Auto News – Mar 2007

*India is going to allow the import of a specified number of the iconic motorcycles at lower duty in turn US will allow Indian mangoes. Earlier Harley Davidson had tried to enter the indian market but not succeeded due to strict indian emission norms and high import duty.

* Bajaj Auto plans its foray in to four-wheelers with a light goods carrier which will compete with market leader Tata ace and soon to be launched piaggio 4-wheeler. . Bajaj Auto is working on a “non-traditional light car concept” for which it’s open to partnering with Tata Motors which is working on a Rs 1-lakh car. The concept car will be showcased at the 2008 Auto Expo. The concept car will not be a one-box passenger carrier, but a two-box vehicle like Maruti 800 or Alto.

*General Motors India on March 29 launched a special ‘Platinum’ edition of its luxury sedan Chevrolet Optra priced at Rs 8.24 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). The company plans to sell 250 units of Chevrolet Optra Platinum limited edition throughout the country. The limited edition sedan comes with an additional three-year warranty and sports new feature including a platinum badge on the trunk lid, chrome kit for the front lower bumper, outer rear view mirror and tail-lamps, new gear knob and an MP3 music system.

*Hyundai will launch environment-friendly compressed natural gas (CNG) version of the Santro within two months. Hyundai, which started exporting the compact car Getz today, will also launch three versions of the car in the domestic market. The car will be rechristened Getz Prime and will have three variants with 1.1 litre and 1.3 litre petrol engines and a 1.5 litre diesel engine.The 1.3 litre Getz that we have here today will get a facelift with the same engine while the diesel variant will come in the second half of the year.

*Bad news for two wheeler manufacturers! A Merrill Lynch report says the growth figure for the two-wheeler market will fall to a single digit in the next two years. Two-wheeler sales grew 12.5 per cent in April-February 2006-07, down from 13.63 per cent in the same period of the previous fiscal year. Growth in passenger car sales, on the other hand, accelerated from 11 per cent to 25 per cent during the period.

*Financial Express reported Bajaj is expected to launch passenger carrier version of light commercial vehicle(LCV). The proposed vehicle will be fitted with a 500-600cc engine and will be available in diesel, petrol and compressed natural gas versions. Bajaj had earlier said it would launch a goods-carrier version of a light commercial vehicle in the first half of 2009 to take on mighty Tata ACE.

*Valentino Rossi – five time motoGP champion won the Spanish motoGP. Rossi dominated the race from the begining and won the spanishGP(Rossi failed to win the championship in the past five races). Fiat – Yamaha is happy to see both Rossi and Edwards in the podium.

*Porsche- the maker of SUV cayenne has launched a takeover bid to Volkswagen. Volkswagen has control over popular car brands such as Audi, Skoda, Bentley and luxury brand Lamborghini. In India Skoda has niche market in the premium car segment with its offerings such as octavia,superb and laura.

*Ford and Honda occupies the top position in the Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI), a collective measure of the loyalty and experience index of car buyers in a survey conducted by Businessworld India. Hero Honda, Bajaj and TVS occupies the top slots in the survey

*DaimlerChrysler India unveiled its latest edition of the S-Class diesel, S-320 CDI-L, and the premium Mercedes-Benz CL-Class on March 23. The S-320 CDI-L will cost Rs 71.12 lakh, while the CL-Class 500 Rs 1.17 crore and the Cl-Class 600, Rs 1.62 crore (ex-showroom, Mumbai)

* Impact of Inflation on car sales are clearly seen in March figures. In 2007 India’s inflation has hovered above 6%, to curb rising inflation rate, Reserve Bank of India has moved up the interest rate. This has affected the car sales badly. Over the last two months, car loan rates have seen a rise of 250 basis points (2.5%) to touch the 14.5-16% range which means consumer have to bear additional burden in Equated Monthly Installments(EMI) for buying their dream machines. DNA has reported sales so far in March are down anywhere from 5-15% from last year.

* When bikes like Bajaj Pulsar 200cc, New Karizma and soon to be launched Pulsar 220cc, Karizma FI are priced/expected to be priced at Rs80,000. Consultancy Firm JD Power said, the much-touted “people’s/1 Lakh car” from the stable of Tata Motors could create a major dent in the top-end motorcycle sales with its lucrative price tag, which has already become a global case study.

*China and India’s growing auto markets carry high credit risks for foreign automakers, despite promising high returns, mainly due to intense competition, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said in a report published on 22 March 2007.

*Economic Times reported Honda is planning to launch a whole range of 100cc motorcycles in India soon. Honda also plans to import fully built bikes in the 500cc and above range. Honda may first go for 500 cc and above models where Honda may look at importing completely built units. But for models less than 500 cc engine displacement, Honda is studying options to assemble them in India. Honda has recently launched Grand Prix limited edition of Unicorn.

*Skoda – subsidiary of Volkswagen has been assembling cars from completely knocked down kits imported from the Czech Republic. Now, Skoda is looking at changing its India strategy from an assembly operation to full-scale manufacturing. This will help in reducing the production cost and hence Skoda can position its cars competetively.

*The India-assembled high-end BMW cars are set to formally roll out on March 29 at the company’s assembly facility near Chennai. BMW will initially roll out the BMW 3 series from the new assembly plant. BMW now has a total of eight dealers, covering major cities. Besides two dealerships each in Delhi and Mumbai, it has one dealer each in Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chandigarh. “BMW is likely to expand this to Kochi, Kolkata and Ahmedabad,” reported Economic Times.

* Tata Motors rolled out its 1,00,000th Ace, its mini-truck, 20 months after its launch, from the company’s Pune plant. Recently,a special variant of Ace called TataAce HT (High Torque) is launched to deal with a wide variety of gradients, especially in the North Eastern region. Tata is also planning to launch to omni version of Tata Ace to compete Maruti Omni soon.

*Honda has launched special/limited edition of Unicorn which is priced at 59,425 (ex-showroom Delhi). It would sell 2,500 units of the limited edition, which would be rolled out in May.

* Honda launches sporty Unicorn with new graphics which is priced at Rs58,150(ex-showroom, Delhi). Honda’s Sporty Unicorn is set to be launched nationwide on April 9. Honda is also going to launch new scooter by the end of 2007. source NDTV profit

*Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari won the Australian Grand Prix.

*Here’s another war between TVS and Bajaj. TVS has launched a special website for its flagship product ‘Apache’ to combat Pulsar’s famous web

*Aston Martin, James Bond’s preferred car, is changing hands. To raise cash after last year’s record loss, Ford Motor Company will sell its profitable Aston Martin luxury sports-car unit for £479 million ($926.522 million or Rs 4,119.4 crore) to investors led by UK auto-racing champion David Richards.

*Kimi Raikkonen will start the first race of the 2007 Formula One season on pole position after qualifying fastest in

*Piaggio plans scooter Vespa’s third entry into India soon.*Indus Elec-Trans, a division of Electrotherm (India) Ltd on March 15, 2007 announced launch of its Yobykes in Eastern India. *Two-wheeler major, TVS Motor Company (TVS-M) has launched a sport variant of its popular entry level motorcycle, ‘Star City’. The 100 cc ‘Star Sport’ is launched in two versions, the basic and premium. The base version will come with alloy wheels in 2 colours – Red and Black. The deluxe version with alloy wheels will have fuel gauge, chrome graphics and will be available in three colours – Silver, Black and Blue. While the basic variant of ‘Star Sport’ has been priced at Rs 33,990 (ex-showroom Chennai), the premium variant of the new model will carry a price tag of Rs 35,490 (ex-showroom Chennai). TVS will also launch a new Apache, a three-wheeler in August, and a new Victor during 2007-08

*Stoner of Ducati won the Qatar Moto GP. Former champion Valentino Rossi finished second and defending champion Nicky hayden finished 8th.

*Ford India announced the introduction of the Ikon 2007 on sedan on March 9th that comes packed with plush interiors and stylish exterior enhancements.

*Bush to sign biofuels pact in Brazil, earlier Bush called on Congress to require the annual use of 35 billion gallons of ethanol and other alternative fuels such as biodiesel by 2017, a fivefold increase over current requirements.This move will give new dimension to biodiesel market for which India has great potential.

*Bajaj slashed out Tata’s talk of small car as a marketing gimmick.
“He has to sell his car… so he has to speak like that,” Bajaj shot back when reporters asked him about Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata’s remark that one of the major reasons for him to decide on the ‘people’s car’ was the concern for safety of those travelling by two-wheelers.

*Fiat to sell its cars only through Tata -Fiat dealership chain.Mr De Filippis Giovanni, Managing Director, Fiat India, said the company has been selling its models using the existing 41 outlets of the Tata – Fiat dealership chain and has now proposed to link the remaining 38 `Fiat’ channels to the Tata – Fiat chain.

*Visit your favourite manufacturer cars shown in Geneva auto show- one of the biggest auto shows in the world.
Geneva auto show home page

*Bajaj will slash the price of its 100cc bike Platina thus making it cheapest bike in the segment, more affordable than Hero Honda CD Dawn. This strategic move by Bajaj will put more pressure on its rival Hero Honda. Bajaj will exit the 100cc market in mid-2007.For more

*Mahindra and Mahindra bags Punjab tractors in an all cash deal. The winning bid by M&M is said to be Rs360 per share.Source CNBC TV18.

* Tata has unveiled it’s new concept car ‘elgante’ in 77th geneva motor show. New Indica and Indigo sedan will borrow design cues from this concept car.

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