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BMW, Audi, Land Rover, Toyota and Volkswagen plan slew of SUVs in India
Published on 9 Jan. 2010 10:28 PM IST
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Indian car market is all set to witness a rush of sports utility vehicles (SUV) at a time when Americans, traditionally the largest buyers of these fuel-guzzlers, are shunning them for smaller fuel-efficient cars. Some of the world’s top carmakers such as BMW, Audi, Land Rover, Toyota and Volkswagen are launching over half-a-dozen SUVs in the next six months in the world’s fastest growing auto market after China. SUVs, all-terrain vehicles that can cruise with the same comfort in cities and countryside, are drawing big crowds at the Auto Expo in New Delhi. Automakers are planning to manufacture most of the new products locally to reduce cost, rather than relying on imports as they have done in the past. “Local production will help us to launch our compact SUV Yeti with all top-end luxury features at a highly competitive price. We have finalised plans to roll out Yeti from our Aurangabad plant,” Skoda Auto India board member Thomas Kuehl said. Sturdy SUVs have been a basic mode of private transportation in the United States and European countries, but the global recession that affected these markets has forced global carmakers to look at fast growing emerging economies. Priced much higher than an average passenger car sold in the country, SUVs comprise a niche segment in the Indian automart. But as SUV sales are shrinking in the developed economies, automakers are looking to sell these products in markets such as China and India where high economic growth rates have resulted in high disposable incomes in the hands of a large middle class population. BMW has launched its flagship SUV model X6M with a price tag of Rs 1.3 crore (ex-showroom Delhi) and has drawn big plans to capture market share in the segment. “We have brought our entire SUV portfolio at the Auto Show and I feel these big machines are going to be next big thing on Indian customers’ minds. SUVs comprise 15% of our total vehicle sales in India that will double after the launch of our compact SUV X1 later this year,” said Peter Kronschnabl, president of BMW India. The company will start assembling the X1, priced more competitively at around Rs 25 lakh making it the cheapest SUV from BMW, at its Chennai plant in the next few months. Fellow German car maker Audi has reported 58% rise in SUV sales in 2009 and would commence local production of compact Q5 soon. It will also bring its most powerful SUV, the V8 4.2 Litre Q7, in limited numbers. “Indian customers have a strong preference for compact SUVs which guided our decision to produce Q5 locally and make inroads into the domestic market,” said Martin Birkner, head of marketing, Audi India. Europe’s largest carmaker Volkswagen has brought its flagship Toureg SUV into India at the price of Rs 60 lakh to India and plans to bring its smaller version Tiguan soon. The new batch of these SUV comes on the back of a spurt in demand that saw Toyota’s SUV Fortuner having a six-month waiting list due to an unanticipated rush for bookings. The SUV market, that also comprises cheaper products manufactured by M&M and Tata Motors, grew 21% to 1.04 lakh units in April-December 2009 over the year-ago period.

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