The Indian car market has been dominated by small low-cost cars for some time, but the prominent role of SUVs at this year’s Auto Expo in Delhi suggests the character of Indian roads could change.
Domestic manufacturers, like Tata, Mahindra, and Maruti Suzuki, which is the biggest car manufacturer in the country, led the SUV charge on the home front. Tata owns Jaguar Land Rover, but is only a modest carmaker itself. It displayed the Nexon compact SUV to much fanfare and praise. It also announced a marketing set-back with the news that it will change the name of its soon-to-launch Zica hatchback because of the association with the Zika virus.
But the biggest interest from the domestic market was always going to be around Maruti Suzuki because of its dominance in this country, and the manufacturer took the opportunity to use the very first press conference of the Auto Expo to unveil perhaps the biggest star of the show.
The Suzuki Vitara Brezza is a compact SUV that’s 3995mm in length – to avoid the extra tax on vehicles in India over four-metres long – and will go on sale this year. It’s unlikely to come to Europe, though. Maruti also unveiled the Baleno RS, with a sporty bodykit and Suzuki’s 1.0-litre Boosterjet engine.
Hyundai, another big player in India, also unveiled a compact-SUV concept at the show. The HND-14 is also under four-metres in length and will lead to a production version in the future, one that in all probability will go on sale in 2017.
Mercedes-Benz, SsangYong and Hyundai all showcased SUVs currently on sale outside of India before their respective launches in the country; the GLC, Tivoli and Tucson are all set to arrive in the near future.