Auto Makers Prepare Launches for India Festival Season

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Auto Makers Prepare Launches for India Festival Season

Post  Administrator on Mon Oct 17, 2011 10:42 am

NEW DELHI – Hyundai Motor Co., Tata Motors Ltd. and Skoda Auto a.s. are among several auto makers gearing up to introduce a slew of vehicles in India this month as they attempt to win over customers and reverse a slowdown in sales in Asia's third-largest automobile market.

Others such as Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co., Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. and Daimler AG began selling new cars and sport-utility vehicles in September, ahead of the two-month festival season which began in October, considered by many as an auspicious time to buy consumer durables.

Hyundai will introduce the Eon small car toward the middle of this month, said Arvind Saxena, director for marketing and sales at Hyundai Motor India Ltd.

He said the car will have an 814-cubic centimeter gasoline engine, making it the smallest engine-capacity model for Hyundai in the world.

Mr. Saxena declined to divulge the price of the Eon, but local media reports have said the car will cost about 250,000 rupees ($5,094), positioning it against market leader Maruti Suzuki India Ltd.'s Alto model. The Alto, with prices starting at 232,248 rupees at showrooms in New Delhi, is the highest-selling car model in India with sales of about 25,000 units each month.

"This car [Eon] has been designed primarily keeping the Indian customer in mind," Mr. Saxena said, adding that most parts for the car will be sourced from local vendors.

Hyundai, which started taking orders for the Eon on Saturday, will make the car at its facility near the port city of Chennai.

The introduction of new models comes at a time when the Indian automobile market is reeling from the impact of rising loan rates and higher fuel costs, with sales falling 10% in August after a 16% decline in July--the biggest drop since November 2008 and the first since January 2009.

Companies are hoping that, like in previous times, new vehicles will help perk up customer sentiment and revive sales.

"The auto industry is not like the soap industry. Here, people work on the long-term," said Debasis Ray, a spokesman for Tata Motors. "When people put new products, it increases the market."

Later in October, Tata Motors will introduce an upgraded version of its Sumo SUV, featuring a more powerful engine in addition to other changes, Mr. Ray said.

And SkodaAuto India will make the global debut of an entry-level sedan in the current quarter, said Thomas Kuehl, director for sales & marketing.

He declined to elaborate, but said that "we want to broaden our customer base in the industry than what we have now, by entering this segment."

He said that although factors such as increasing interest rates and higher fuel prices have affected the auto market, "we see the upcoming festive season turning that around."

In the two-wheeler segment, market leader Hero MotoCorp Ltd. is scheduled to launch its first dirt bike, the Impulse, later this month, said a person familiar with the matter.

The impending launches follow the recent introduction of Honda's Brio hatchback, Mahindra's SUV model--XUV500 and Nissan's Sunny sedan.

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