The National Auto Expo, which is the biggest automobile event in India returned this year and it was back with a bang. Big names such as Maruti Suzuki, Mahindra, Tata, Honda, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Renault and Hyundai were showcasing the output of the efforts that they had put into designing a new range of cars, with many of them also being electric vehicles.
This year, South Korean manufacturer KIA showed the people of India what it was bringing to the market come 2019 and their appearance had a huge impact; they drew a lot of attention and raised a lot of eyebrows.
I was overwhelmed by KIA’s new fleet of cars. They had brought in all that they had to offer, from SUVs to Hatchbacks, from hot saloons to futuristic EVs; KIA had it all. The Stinger GT, which was recently reviewed by recognized car journalist James May on ‘The Grand Tour’ was the one which caught the eyes of many including myself.
Although KIA got their cars right, they made a big mistake with the marketing; their factory will be established in the middle of this year and they will start selling most of their cars in the early months of 2019, after they have produced a sufficient number of them. Until then, only a few of their SUVs will be available in the market and this means that they seem to have got the timing wrong; they have come to the Auto Expo a little too soon.
By the time they will start selling all of their cars to the Indian people, a long time would have passed by since they exhibited their range on a large scale and chances are that many people will have forgotten about them. In order to regain the attention of the buyers, and to be able to achieve their sales targets, KIA will have to spend extensively to get the the marketing right and let the country know about what they have to offer.
I feel that Renault should be a benchmark for KIA; the way that the French manufacturer has entered into the Indian market and made a place for itself is very impressive and KIA should try a similar approach to make a name for themselves and to try to increase their market share. Nevertheless, KIA’s fleet of cars were very impressive and come next year, the competition in the Indian automobile market is about to heat up.
The entire Expo was dominated by electric vehicles; most top companies promoted the future of mobility by exhibiting their new EVs; these exciting new types of cars were all very impressive but in my opinion, Mahindra won the EV game at the Auto Expo by quite a margin. They displayed and marketed their wide range of electric vehicles very well and it seemed that they had an EV for everyone, from the common user to the businessman. That is where I feel that Mahindra made big gains on all the other car manufacturers and took the lead in the EV race.
Their conventional petrol-powered range also had a few interesting cars such as the Thar ‘Daybreak Edition’ and also the TUV Stinger but it was their electric vehicles and the Mahindra Racing M4 Electro from the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship which caught the eyes of most people.
Mahindra Racing had set up a few fun activities such as the Formula E simulator to promote the series and electric mobility in general. They seemed to have met their expectations and achieved the set targets as a lot of people enjoyed the activities and started to take interest in Electric Mobility, with the Simulator and the Formula E car largely contributing to it. No wonder Mahindra won the award for the most entertaining pavillion of the show.
Honda and Toyota brought out quite a few EVs at the expo but the one that impressed me the most was the hydrogen-powered Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, about which I talk in this video.
The sad part though was that Honda did not market the Clarity in the right way; they did not give a lot of significance to the fact that it had an onboard fuel cell which would convert liquid hydrogen into electricity to drive the car and that the time taken to fully charge up the car would be the same as the time taken to fill up an ordinary petrol powered vehicle. What Honda did was reveal that it was powered by Hydrogen but instead of giving greater importance to that, they felt that sharing the dimensions of the car to the masses would have a greater impact.
This meant that not a lot of people got to know what is special about the Clarity, thus making the idea of displaying it at the expo an unsuccessful one. The Clarity is a revolutionary car with fascinating technology and Honda have done a brilliant job in bringing the thought of Hydrogen powered cars to reality but if they can market this gem more effectively, its reach within the people will increase greatly and Honda will develop a much better brand image. (Read more about Honda Clarity Fuel Cell)
Big names such as Audi, Jaguar-Land Rover, Skoda and Volkswagen were not present at the expo and that was disappointing but other things such as the FMSCI pavillion (about which I will talk in a separate article), the Classic Car Collection and the performances at each manufacturer’s pavillion kept the crowd entertained.
For me, the most impressive manufacturer would be Mahindra with Tata following them up with their stunning new range of cars developed on the OMEGA (Optimal Modular Efficient Global Advanced Architecture) technology.
All in all, the Auto Expo was very well set up and it provided a good day’s entertainment for a car enthusiast. A few things here and there were missing but still, it was well set up and gave a good idea about what we can expect from car manufacturers in the upcoming year.