Auto focus

Lacklustre Expo lit up only by EVs, and the coming China wave

S Muralidhar | Updated on February 06, 2020

Hyundai 2020 Tucson   -  S Muralidhar

Electric mobility was the dominant theme and Chinese car makers have already started queuing up

Faced with a steady decline in participation by many of the major automobile brands over the past few years, Auto Expo 2020 already had to contend with even fewer stalls being taken at the sprawling India Expo Mart in Greater Noida, near Delhi. The show was further overshadowed by the Corona Virus scare due to the rapid spread of rumours that the infection, which has become a global pandemic, could hit closer home due to the spurt in Chinese car brands participating at this year’s edition of the Expo. With the automobile market also currently riding through a rough patch, it was not surprising to find that this year’s edition of the Auto Expo wasn’t the most exciting we have seen.

That doesn’t mean that it was completely bereft of any interesting highlights. For one, electric mobility was a dominant theme with an escalating global focus on the need for more environment-friendly vehicles and reducing our carbon footprint,

EVs and Chinese brands

EVs look set to take over our roads this decade. And it looks like Indian car brands aren’t going to be laggards. Homegrown brands like Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra and Maruti Suzuki, and multinational brands like Hyundai, Kia, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Renault and a number of two-wheeler brands showcased either their electric concepts and/ or production vehicles. The other dominating presence at this year’s expo is the surge in interest amongst Chinese car makers wanting to make an entry into India. Possibly driven by the success of MG Motor and its Hector SUV, at two other brands have already decided to make a foray into this market. Great Wall Motors (GWM) and Haima Automobile are looking to launch their vehicles in the next few months. GWM is likely to be first of the two to finalise assembly and launch of its cars and it will possibly mark the debut with its Haval range of SUVs. Haima is also finalising plans. In the meantime SAIC-owned MG Motor says that it is targeting sales of one lakhs cars by 2021 and will atleast six new vehicles here by 2025, including the Gloster premium SUV that it will unveil at the Expo on Friday.

Concepts galore

The Hyundai Le Fil Rouge on display at the Expo S Muralidhar   -  S Muralidhar


The biennial Auto Expo has always been trending along with the other major auto shows worldwide in showcasing concept cars that are meant to both add some element of novelty and to point to the design direction of the brands they represent. This year’s Expo is no different and concept cars like the Maruti Suzuki Futuro-e, the Hyundai Le Fil Rouge, Tata Sierra and the Mahindra Funster were attempting to do just that. In addition to alluding to the design prowess of these companies, the concepts also point to the future of electric mobility.

But the three concepts that stole the show because they are possibly the closest to their production versions which are most likely to see the light of day within the next few months came from Kia,Tata and Volkswagen. In the absence of small cars, which have been the staple at many a Auto Expo, the three compact SUVs from these brands were the ones that stirred up the excitement this year.

Kia Motors’ Sonet concept   -  S Muralidhar

Kia Motors’ next vehicle is likely to be the compact SUV based on the Sonet concept. The company could retain the name too and it is based on the same platform as the Hyundai Venue, but will look very different. My initial impressions are very positive given its squat stance and clean surfaces.


Tata Motors’ HBX Showcar, based on the H2X concept and the ALFA ARC platform   -  S Muralidhar

The other compact SUV that was grabbing eyeballs at the expo was Tata Motors’ HBX Showcar, based on the H2X concept and the ALFA ARC platform, this new one is barely a concept anymore and is actually close to production version. This sub-four-metre SUV is likely to be positioned below the Nexon and may be launched as soon as April this year. The other Tata concept vehicle that was the talk of the show was the Sierra, a brand and model that was a rage in the nineties. The brand has seen a revival in the electric concept that was showcased at the expo.

Skoda VisionIN, developed from Volkswagen’s new MQB AO IN platform   -  S Muralidhar


Another compact SUV that in concept form wooed showgoers was the Skoda VisionIN. Developed from Volkswagen’s new MQB AO IN platform, this would eventually become the midsize SUV competitor from Skoda that will take on the likes of the Hyundai Creta and the Kia Seltos. It is also likely to be joined (maybe even before commercial launch) by the VW Taigun, which also shares the platform. The Taigun, along with three other SUVs were also debuted by VW at this year’s Auto Expo.

Sole Luxury presence

Mercedes-AMG GT 63S 4MATIC+ 4 door coupe, the world’s fastest series production 4-seater   -  S Muralidhar


As the only luxury car brand at this year’s edition of the Auto Expo, Mercedes-Benz India had a lot of spotlights focussed on its string on unveils at the show. There were a total of four new vehicle that were added to the three-pointed star’s portfolio in India including the Mercedes-AMG GT 63S 4MATIC+ 4 door coupe, which is considered the world’s fastest series production 4-seater.

The other vehicles that premiered at the show and for which even bookings have commenced at Merc dealerships include the A-Class sedan and the new GLA, its entry SUV. While the AMG A35 4MATIC sedan is expected to be officially launched in June this year, the GLA will be introduced in October. Also joining Merc’s line-up at the show and its portfolio at showrooms was the new V-Class Marco Polo - a long wheelbase version of the luxury MPV with a roof that can be raised, a built in kitchenette and seats that can be converted to beds for four passengers.

The 2020 Auto Expo also had its share of premieres and official launches of regular ICE (internal combustion engine) models and electrics.

Some of the noteworthy ones were the Kia Carnival, the Hyundai 2020 Tucson and Creta, the facelifted Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza with a petrol engine, the Mahindra eKUV 100 electric and the new VW Tiguan.

Published on February 06, 2020

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