are models to expand our product range in future,” said Maruti Suzuki India Managing Director and CEO Kenichi Ayukawa.
Parent firm Suzuki Motor Corp’s executive vice-president T Suzuki said the two new cars were aimed at meeting the growing demand of sedans in India, China and elsewhere. But officials have declined to specify when the new cars would be available in showrooms.
The SX4 S-Cross offers various driving modes for better performance and safety and hopes to compete with the Mahindra XUV. The Ciaz, which has a sporty look, is being introduced to compete with Hyundai’s Verna and Honda’s City.
Maruti’s Ayukawa was optimistic about the future despite slowing sales. “The automobile market in India is on a slowdown,” he said, but added that he was hopeful of matching the annual sales of the last fiscal. Maruti clocked sales of around 10.6 lakh units in the domestic market in the year ending March 2013.
Ayukawa further said: “In the last 30 years, we have sold 12 million cars but still just touched just one percent of the population. We have along way to go.”
The much talked-about Maruti hatchback, the Celerio, was kept under wraps on the first day. Maruti expects the Celerio to change the way Indians drive with a special automatic gearbox. Based on promotional model, the Celerio is also expected to carry a Bluetooth-enabled audio system, steering-mounted controls for audio, manual aircon, more rear leg room and dual tone interiors and blinkers on door mirrors.
The Auto Expo comes at a time when carmakers are battling declining sales for several months, as sluggish economic growth, higher fuel costs and interest rates have pushed potential buyers to delay their purchases.
India’s car sales fell almost 10 percent year-on-year in 2013, the first decline for 11 years, according to data from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers. Annual domestic car sales, seen as a pointer to overall economic health, fell to 1,807,011 units in 2013 from 1,998,703 in 2012, according to SIAM.
But the Forbes India team believes that the mood at the Expo is of optimism. Most of the companies are hopeful that the economy will start to turn around and the good times will roll again soon.
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