The Indian automobile industry is in the fast lane. From sales of a few thousand annually, automobile companies in India this year crossed the magic number of one million, registering a growth rate of over 30 per cent. The dream run seems set to continue as no less than 30 new models are expected to hit the roads this year.
Traditionally, Calcutta has always trailed behind the other metros in terms of sales, but this time the city has not missed out on the car boom. Although exact numbers are not available, all segments in the market ' from the Maruti 800 at Rs 2.3 lakh to the Mercedes Benz S 350 with a price tag of Rs 64 lakh ' have witnessed a growth. And, there are three or four variants for most models, with added accessories in each.
'For us, the market has grown by over 350 per cent,' said Pramod Duggal of Windsor Honda. Honda sales have picked up 'phenomenally' in Calcutta, with Duggal selling around 100 cars per month. About 400 Santros hit the streets every month, say Hyundai dealers, and even the Mercedes Benz showroom is abuzz. 'Calcutta has fallen in love with the Merc,' says Edwin Aviet of Intercraft, the only Mercedes dealer in Calcutta.
Sales of sports utility vehicles (SUV) and multi utility vehicles (MUV) have gone up. Duggal adds that in 2003, when Honda's SUV, the CRV, was launched, it sold around one per month. 'Now, we sell about five or six.' Although Toyota stopped production of its MUV the Qualis, it became one of the biggest success stories in the category, even here. Others have since arrived to plug the gap.
Easy availability of car loans and low interest rates, coupled with newer models and falling prices, have made cars an affordable item, not just an aspirational luxury. Industry insiders say Calcutta is among the top six cities in terms of volume of annual sales. With growth being the buzzword, Metro on Sunday takes a tour of the city's car mart.
The Palio is the most popular Fiat model in Calcutta. There's also the Petra, a sedan, and the relatively new Adventure, a station wagon, fashioned after the Petra but taller and longer with more dickey space. Three new models from Fiat are lined up for launch by early 2006 ' the Idea, Panda and Punto.
Price range: Rs 4.14 lakh-Rs 5.9 lakh
The Ford Ikon is a mid-segment vehicle. The Fusion is an MUV, a city car rather than an SUV. The Endeavour is an SUV, and is available in four and two-wheel drives. The Ford Mondeo is available in cities like Mumbai and Delhi, and dealers say the premium segment luxury car should soon arrive here with a price tag of Rs 15-Rs 17 lakh.
Price range: Rs 4.97 lakh-Rs 15.84 lakh
GM owns the Opel and Chevrolet brands. Under Opel, the Corsa and Corsa Sail are still available. Chevrolet has come to Calcutta with the premium segment luxury car Optra, and the MUV the Tavera. Watch out for more models from both companies.
Price range: Opel: Rs 4.64 lakh-Rs 5.62 lakh; Chevrolet: Rs 6 lakh-Rs 10.63 lakh
Yes, the good ol' Amby is still a star on Calcutta streets. But apart from the taxis ' a new Ambassador only for Calcutta cabbies, called Economy, was launched in keeping with Euro III standards and is available at Rs 2.89 lakh under exchange ' it's the retro Avigo, launched a few months ago, that's catching the eye. The Grand 05, also a new model, is the first in the Ambassador line with power steering, power windows and other gadgetry. HM is also the dealer for Mitsubishi, with the Lancer and Pajero. A new variant of the SUV, the Pajero Sport, is planned for launch in August-September. Around three new models, including the Carisma, will hit the streets by early 2006.
Price range: Mitsubishi: Rs 6.9 lakh-Rs 18 lakh; Ambassador: Rs 3.41 lakh-Rs 5.15 lakh
There are three models from Honda. The City is the most popular, being low on the price factor and fuel efficient, too. The Accord is the next one up, and is available in three categories. The CRV is the SUV option, where sales are picking up. Coming up next year is the Civic, available in some other countries.
Price range: Rs 6.61 lakh-Rs 18.5 lakh
The Santro is one of the most popular cars in its segment, with 35 to 36 per cent of the market share. There's more on offer from the South Korean company ' Getz, Accent, Elantra, Sonata and the SUV the Tucson, launched about three months ago. Watch out for the new-look Sonata to hit the streets by the end of this year. Last week, Hyundai rolled out three new variants of the Santro Xing, too.
Price range: Rs 2.79 lakh-Rs 14.4 lakh
Mahindra & Mahindra
There are only two models, but the SUVs ' the Scorpio and the Bolero ' are two of the bestsellers in this segment, at least in Calcutta. Four-wheel drives in this city are catching on, with the Scorpio attracting the largest numbers. And it's no surprise, starting at under Rs 7 lakh. The Bolero is even cheaper, at below Rs 5 lakh.
Price range: Rs 4.93 lakh-Rs 7.96 lakh
The company is almost synonymous with cars in this country. From the ubiquitous 800 to the classier Esteem and everything in between, Maruti caters to almost every segment in the market. Omni, Wagon R, Alto, Zen, Baleno, Gypsy, Grand Vitara and now the Swift. Launched a couple of weeks ago, the Swift is doing brisk business in Calcutta, with long waiting lists. The 800, the cheapest car in the market, was recently modified, with 12 changes in total, and launched in March.
Price range: Rs 2.3 lakh-18.5 lakh
Mercedes Benz, of course. It's pure luxury, although some insist it's not just about aspirations anymore. The models available here include the C Class, E Class and the most expensive car in the city market, the Rs-64 lakh S Class. Two Calcuttans own the CLK four-door coupe, too. But the best-kept secret is the SLK ' the two-seater convertible, which can be brought in from Germany on order. The cars are slightly altered, like the raised suspension, to make them suitable for Indian conditions. Mercedes cars have some great gadgetry, like the upcoming rain-sensitive sunroofs.
Price range: Rs 24.5 lakh-Rs 64 lakh
The Czech car manufacturer is the only one offering a rally sports model, at least in Calcutta, the Skoda RS. There's also the Ambiente, Rider, Elegance, L&K and the-top-of-the-line luxury sedan Superb. Coming up next, sometime next year, is the Fabia, in the smaller car segment. This model will bring down the price tally to around Rs 7 lakh.
Price range: Rs 10.45 lakh-Rs 23 lakh
The range starts from the small Indica and goes up to the Indigo, which falls in the sedan segment, while the Indigo Marina is the station wagon. The Sumo Victa is a utility vehicle. Plus, there's the Spatio, and the Safari, which, claim Tata officials, is one of the largest selling four-wheel-drives in the country. There are more variants of the existing models to look forward to in the coming months.
Price range: Rs 3.10 lakh-Rs 12 lakh
Cars from this Japanese company have caught on in Calcutta. Case in point: the new Innova (replacing the Qualis), was launched in February and has a three-month waiting list in Calcutta. The Corolla is a regular passenger car, the top seller from the Toyota stable. According to a spokesperson, it is the largest selling sedan in the world, and is the market leader here, too, in this segment, with around 35 to 37 per cent of the customer pie. The Camry is in the top segment, while Prado, the land cruiser, is a high-end SUV.
Price range: Rs 7 lakh-Rs 39 lakh