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Will Small Be Big?

A few predictions about the future of the Maruti 800 and the market for small cars

Will Small Be Big?
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553
The rapid-fire unveiling of four more small cars at Auto Expo '98, has got the chattering classes going about the demise of the Maruti 800. What is the truth?

Kinetic Engineering and its Rs 1.25-lakh, 500-cc lawnmower- engine-powered fantasy which depends on the government agreeing to reduce the excise on personal cars to 15 per cent. It may be useful for short-distance riding.From room to room, possibly, if you have a house large enough. Already unveiled twice before with the same vague promises, this is a loser from the word "stop". Not on the roads in 1998 for sure. appears to have had some work done on

Hyundai Santro it for Indian conditions but let's drive a test piece on Indian highways on single-lane roads with buses and trucks pelting past its high profile before we make any comments. Doubtful in 1998. Price about Rs 3 lakh. would have been a joke if it were not

Daewoo M-100 for the fact that Daewoo, after reducing prices by a quarter on the Cielo, needs sympathy more than anything else. The largest parking lot anywhere near Delhi at their factory in Surajpur, and claimed R&D expenses of almost Rs 270 crore, do not hide the fact that the only prototype they could show us was left-hand-drive, a direct import. Moreover, it didn't start outside their pavilion and had to be pushed into pace. Cars cannot be evolved for Indian conditions overnight, even if they are not much better than re-skinned Maruti 800s with minor work on the engine. Because, yes, that is exactly what the d'Arts really is: the Suzuki 800 with a new-look front grille. Very doubtful in 1998, and even if they do manage, the price will be closer to that of the Zen than that of the Maruti 800. is the only car that can justify any speculation

Tata Small Car on the small car market becoming a fierce battlefield. The package appears to be just right and the price can only imply that something is very wrong with the costing of the Maruti Zen and the 800. You do appear to be getting the interiors of an Ambassador, the exteriors of a Zen and the price of an 800. Price? Maruti 800 plus spare change for a 1,400-cc diesel/petrol option, almost 60 per cent more in terms of brake horsepower on a sensible low-slung though slightly overweight hatchback, which is pretty and tough-looking at the same time. Ratan Tata has an inscrutable smile—just like the front of his small car.

So where does that leave us then—seeing that the Tata car makes an appearance only towards end-1998?

  •  The Maruti 800 will continue to reign supreme, and quality will improve, because all this small car ballyhoo has put the fear of the devil in them. Whether Maruti can get its vendors to improve quality, however, remains to be seen. Numbers will go up, though marketshare may come down.
  •  The Hyundai/Daewoo efforts will depend, to a large extent, on their realising that we Indians expect a lot for our small-car money and won't really fall for beads and baubles.

    And Tata will, in all likelihood, start the next chapter in personal car history in India.

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