Evolution and evolvement of automobiles is a constant process. What makes news today has an impact tomorrow and in the Indian Auto Industry there was no dearth of announcements in 2018 that are sure to have a big impact in the coming year. We take a look at five such developments that made big news this year but will play out in 2019 and beyond.
Maruti going electric
Maruti Suzuki showed something out of the ordinary at the Auto Expo earlier this year. Here was an electric design concept for a compact SUV that paid tribute to Suzuki’s 4 wheel drive heritage. In addition, e-SURVIVOR depicted the new F.A.C.E of Suzuki’s intent for future mobility for the company. It encompassed all future possibilities …“Four-Wheel Drive, Autonomous, Connected & most importantly Electric.”
The Maruti Suzuki pavilion at the expo showcased a working model of the next generation Suzuki Hybrid system. The system says company is high on efficiency and low on emissions, with capability of pure electric drive. It can substantially reduce emissions and fuel consumption for the large part of the automobile market not addressed by EVs. The strong hybrid will perform various function of Idle stop, torque assist, regenerative braking, EV running as a combination, to achieve higher fuel efficiency.
The company announced its commitment to introduce an Electric Vehicle by 2020 and flagged-off proto-type electric vehicles for field test. The nation-wide field testing of 50 prototype electric vehicles will be a significant step in bringing electric mobility to India. This extensive real-life usage of the vehicles in multiple terrains and climatic conditions will help the company get valuable insights that will help in validation and successful launch of electric vehicle technology in India.
Testing of these vehicles will also help Maruti Suzuki to gather critical inputs based on customer perspectives and will help to create a reliable and suitable electric vehicle to delight Indian customers.
Tata Nexon: 5 star safety
Along with caring for the environment the auto companies also need to focus ons passenger safety. Global NCAP, an internationally renowned safety accreditation body that rates cars on safety parameters had good news in store for Tata Motors.
The company’s compact SUV, the Nexon established a new benchmark in terms of car safety in India as it became the first made in India car to be awarded with a full 5-star adult safety rating by the agency. The car was tested for both front and side impacts. The combined evaluation of both the tests by Global NCAP resulted in the highest adult occupant safety score of (16.06/17.00) amongst all the models tested across the Indian market. The car also achieved an impressive 3-star rating for child occupant safety. The best part is that all the variants of Nexon complied with the Global NCAP safety results.
That the car is fully designed, engineered and made in India, this achievement put India on the global map and is surely a precursor to Indian cars getting even safer next year. Nexon’s achievement was possible due to the Energy-absorbing body structure with high-strength steel construction and critical reinforcements. The car comes equipped with dual-frontal airbags and seatbelts with pre-tensioner, load-limiter & crash-locking tongue (CLT for driver occupant) which prevents the uncontrolled forward movement of the occupant and avoids injuries.
Road safety has been the prime agenda jointly for the current Government and the automotive industry and it is achievements like these that will make our cars safer than before.
Skoda India 2.0
In one of the biggest announcements to come out of Indian Auto Sector German giant Volkswagen announced that Skoda Auto will take over its operations in India. ŠKODA auto, in association with the Group, independently manufactures and develops vehicles, as well as components, engines and gear transmissions.
The Czech car maker would be responsible for leading Volkswagen Group’s planned model campaign on the Indian market. VW group announced an investment of one billion Euros towards the implementation of the project, primarily between 2019 and 2021. To ensure the products are perfectly suited to the Indian market, Škoda will set up an engineering centre in the country. All models designed and produced locally in India in the future will be based on Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform, which already fulfils the stricter legal requirements for India that come into force in 2020.
In the second phase, Škoda will be assessing the possibility of exporting vehicles manufactured in India. Škoda and Volkswagen will develop several products based on this platform. The first model campaign will begin with a mid-size SUV. With the “INDIA 2.0” project the group is seeking a market share of up to five per cent in the long term, depending on market and segment development. Along with the new products the company plans to gradually create 4000-5000 new jobs in India.
As part of the India 2.0 project, current Skoda Auto India, managing director, Gurpratap Boparai will also become managing director of Volkswagen India Private Limited with effect from 1 January 2019.
A spate of new SUVs were announced this year that will be launched next year. These include the Tata Harrier, the Nissan Kicks and Mahindra’s upcoming sub 4 meter SUV the XUV 3oo.
The XUV300 shares its platform with the SsangYong Tivoli which is a globally successful product that has sold over 260,000 vehicles in 50+ countries since its launch in 2015. The car carries forward the characteristics of the popular XUV500 with its cheetah-inspired design and agility, along with advanced technology features. The headlamps integrate with the fog lamps forming a Cheetah-like tear-duct, while the pronounced wheel arches are inspired from the muscular haunches of the Cheetah. It’s got a modern grille, sculpted bonnet, pronounced shoulder & body lines along with an elevated stance. In addition the car gets dual LED DRLs and bold LED tail lamps. The car will be offered in both petrol and diesel options and will be launched in the 1st half of February 2019.
The Tata Harrier will come much earlier than that. The SUV has already got rave reviews for its design and is the first car from the company to be based on the Land Rover Omega Architecture. The Impact 2.0 design theme works well for the car both on the outside as well as inside. Tata will launch the Harrier in a diesel avatar with a 6 speed manual gearbox.
The Nissan Kicks will have a petrol option as well. Both the 1.5 litre engines will be mated with manual gearboxes. The highlights on this car are exterior design, interior features and impressive ride quality. The Kicks too will launch in January.
2018: A year if tie-ups
Major automakers came together this year and announced that in a challenging environment they will make many future products together. Japanese car makers Toyota and Suzuki agreed to start discussing joint projects for technological development, vehicle production and market development. According to the agreement Toyota would provide Suzuki with technological support for a compact, ultrahigh-efficiency powertrain to be developed by Suzuki. In addition Toyota Kirloskar Motor Private Ltd. (TKM) would produce models developed by Suzuki for sale in India through each of the Toyota and Suzuki brand network. Finally there would be cooperation in the domains of logistics and services for supply of models jointly developed by both companies from India to African and other markets.
Mahindra Group and Ford today also strengthened their strategic alliance in India with the signing of two definitive agreements this year. Under the definitive agreement on powertrain sharing, Mahindra Group will develop and supply a low-displacement petrol engine to Ford India for use in its present and future vehicles, starting in 2020. The BS-VI compliant powertrain will help Ford extend and strengthen its existing offering of petrol engines, that currently includes the all-new 3-cylinder TiVCT family.
The companies also announced joint development of a telematics control unit. Once developed, the connected vehicle solution will be deployed across both Mahindra and Ford vehicles. Both companies will continue co-development of compact SUVs and electric vehicles.
Shams Naqvi is an anchor/producer for the News X motor show Living Cars