I had a fascinating night last night at the Autocar India awards here in Mumbai.
Our Indian sister magazine gave out 15 awards in all, for categories such as best luxury car (Merc E-class), best driver’s car (BMW Z4), best value for money (Tata Manza) and the premium hatch of the year (the Maruti Ritz - or the Suzuki Splash to you and me).
No-one was too shocked by the overall car of the year. It was the Tata Nano, a car that’s caused huge ripples here, and after production delays it is now finally starting to be seen in numbers on the streets.
Company boss Ratan Tata picked up the gong. He’s renowned for not appearing in public too often so he got a Bollywood star welcome - until last night I didn’t even have a clue just how famous and how admired he is here. No surprise really. Tata’s influence pervades everywhere. I’m currently sitting in one of his hotels, drinking bottled water made by one of his companies and will be sending this blog via his IT company.
But the most fascinating thing for me last night was the opportunity to talk to the bosses of both the domestic car makers and the raft of importers now selling cars here. They all had one thing in common too; none of them quite knows just how big the Indian car market is going to get. Last year just over two million cars were sold here, making it almost exactly the same size as our car market, but the potential is enormous.