Auto focus

New SUVs will fill 2021 launch calendar

S.Muralidhar | Updated on January 07, 2021

Citroen C5 Aircross

Aston Martin DBX

Citroen C5 Aircross

New Tata Safari

Jaguar I-PACE

Suzuki Jimny

The year’s blockbuster rollouts will include SUVs in all shapes and sizes, electrics, hybrids and some ‘latecomer’ brands

The year 2020 would be an eminently forgettable one for most of us, not least for the auto industry. The pandemic had delivered a body blow for the industry and the dealer community that is highly dependent on sustained sales volumes generating their revenues.

The last few months have seen a normalisation of volumes and some pent-up demand has managed to help the industry bounce back. The fiscal year’s cumulative sales will still end up in negative territory, but that isn’t going to dampen the spirits of the automobile industry. There is a lot of action coming up during this year, albeit some that have been carried over from 2020.

SUVs galore

The new year has already seen some significant launches and in the coming weeks quite a few more have been lined up. The Aston Martin DBX is already out, as is the new Audi A4. The BMW 3 Series GL (Gran Limousine), the long wheelbase version of the brand’s midsize luxury sedan will be officially launched later this month.

But much like last year and the year before, 2021 is also likely to be dominated by the launch of Sports Utility Vehicles in all shapes, sizes and price segments. Hitting showrooms near you, later this month, will be Tata Motors’ new Safari. A last minute change in name for the 7-seater version of the Harrier, the concept showcased at last year’s Auto Expo was called Gravitas. Reviving the Safari brand name is a good idea given its strong recall. Given the 7-seater’s stepped design and theatre style seating for the three rows, there are obviously good reasons to ‘gravitate’ towards the Safari moniker. Tata is also due to launch the turbocharged version of the Altroz later this month. Sometime mid-2021, it is expected to launch the much-awaited sub-compact SUV based on the HBX concept.

In the meanwhile, Hyundai Motor India will be launching the Creta 7-seater and facelifted versions of a few of its existing models. But the most exciting news to come from the Korean brand during 2021 will be the official launch of the N performance brand in India. In what could help open up the market for mass market performance branding and motoring, Hyundai is likely to consider introducing the i20 N Line first. This will feature enhancements to the design and possibly even performance of the regular i20 with unique ‘N’ brand identity.

Maruti Suzuki’s most significant launch during 2021 is likely to be the new Jimny. After much deliberation and delay because the underlying platform of the Jimny was considered expensive and potentially unsuitable for India, the sheer amount of interest that the vehicle’s display at the Auto Expo seems to have convinced the folks at MSIL. If brought into India in the same popular 3-door form that the Jimny is sold in worldwide, it will be one of the smallest SUVs at about 3.4 metres. But given its previous experience with 3-doors and the fact that the market hasn’t matured enough to deliver them volumes, Maruti will be re-engineering and marginally redesigning the Jimny into a 5-door for India. It is likely to be launched with the mighty popular K15B 1.5-litre petrol engine and a manual or CVT gearbox. The Jimny is likely to be sold through the NEXA channel.

FCA India’s Jeep has just launched the new 2021 Compass. During the year, it will be adding two more models to its India portfolio, including a 7-seater. Skoda, which has just announced that its mid-size SUV based on the locally developed Modulare Querbaukasten (MQB) A0 IN platform, is being christened ‘Kushaq’. It will be launched later this year and will join the Karoq in the India SUV portfolio, which will also see the addition of the petrol TSI version of the Kodiaq.

The trio of German luxury brands, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi will all be looking to add to their Indian line-up. The sheer number and breadth of new models is likely to be biggest for the three-pointed star, starting from the entry luxury sedan A-Class to new AMGs.

Year of EVs

Electric vehicles are going mainstream and though 2020 saw much lower sales volumes, despite incentives still being offered, this year many new EVs will be launched globally and quite a few will be India-bound. One brand that will finally land on our shores will be BEV market leader Tesla Motors. The American brand is expected to seek directly, instead of through a dealer network. It may set up brand stores and mark its formal entry into the country this year. Local assembly may be considered at a later date. We won't be surprised if Tesla chooses to mark its debut with the launch of the Model X.

The other luxury EVs that are likely to be introduced later this year include the Porsche Taycan, the Audi e-Tron, BMW’s new i3 and the Jaguar i-Pace. Some of these would have made it to market last year if not for the pandemic. Action in the EV segment is not only going to be concentrated in the luxury and premium segments, but we will increasingly be looking at much more affordable ones too. Mass market brands like Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra and Maruti Suzuki will all be looking to make further inroads with their own affordable compact EVs. Altroz EV from Tata, and a couple of compact EV SUVs, including the KUV100 EV from M&M and another as yet unnamed are all likely to be launched this year.

While the company hasn’t confirmed it, rumours also abound that Renault may launch an electric version of the Kwid. When the Kwid EV makes it to our roads, that could achieve what the original petrol model set out to do… truly democratise the EV. Priced well under Rs 10 lakh, this can become the ‘People’s EV’. Renault’s first launch for 2021 will, of course, be the Kiger sub-compact SUV. Based on the same platform as the Triber and the Nissan Magnite, this will attempt to deliver Renault’s unique design lineage elements that we have seen in the 2020 Kwid.

New entrant

After years of hesitating, and much delay in finalising its plans, French car maker Citroen is finally going to enter the Indian market this year. Though a very late entrant, the brand is expecting to launch a competitive first product in the new C5 Aircross. This will be a premium midsize sports utility vehicle that will take on the likes of the Hyundai Tucson and the Toyota Fortuner. The 5-seater SUV, which was originally scheduled to be launched last year, will now be unveiled on February 1, this year. It could be offered with a Diesel engine, though the information available now seems to indicate that it will be offered with a 1.5-litre petrol engine and a CVT gearbox.

Published on January 07, 2021

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