Year 2017 proved to be eventful for the automobile industry and customers alike. 2018 looks to be even further more exciting with a slew of launches and even new players entering the Indian market.
Though the market fluctuated due to economic policies of the government and the usual post-festival slowdown, the automobile industry saw a re-assuring positive growth.
The year gone by
As expected the hatchback segment was the winner with 6 out of top 10 cars sales hailing from this segment. Maruti Suzuki, for obvious reasons, took the cake.
The steady Compact / Urban SUV segment grew exponentially with the entry of the Honda WR-V, Tata Nexon, the new 2017 Ford Ecosport, facelifted 2017 Maruti S-Cross and Jeep Compass.
The sales figures of luxury segment also rose despite the hiccups predominantly because of the launch and aura created around exciting new segment starters like the all-new 2017 long wheelbase E-class (which was made in India from the very beginning and unique only to the Indian market) and the SUV Coupe duals from the steady luxury market leader Mercedes Benz. Others in the luxury market also competed strongly to achieve an overall high sales figure closing for the year.
Manual or automatic?
In a dramatic shift of trend observed in the auto industry, a shift in preference from a manual transmission to the automatic transmission is becoming more evident as more and more manufacturers are looking at launching automatic variants of their range of vehicles attributed to an increase in demand from customers and the competition heating up by the minute. This trend is bound to accelerate rapidly thanks to the dense traffic conditions and people preferring a comfortable drive (no gender bias here).
Indians still prefer features and price over safety
When it comes to build quality and sturdiness, the Germans and Americans hold an upper hand whereas the Koreans and Japanese counter it with features and after-sales. The Korean-Japanese manufacturers continued to dominate the market with 16 of the top 20 December 2017 car sales coming from them.
This scenario does not seem to change anytime soon with the level of trust in Maruti-Suzuki and Honda, also the acceptance of Hyundai among the masses. ‘Kitna deti hai’ still seems to be the motto of the majority buyers.
Electric the way forward?
Tata’s attempt at electric vehicles saw the light of day with the delivery of the first batch of Tigor Electric, but to be made commercially available by 2020. Mahindra is not too far away in this segment either with the e20 and eVerito following suit and grabbing a lot of eyeballs. The electric segment is expected to see a rise due to awareness and affordable options from manufacturers and renewed determination and focus from the current government.
Climate change consciousness
Swedish car manufacturer Volvo has taken the CKD route in India, reducing vehicle prices drastically and giving a section of society the satisfaction of owning the ‘safest cars in the world’ in 2018. Volvo, in its future plans, has also announced no new development of diesel engines ‘as the cost of reducing emissions of nitrogen oxide is becoming too much’. This move might push other manufacturers in the same direction paving the way for more research in e-vehicle segment, though the actual implementation might be a couple of years away. Right at the beginning of 2018, Mercedes-Benz India has already launched the All New S Class, which is Bharat Stage VI compliant, hinting at a greener future.
Exit and entry
The biggest upset of 2017 was caused by the exit of Chevrolet from Indian markets sending existing Chevy owners in a tizzy. Dwindling sales, no new launches and poor after-sales resulted in them pulling out. But 2018 brings some exciting news as Kia finally comes to India and even the Genesis. The Hyundai Motors subsidiary (Kia) has set up a US$ 1.1 billion manufacturing facility in Andhra Pradesh and will soon begin mass production as Kia sets to announce India launches in the Auto Expo 2018 in Noida.
Launches in 2018
This year will see a slew of new launches, some first-timers and some repackaged, few of them going all out and beyond their comfort zone to grab the all-important market share. The most awaited launches include the next generation Maruti Suzuki Swift, new generation Honda Amaze, Honda CR-V, new Hyundai Santro, Hyundai i20 facelift, Hyundai Creta facelift, Toyota Vios / Toyota Yaris Sedan, Toyota Avenza and maybe even the Toyota Rush, Lamborghini Urus, and the facelifted S-class from Mercedes-Benz. Mahindra will also relaunch the new age Sangyong products along with other refreshes from their stable.
The year 2018 comes across as a win-win situation for both customers and manufacturers. The pre-owned market is also set to grow and become more organised with OEMs focusing on the potential and business they carry. Most manufacturers, from hatch batch and luxury segment, have begun their own pre-owned cars operations and we might see higher levels of investment in future from them.