The budget shared by the Finance Minister has received a lot of flak from the automotive industry, but could there be a silver lining in this that could be capitalized upon?
It’s rather old news now that the recent budget has not done any good for the automotive industry. The hike on SUV excise duty to 30 per cent and the rather illogical hike on imported high end cars and bikes is rather hard to digest and hopefully sense will prevail and the industry eventually manages to get some rollbacks, but if we proceed status quo, there just might be a silver lining in this dark cloud hovering over the automotive industry.
While SUVs have been defined as a vehicle with a ground clearance of 170mm or more and a length more than 4000mm, this very rule opens up the scope for small SUVs. That’s right, the Mahindra Quanto and the upcoming Ford EcoSport are exempt from this rule and will continue to benefit from the small car excise policy that the Government offers. Having said that, it makes sense for other manufacturers to look at this segment in a new light and hopefully capitalize on it in the near future.
On my visit to the 2013 Geneva Motor Show recently, I chanced upon the Suzuki Jimny. This is a vehicle that could make it to India and has the potential to be a top contender amongst this new breed of small urban SUVs. Already available in global markets, the Jimny is just 3695mm from its front bumper all the way to the rear spare mounted on the back and comes fitted with a 1.3 litre VVT petrol engine.
For India, the Jimny could get the 1.2VVT petrol and the famed 1.3DDiS diesel mill under its hood, which would make it a formidable contender in the small city SUV space. Further to this, the Jimny is already available in a right-hand drive version, so what the equation boils down to is the manufacturing set up for this vehicle in India-a call that Maruti Suzuki should look at investing in rather quickly. After all, this is a company that has dominated the small car space and it only makes sense for them to take the fight into this new market space at the earliest.
Keeping in mind the market crunch currently underway as well as the need to develop new segments to trigger a growth spurt, other manufacturers should also actively consider products for this new segment. Mahindra, the dominant SUV player in the market could consider a more robust offering than the Quanto; maybe a sub 4000mm Thar! Tata could come up with a Vista based Crossover, GM could bring in the Chevrolet Trax, Volkswagen could re-ignite their Indian assault with a mini SUV based on the UP platform which Skoda could also re-badge and sell.
The dream list is endless, and the possibilities are enough to really get you thinking. I just hope that the industry starts to think along these lines, for if the government wants to keep things small and easy to park, the industry might as well offer such vehicles with tonnes of attitude and what better than a quirky little SUV…that isn’t a government defined SUV!