The utility vehicle market has the fancy of every automaker in India. Renault India has made a living by selling the Duster to this market, enjoying an 8 percent share in the UV segment from 0 percent within 18 months, whereas Ford has managed to shift to a comeback lane with the EcoSport which makes up for over 50 percent of the company's sales.
Meanwhile market leader Maruti Suzuki used the MPV segment to make up for volumes it lost with smaller cars as well as transform its image of being a small car expert to being a prospective threat in premium segments where it has failed repeatedly.
Growth in the MPV segment hasn't proved to be as renewable as the SUV segment. Vehicles like the Tata Aria, Chevrolet Enjoy and the Nissan Evalia that broke new ground in technology, value or affordability, faded quickly. Manufacturers have not used these failures as a meter to judge the segment depth, and regard the MPV as an avenue for growth in the long term as families that graduate from a hatchback where cars are sold by the millions, may shift to another brand of vehicle with three-row seating to travel with grown-up children and in-laws.
Having a people mover is a top priority for every car manufacturer in India, as we explain in this story.
The Mobilio was unveiled in India at the 2014 Auto Expo earlier this month. Based on the Honda Brio/Amaze platform, the car's wheelbase is stretched to accommodate three rows of seats. In India, the car would be powered by a 1.5L diesel engine which develops 100PS/200 Nm on the City and Amaze. Meanwhile the petrol option that would understandably not attract too much attention, would have to be the 1.5L petrol engine from the new City, pairing with either a 5-speed or 6-speed manual or a seven-speed stepped CVT. We sense Honda will gun for record fuel economy, if not for the total car market, at least for the MPV class.
The Mobilio will be priced to compete with the Maruti Ertiga, and will launch between July-September this year.
Launched as the Dacia Lodgy in 2011 to be a sister model to the Duster, the Lodgy, with seats for 8 passengers, shares its foundation with the hugely popular SUV. It is for the same reason that Renault would find manufacturing the car not as difficult as bringing in another new product. The Duster is localized to the tune of 80 percent and as critical components, including the 1.5-liter K9K diesel engine and the 6-speed gearbox, the dashboard, seats and suspension, that are common to the Lodgy, are procured from local vendors, a competitive price tag can be achieved.
We expect the Renault Lodgy to launch before March 2015.
Datsun have announced the Go+ for the Indian market in the second half of the year. Essentially a stretched Go hatchback with a small third row bench, the Go+ would be one of India's least expensive family vehicles as it manages to stay within the 4m barrier, firing a 1.2L petrol engine which also qualifies for lower subsidies.
Setting it between the poles that are the Wagon R and the Swift is one way to position this product. The mechanical aspect remains unchanged from the Go - using a 1.2L three-cylinder petrol engine to produce 68 PS and 104 Nm of torque.
Measuring 3,995 mm long, 1,635 mm wide and 1,485 mm tall, with a wheelbase of 2,450 mm, the 794 kg MPV would easily fit into your existing parking space. The Go+ received its Indian premiere at the Auto Expo, but was shown first at the Indonesian International Motor Show last year where it launches the brand this year.
Hyundai's second India-intensive product program after the Eon would be an affordable three-row family vehicle. Very few details are available on this project today which would launch somewhere in 2016.
Likely to share its platform with the Grand i10 or the new i20, we expect the MPV to have segment-first equipments, a good variety of variants and trims, and sport the Fluidic Design 2.0.
Chevrolet Enjoy facelift
Introduced in India early last year, the Chevrolet Enjoy is China's best selling MPV but in India, the reception to the Chinese-developed vehicle could have been a lot better. The 1.3-liter engined rear-wheel drive MPV offered at rock-bottom prices with better space than the Ertiga sold just 15,679 units last year, a fraction that rivals Maruti and Toyota managed with their family vans.
One aspect that generally is regarded as an area that begs for improvement is the aesthetics. In China, Wuling (the sub-brand that sells light commercial vehicles including the Enjoy) introduced an upgraded Enjoy in August last year featuring a new face and a revamped dashboard with modern amenities like a 7-inch touchscreen multimedia system, steering-mounted audio controls, stepped-up switchgear and a reworked NVH package.
The 1.4-liter petrol engine was phased out and in came a new and more powerful 1.5-liter motor.
At some point in the lifecycle of the Indian car, these updates would have to be downloaded to the Enjoy for it to contend with new competitors as well as hold on to its current market share.
The Tata Movus is expected on the market in a short while from now in 7-, 8- and 9-seater variants. Replacing the Sumo Grande, the Movus borrows the Safari Storme's 2.2-liter four-cylinder VariCOR engine which produces 140 PS of power and 320 Nm of torque in the Storme and comes mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. These figures are likely to be downgraded in the interest of fuel efficiency.
Targeted at the commercial segment, the Movus carries a host of improvements on the back of customer input. Improvements on the Movus include thicker brake linings, revised body mounts for improving NVH, cable type door latch, new clutch which reduces operating effort, longer lasting fuel filter, timing belt with extra durability and an adjusted rack and pinion steering system.
The Movus achieves a higher ARAI-certified fuel efficiency in the region of 15.2 kmpl (up from the current 13.55 kmpl) and would launch with the same basic looks.