Auto focus

EVs, Hybrids and Concepts dominate the stage

Our Bureau | Updated on February 08, 2018

Maruti Suzuki FutureS Concept

BMW i8 Roadster

Honda EV Concept

This year’s edition of the Auto Expo goes global with focus on electrics and focussed concepts

 

The Auto Expo has been the stage for many a high profile car and bike premiere; the likes of the Hyundai Santro and the Tata Nano have captured people’s imagination after being unveiled at the Expo. During the euphoric first few years after the automobile sector opened up, the number of participants at every edition of the Auto Expo also jumped up in leaps and bounds with each edition. But, the ongoing 14th edition of the Expo is different in two important respects.

One is a substantial fall in participation by some of the big names in the automobile industry — the entire Volkswagen Group for example was conspicuous by its absence. Other manufacturers like Ford, FCA Group, Volvo and Nissan were absent too. But, the show did get one key addition to the list in Kia making its India debut with a massive stall displaying as many as 16 of its models including an unveil of the SP Concept, an exaggerated design concept of its first vehicle for India that is based on the same platform as the Hyundai Creta.

The other difference was the absence of debuts of any major mass market car or bike, though there were a few significant launches in the luxury passenger car space, particularly by the BMW Group. The two important launches in the lower-priced segments were the Maruti Suzuki Swift, the new Honda Amaze and the Toyota Yaris. But, this year’s Auto Expo is still a significant milestone in the Indian auto industry’s progress for the change in focus that it signals. It is a showcase of the potential changes that the future holds for the industry. And nothing demonstrated it better than in the number of electrics, hybrids and concepts that were on display. Point to note also was how most of the concepts are likely to be extremely close to the production versions due out in the future.

Concepts like Kia’s SP already has the stance and dimensions of the final vehicle, and bears a striking profile that seems likely to be largely retained. On the other hand, Tata Motors’ two concepts — the H5X and 45X — feature exaggerated design elements, but are both significant pointers to the design direction that the brand’s vehicles of the future will follow. Part of Tata’s ‘Impact Design 2.0’ strategy, the two concepts also establish the versatility of the two new platforms and showcase the design signatures like the new ‘Tri-pointed Arrow’ that will actually be adopted in the vehicles that will be born out of these concepts.

Maruti Suzuki’s Concept FutureS was the other prototype that looks nearly like a production-ready version of its future vehicle. The concept is meant to showcase a design direction, which is dimensionally too referring to a possible future sub-compact sports utility vehicle from the Maruti stable. Another moot point is that all of these concepts have been created with a plan to enable the underlying platforms to also be used for housing electric or hybrid powertrains.

The Expo was also filled with some interesting electric concepts like the NeuV and Sports EV from Honda, the Trezor from Renault, the Mercedes-Benz EQ, the Toyota FCV Plus and the UDO Concept from Mahindra. But, aside of concepts that are meant to be just technology showcases, there are a number of Hybrids and EVs that are already ready to roll out or are already in the market such as the Tata EVs built on the Tiago and Tigor, the Hyundai Ioniq, the Toyota Prius PHV and the Honda Clarity FCV.

Petrolheads and fans of luxury, performance cars still have reasons to rejoice, with some really interesting cars due out later this year and are on display at the Auto Expo. These include the Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain, the new Honda CR-V and Civic. But the biggest number of debuts came from the BMW group stable with cars like the new X3, 6GT, X6 xDrive 35i, the M3 sedan and M4 Coupe being debuted at the show. The made in India MINI Countryman, the BMW i8 Roadster and the i3S were the other debuts from the German brand.

Published on February 08, 2018

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