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The Dream Machines

The Dream Machines
Cars are about sex. Everyone knows that. However, at the country's biggest automobile drool show, the Auto-Expo, which opened in Delhi on February 21, Outlook's Bharat Ahluwalia decided to temper his primal urges with a dash of pragmatism, and concern for our readers. They, we felt, should not lose their peace of mind over magical machines that are not going to be launched in India in the near future. But there are three cars soon to be avail -able in the country that we feel you should know about.

The Rolls: There's a dream about to come true for those who like them well-upholstered and quiet. Rolls Royce will soon be here, courtesy the soon-to-be finalised dealership agreement with Bombay-based Auto Hangar (India). If you can't get a new one, you still have options. "I expect India to provide quite a substantial market. I hope to sell up to 10 brand new cars and approximately the same number, if not a few more, of used cars in a year in India," says Michael Powles, UK's largest Rolls Royce dealer, who sells 130 to 140 whisper-smooth dreams a year. In fact, in the week prior to the Auto-Expo, he sold three Rolls in Bombay, which have supplemented the 40 bonnets that sport the silver waif on Indian roads.

 While a 1996 Rolls Royce could cost up to Rs 1.3 crore in India, Powles expects most of his buyers to go in for four or five year old Rolls, which are best imported from Britain where they are the cheapest. Powles says it should cost about £50,000 plus the 110 per cent import duty. But the duty of course has to be paid at the original price less UK taxes, less dealer mark-up and less 15 per cent depreciation for five years. This, Powles believes, won't add up to much. But even if you have around Rs 40 lakh to help you feel the complete man, you need an importer's license, and then it can be a three-month wait to import a brand new Rolls and a three-week wait for a used one.

  It's not that you couldn't import them earlier, the only hitch was that Rolls Royce had no service facility, and you can't exactly have equipment worth a few million stacked away in the garage, can you?

The Kari: For the high life fast lane, Lakshmi Performance Cars unveiled two prototypes of the famous two-seater Lotus 7 sports car at the Auto-Expo. Brought to India in collaboration with the DG Sports Car Company of the UK, the sleek low-hung machine was the brainchild of India's pioneering racing-car driver S. Karivardhan, who died in a glider accident on August 24 last year.

 The cars are expected to be launched in India in June-July this year and will be priced at Rs 7.5-8 lakh. A steal, considering they would cost you far more abroad. The two models, named the Kari 65 2.S and the Kari 65 2.IRS, hope to sell 300-400 cars a year to sports car enthusiasts. "We have already signed an MOU with the Government for the import of components and production will soon begin at our factory in Coimbatore," says C. Rajaram of Lakshmi.

The Kari 65 2.S has a potent 110 bhp, petrol-driven engine with a maximum speed of 190 km per hour. With a 170 bhp engine, the Kari 65 2.IRS can touch a breathtaking 220 km an hour. Next in line, a year later, is the replica of the Shell B Cobra, which will be christened Stallion.

The Stella: The pint-sized Stella from Chatenet of France was easily the most popular car at the Auto-Expo '96. The small 400-kg, 505-cc four seater has already been a huge success in Europe, where it was launched just two months ago. To be introduced in India in about a year-and-a-half by Eicher Goodearth, Stella will be available in both diesel and petrol-driven models. Though Eicher isn't too sure of the price yet, it expects it to be somewhere between Rs 1.25 lakh and Rs 1.75 lakh, depending on the level of excise.

 "We'll have both the four and two-door versions of the car and expect to sell 30,000-40,000 cars a year," says Deepak Dhawan, executive director, strategic planning, Eicher Goodearth. The body is fibre-glass and on French roads the car gives a mileage of 25 km per litre, though it is still to be tested under Indian conditions. Cheaper than the Maruti 800, this cute package could become the next new obsession for the promiscuous consumer of today.


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