The Indian passenger vehicle industry, which had literally gone off the road over the past four years, is expected to grow about 6% this year, driven by new models, benign inflation, interest rates coming down, and lower ownership cost due to softer oil prices. While it won’t pick up speed any time soon, the good news is that the industry appears to be back on the road, helped, in part, by the sheer number of new car launches in 2015. We take a look:
Mercedes CLA-Class; launched Jan 22
A new Teutonic order: German luxury car maker Mercedes-Benz brought its new design language to India, and with it the numbers needed to successfully challenge luxury car market leader Audi. The rakish looks of the CLA-Class worked; the car was immediately followed by the new C-Class.
Hyundai Verna; launched Feb 18
Distinct VERNAcular: If looks worked for the Merc, they didn’t for Hyundai. The Korean car marker, in an effort to regain its leading position in the mid-size sedan segment, launched the 4S Fluidic Verna. However, the car couldn’t beat either of its competitors—Honda City and Maruti Suzuki Ciaz.
Hyundai i20 Active; launched March 17
The Elite i20, crossed: The strength of Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture design philosophy was soon displayed when the company entered a new segment—crossover cars—with the i20 Active. So successful was this new crossover that, within a month of launch, it doubled the segment size.
Renault Lodgy; launched April 9
Renault’s Lodgycal drive?: Seats seven, is powered by an efficient engine, has a sturdy body, rides well … the Renault Lodgy ticked as many boxes as Toyota Innova does. However, the Lodgy wasn’t as INNOVAtive an MPV as its Japanese competitor and its sales never really took off.
Toyota Camry Hybrid; launched April 30
The intelligent, now elegant: Among the first cars to take pricing advantage under the government’s FAME scheme (for electric and hybrid vehicles), the new Camry Hybrid by Toyota proved to be a runaway success. Of the total Camry sales, over 75% have since been garnered by the hybrid version.
Volvo XC90; launched May 12
Safety wears a suave suit: With the new XC90, Volvo took Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GL-Class head on. Suave, spacious and safe for seven, the XC90—for the price—is the closest you can get to luxury on wheels, personalised living space and possibly a land yacht.
Tata Nano GenX; launched May 19
Hello again, cutie: The Nano is not yet perfect, but the GenX was the best thing to have happened to the cute little ‘Indian’ car. Among other things, the Nano GenX got the Automated Manual Transmission. The GenX, however, couldn’t reposition the Nano as a fashionable and urban mobility solution.
Maruti Celerio Diesel; launched June 3
Mileage champion: The Celerio—among India’s top 10 selling cars—got a diesel mill. The two-cylinder, 793cc DDiS is the first diesel engine developed by Maruti. With a claimed mileage of 27.62 kpl, the Celerio Diesel became India’s most fuel-efficient car too. Good things come in small packages.
Honda Jazz; launched July 8
New Jazz, more Fit for the task: Having failed in its first attempt in 2009, Honda relaunched the Jazz—called the Fit globally. Also available in diesel, the customer response to the car was good, but it couldn’t shake the highly-successful Elite i20. Monthly sales took off well, but have since settled at less than half of the latter.
Hyundai Creta; launched July 21
Small is the new big: Hyundai cars are always designed well, but oddly-named Creta also proved to be a Hyundai that is built strong, is smooth to drive, and makes a powerful statement. The compact SUV has since attracted over 75,000 buyers and went on to win the Indian Car of the Year award.
Maruti S-Cross; launched Aug 5
Maruti goes premium: With the S-Cross, Maruti charted a new path. Here was a ‘premium’ car, sold only at ‘premium’ showrooms (the Nexa) and Maruti charged a ‘premium’ for the same. The critical reception to the car was mixed, as was sales response. Some models today sell at a discount of about Rs 2 lakh.
Maruti Ciaz shvs; launched Sept 1
Maruti’s master-stroke: Want lessons on increasing fuel-efficiency? Join the Maruti SHVS school. The company launched Ciaz SHVS (Suzuki Smart Hybrid Technology)—India’s most frugal diesel car with an incredible mileage of 28.09 kpl. A great example of using appropriate technology to suit the needs of Indian consumers.
Mahindra TUV300; launched Sept 10
Baahubali among SUVs: Mahindra re-entered the compact SUV space with the TUV300. Inspired by a battle-tank, this tough looking vehicle immediately attracted buyers, helping Mahindra gain some market share it had lost to Hyundai’s Creta.
Renault Kwid; launched Sept 24
A Kwid goes pro: If Renault failed with the Lodgy, it more than made up for it with the Kwid. From purely a product point of view, the Kwid—priced from Rs 2.57 lakh onwards—proved to be far more value-for-money car than its competitors. Renault started taking Kwid bookings on a mobile app and launched a virtual showroom.
Ford Figo Aspire; launched August 12
Blue Oval’s new play: Most sub-4 metre sedans look like an afterthought. But Ford build the Figo Aspire from ground up—neatly integrating the boot—and the result was a compact sedan that doesn’t compromise on space, safety, comfort or looks. Ford also started working on bettering its after-sales services.
Maruti Baleno; launched Oct 26
Premium, and looks the part: If the S-Cross was its first premium crossover car, with the Baleno Maruti entered the premium hatchback segment. Like the S-Cross, the Baleno too is sold only at Nexa showrooms. The car proved to be a huge success, taking away numbers not only from competition, but also from siblings Swift and S-Cross.