The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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India struts on global car ramp
- Aston Martin shows Dilip Chhabria-built prototype at Detroit

Mumbai, Jan. 7: Don’t be surprised if Pierce Brosnan shows up in an Aston Martin shaped by Indian hands in the next Bond movie.

Car designer Dilip Chhabria has driven India into the high street of the auto industry with UK-based and Ford-owned Aston Martin unveiling a prototype built by him at the Detroit motor show.

Wraps were taken off the AM V8 Vantage concept car at a glittering show by the CEO of Prime Automotive Group, Mark Fields, before the world media. Prime Automotive handles all premium brands of Ford, the world’s second largest carmaker.

This is the first time a global carmaker has used an Indian design firm — Chhabria’s DC Designs is based in Mumbai — for prototype building.

Hormuzd Sorabjee, the editor of the automobile magazine Autocar India, said: “You know what this means' It means DC has changed the way the world will look at India. Earlier foreign companies came to India for low-cost jobs, but with Aston Martin aligning with Chhabria, it is now clear that prestigious carmakers can come here for world-class quality. Aston Martin would not settle for anything below top class.”

Ulrich Bez, chairman of Aston Martin, showed off the concept car at the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Hall in Detroit. The company plans to put the model in production in two years.

Dilip Chhabria is in Detroit to bask in the glory of this international recognition as well as with other designs that he is unrolling before car business honchos. His son Bonito, also involved in the business, said: “This may well be India’s ticket to the international car market.”

Chhabria, who learnt his trade at the Art Center in Pasadena, had started out by improvising rickety motor bikes and battered Maruti 800s — mostly for a lark.

“Handcrafted in metal” with a design provided by Aston Martin, he took three months to put the AM V8 together. “This is one car in an international show that has been made totally by a team of Indians, using totally indigenous expertise,” Bonito said.

The compact two-seater is powered by an all-new 4.3-litre V8 engine and its body and chassis are made of aluminium and carbon fibre composites.

Bez said the prototype was of “very good quality” and its platform would be the basis for all future models of the company, which chooses to sell only about 1,500 cars a year. That’s how exclusive it is.

“Had this car been made anywhere else in the world, it would have been made from fibreglass and cost a thunder, almost four times more,” an engineer at DC Designs said. “Only India could have totally hand-made an entire car.”

The car would be hand-built at Aston Martin’s new plant in the UK and, when launched in 2005, sit alongside the company’s existing models like DB7 and the flagship Vanquish.

Sorabjee said the achievement would give the Indian industry a new direction. “This is a big development. It has put India on the global list. The West will now be more willing to turn to India for cutting-edge performance and class. It is a sign that India can perform and deliver.”

DC Designs feels it has got its big break, equipping it to gatecrash into America and Europe. “Our marketing efforts are being intensified as this has been a great confidence booster,” Bonito said.

“Our credibility has gone up, as has the future of Indian prototype manufacturing.”

“We always feel that the West has undisputed sovereignty over fabulous cars and unbelievable designs, but we have proved them wrong,” he added.

Chhabria had caught international attention with Infidel, a sports car prototype that premiered at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2002.

At Detroit, AM V8 is being shown with products and ideas from 45 companies. Rolly-Royce is parading a super-luxury $300,000 model. At the other end, Chevrolet is displaying a pick-up that sells for $20,000.

Bez said the car would be cheaper than previous models manufactured by Aston Martin. It would compete against the likes of the Porsche 911 and the Ferrari 360 Modena.

Aston Martins start at $160,000, but the AM V8 Vantage will be priced only around $100,000. Maybe it’s not the car for James Bond, after all.

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