After almost 20 years, the battle of small tallboy cars is going to intensify again as top two carmakers Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai Motor India plans to bring back new avatar of the Wagon R and Santro hatchbacks. Both Maruti Suzuki Wagon R and Hyundai Santro helped the brands increase their volumes significantly and also paved the way for other successful cars like Maruti Suzuki Swift, Maruti Suzuki Celerio, Hyundai i10, Hyundai Grand i10 and Hyundai i20. More importantly, both these cars started the segments beyond Alto.
In India, there is still a huge potential for these two tallboy cars to rack in big numbers. The segment that falls in the price range between Rs 3-5 lakh is still an aspirational segment and attracts many first time buyers. Hyundai Santro, that started the trend of tall boy cars in 1998 was on sale for 16 years till 2014 and saw the introduction of cars like the i10 and Eon that gained popularity and added to overall volumes. Hyundai Santro was the company's first car to be manufactured here in India and back then it took on the likes of Maruti Suzuki 800, Maruti Suzuki Zen and the Daewoo Matiz. Maruti Suzuki Wagon R debuted in 1999 and was the arch-rival to Hyundai Santro. The company ceased the production of Santro in December 2014 to make free up production capacity for the Hyundai i20 and the Santro too had become quite old by then. Its numbers were not encouraging enough for the South Korean carmaker to continue investing but even then the model was a big success story with sales exceeding 1.4 million in India.
Ever since many tried to launch cars in the segment but did not get any significant success. Chevrolet Spark did some good numbers initially but failed to impress the buyers in tier-3, tier-4 cities. Also, Chevrolet was not very popular for its servicing and maintenance aspect. Both Hyundai Santro and Maruti Suzuki Wagon R quite literally left no room for the competition. The mass scale was the key to success in this segment and both Maruti and Hyundai achieved it. No other automaker really then ventured in this space and the market was sold between Wagon R and Santro. In order to increase market share, there was the introduction of Maruti Suzuki Ritz and Hyundai i10, which was also joined by the likes of Tata Indica later.
Come 2018/2019 the arch-rivals will once again meet in the battleground. Hyundai has confirmed the introduction its new 'small car' codenamed AH2 that is likely to bring back the Santro brand in India. The all-new generation of Maruti Suzuki Wagon R is also in works.
The close-to-production version of both the cars has been spotted testing on several occasions. We expect the Hyundai Santro to launch in India around September 2018, followed by the launch of Maruti Suzuki WagonR in December 2018 or early January 2019. While further details on both the cars are awaited, expect the new Santro and Wagon R to retain their tall boy design, peppy engine and a lightweight body. We will also see the introduction of AMT gearbox on these new cars along with newer features and more space.
After a long time, two good cars from the market leaders will be launched within months from each other and it will be interesting to see the market reaction, the digital buzz and the campaigns around it. If you're planning to buy one of these then expect long waiting periods.