Forget rear view, just look ahead

Updated: Dec 29 2007, 04:12am hrs
It would have been so simple to do a year ending article by writing about the usual suspects. Machine and man. Jagdish Khattar everywhere. Or running a curtain raiser on Auto-Expo. Same old topics, same old stuff. Except for Tatas new cars. Maybe one could have done a drain inspectors report in a kind of investigative manner. Fuel scams come to mind right away. Kerosene in everything. But I would rather like you read them elsewhere.

But let me try to do this differently. Let me try to write on what we look forward to in passenger motoring for the next year. Please bear in mind that the over-riding consideration here is simplebetter transport on urban roads in reasonable safety, decent comfort as well as peace of mind at lower prices and most importantlyin lesser time per seat kilometre travelled.

Let us be truthful with ourselveswhile we have certainly done better in passenger motoring in India in the last say 25 years in terms of quantity and quality of vehicles and road connectivity, especially for long distance travel on trunk routes in many parts of the country, fact remains that it simply takes much longer to drive the same distances in urban India. And to add insult to injury, it is essential to keep the air-conditioner on, thus negating any fuel consumption benefit accrued in the same period.

Yes, we can buy every expensive car made in the world in India now, even a Ferrari does not turn heads on our roads. The costlier the better. But how do you register them Relax! Quite a few people who can afford such cars also know how to get around the registration formalities.

Who needs to worry about it being street legal if the law enforcement bodies are glad to turn a blind eye So if what you want to buy costs a million dollars or Rs 4 crore or more, then just bring it in any old how, and stick an old cars registration plate on the front. I see a few on the streets of pretty much every major city in India every now and then.

But hey, you want to be street legal, and need to do more than park a bomb in the garage. High-powered luxury cars seem to have a three-month waiting list in India, with a new one being launched here every month, while the benchmark for wheels to get the doorkeepers head to turn at an Oberois is now over a crore. At the same time, these are the cars that do not seem to find buyers abroad, if what I saw not going anywhere and parked on the dealer floors in Silicon Valley earlier this month is any indication.

It is my take that the new model year for cars in Europe and America starts around September now, which is when the model-year 2008 cars come out this year, and we in India will get the model year 2007 cars re-badged as 2008. And adding labels spelling Lexus or AMG comes so easy. However, truth be told, nothing seems to be better than the discreet Singh Autosports badge available in the Bay Areato just about a dozen cars a year. More about notching horse-power out of already supercharged supercars than anything else, they will even re-flash the computers inside when the authorised dealers revert the car to stock car settings.

However, like most readers, it would be likely that you are looking at running or buying something more reasonable. Go for the cars and bikes that dont seem to be advertised very heavily, and still have a waiting list. The thumbrule is simplethe louder the advertising, the more cautious you need to be while buying it.

And if it is endorsed by a cricketer or film star, be even more careful. Their next match or movie may bomb, but you will be left holding the lemon.

Happy New Year.

veereshmalik@gmail.com