Gone but not Forgotten Series – Fiat Punto

Do read our earlier articles in the ‘Gone but not Forgotten’ series – Toyota Qualis, Ford Fusion, Tata Nano, Skoda Octavia Mk1 and Chevrolet Tavera.

The Punto was actually the worldwide successor of the Uno in Fiat’s portfolio. Fiat had launched the Punto nameplate globally in the year 1993. Internally code-named Project 176, the Punto was announced in September 1993 as a replacement for the ageing Fiat Uno and was finally launched in the end of 1993 in the global markets. The Fiat Punto was voted European Car of the Year for 1995, defeating rival Volkswagen Polo! Punto was designed by one of the world’s most iconic car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro – He had designed models in brands like Alpha Romeo, Maserati, VW, Lamborghini & even Ferrari. Giugiaro is widely famous for designing the DMC DeLorean which was notable in its own time for its unique design and was also featured in the Hollywood Blockbuster Series Back to the Future.

India actually received the third generation Punto; also known as the Grande Punto. The car was based from the GM Fiat Small platform – Developed from 2002 in Italy, by Ulrich Schmalohr the engineer head of Opel (subsidiary of General Motors) and Giorgio Cornacchia head-project of Fiat Auto the Small platform was designed to be adaptable for Fiat Group and General Motors small cars. Even the Opel Corsa D was developed from the same platform. The Grande Punto was launched in India during the Delhi Auto Expo in January 2008, with sales starting in June 2009. The Punto was manufactured by the Fiat Tata Motors joint venture Fiat India Automobiles Ltd (FIAL) in a new plant in Ranjangaon, Maharashtra.

We present the reasons why the Fiat Punto makes an entry in the ‘Gone but not Forgotten’ series –

  • Punto was the best selling model in the Fiat India’s Lineup. Fiat had sold 72,235 units in the 10 years of the lifecycle of the model.
  • Timeless Design – Even as on date Punto stands out as one of the best looking hatchback on the road! No wonder it was designed by the legendary Giugiaro. The car’s nose, headlights and front grill look reminiscent of the Maserati Coupé (both were designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro of ItalDesign).
  • Solid Build Quality – The car at its time had received 5 star safety ratings in the Euro NCAP and felt the sturdiest vehicle in its category. Still the Punto customers go gaga about Punto’s solid build and paint quality levels.
  • Calibrated Handling – The car had set new benchmarks in terms of ride quality, high speed dynamics and overall handling. It was nothing but an enthusiasts dream!
  • Excellent Steering Feedback – The Punto was one of last small cars to be equipped with a hydraulic power steering. The steering was brilliant to use and gel well with the ride and handling prowess that the car possessed.
  • Came with National Diesel Engine of India – Fiat was the pioneer of 1.3L Multijet diesel engine and the one in Punto developed 74 bhp Power and 197 Nm of Torque.
  • An Enthusiasts first choice – Punto was one of the first cars to give importance on the overall driving pleasure and ride quality. Even Fiat marketed the Punto to be crafted for a True Fan!

  • The model was surely a savior for Fiat India – The car contributed to 51% of Fiat’s sales in India during its timeline!
  • Fiat later launched various iterations/updates – namely the Punto Evo and the Avventura –

  • The Punto + Evo + Avventura’s combined sales was 72,235 units
  • Even the Abarth version of the Punto was launched in Jan 2016 and it could sell 357 units in its lifetime.
  • Also though Linea was launched before Punto in India; It was developed from the Punto platform!




Let us look at the Punto’s Sales Trend through its years of existence in the Indian market –

  • The Punto had a promising start and sold 9,674 units in the first year of its launch.
  • Punto’s sales increased in the second year and crossed 10k sales mark in 2010. It continued to cross 10k sales in 2011; but post that could never achieve the feat.
  • Do note that Punto was sold in Tata showrooms in its initial days. The showroom staff always had a dilemma to pitch Fiat’s Punto or Tata’s Vista! The inhouse clash actually affected both the brands.
  • The sales did improve in 2014 when the Evo was launched and this time in a dedicated Fiat Showroom.
  • However; the sales couldn’t stabilize and the volumes fell owing to :
    • Low Resale Value
    • Poor Service Experience
    • Higher Cost of Maintenance & Reliability Concerns
    • Lower Network Availability
  • Anyhow with the death of Punto; Fiat brand too takes an exit from the Indian Market. All efforts from FCA is to focus on Jeep marque for India.

Punto made an impact for pioneering the ‘hot hatch’ culture in India. The Indian consumer was traditionally devoid of performance oriented, good looking and capable hatches – Fiat broke the mould and launched the Punto in the Indian market. Punto was always an enthusiasts car and shall always be remembered as one!

An Assessment of the Online Cars Sales Options in India

Online Sales Experience by brands. What we feel? Also, some feedback for the Manufacturers..

Car buying in India has always been driven by the ‘Touch & Feel’ model. While the consumers used to ‘research’ online; a lot of activities was still conducted at the showroom for finalizing the purchase. The activities primarily included Display & Demo of the Car, Test Drive, Booking, Finance Options, Exchange and finally delivery of the car. Covid 19 Pandemic has turned the dynamics of car purchase and is going to change the way people shall buy cars (atleast for now). While customers would be wary to physically approach the dealership and take the transaction ahead; majority of the OEMs have jumped to provide the ‘Online’ route to the prospects.

We are still on Websites when customers rarely use them:

We believe the OEMs are still lagging behind in the use of technology. While the world has graduated to the usage of apps; the OEMs have just stepped in to provide options to purchase vehicle online – and that too its not seemless in many cases. These are Covid times and manufacturers just need to be ahead of the curve!

As connected capability grows, automakers are investing significant resources in developing mobile apps for their vehicles. Despite a considerable effort, many apps are falling short of automakers’ hype. In the interconnected world of smartphone apps, the negative consequences of not delivering what’s promised can be profound.



Let’s review all the Online Car Selling websites available:

We have attempted to go through all the major Mass, Premium & Luxury brands to understand their Online Sales process. As mentioned before we feel that, all of them are still on websites when the world is on apps. Amazon & Flipkart have spoilt customers of choices. We see brands like Mercedes Benz who are able to display their stocks on the website. This seems to be by far the best brands could reach up to.

While we compare all the Websites; many of them have done a decent job, while some interfaces aren’t friendly at all. We present you the snapshot of our assessment here –

Mahindra, Kia & Nissan outdo the other Mass & Premium Car Manufacturers:

Mahindra: Simple, Detailed & Complete purchase experience. Hence Excellent Rating. Do visit the link mentioned below.

Link: https://www.mahindrasyouv.com/mahindra-cars/

‘Own Online’ option from Mahindra
The entire M&M PV portfolio on offer
Integration with Mahindra First Choice a good option to facilitate exchange

Kia: Premium Experience, Well Guided, Felt special through the experience. Do visit the link mentioned below to know more. Kia had already tasted success during the Seltos Pre-Launch bookings phase. It has received considerable amount of bookings online. It is now attempting to go seemless for the entire purchase experience now.

Link: https://www.kia.com/in/buy/configure/select-a-vehicle.html

There is a Virtual Reality Showroom too where you can explore the interiors & exteriors of the models in detail

Nissan: With just 1 Car (Kicks) to sell, amazed to see the detailing into the website. Gives a feel that Nissan is still serious about India.

360 degree view, A feel of a showroom at home, Detailed Explanation of the Car. Pretty Decent Job here!

Link: https://virtualshowroom.nissan.in/

Entire Showroom Feel right from your mobile device!

Let’s now review Online Buying Options of Luxury Brands:

BMW was the first Luxury brand to come very aggressively with their online experience. I would say it was well presented but it doesn’t win this battle of the Best Online Experience. Lot of work required to make the website feel premium.

Link: https://shop.bmw.in/

Mercedes Benz – Leader in the Luxury Space. Didn’t quite meet the expectation of Luxury on it website. We just missed the sheer opulence while we went through the website. Yes, Mercedes was one of the only brands with Real stocks in place which can be booked but it just didn’t attract us.. “ Mercedes is considered to be the epitome of Luxury in India.” – They need to put more effort on their website_ it isn’t simply rich..

Link: https://www.shop.mercedes-benz.co.in/inventory

Audi: Steals the show with AR (Augmented Reality). While other options have been kept very simple. Very close to this would be a Mercedes & then a BMW.

Link: https://www.audi.in/in/web/en/models/a6/a6-sedan.html

Just feel that the Top 5 luxury brands should come together to create an integrated app for the benefit of the customers. All of the brands can be on the Menu and feel some one should take the leadership in getting this done.

We anticipate many more disruptions in the days to come in the ways cars are being bought. Let’s see how things transition in the way ahead.

Gone but not Forgotten Series – Chevrolet Tavera

Do read our earlier articles in the ‘Gone but not Forgotten’ series – Toyota Qualis, Ford Fusion, Tata Nano and Skoda Octavia Mk1.

A lot of eyebrows will be raised for including Chevrolet’s Tavera in the list of ‘Gone but not Forgotten’ series. However; we exactly list the reasons why it makes an entry in the series –

  • Tavera was Chevrolet’s best selling model in the Indian sub-continent!
  • General Motors sold a whopping 2,08,431 units of the Tavera in the Indian market.
  • Tavera was Chevy’s longest running model too! The model was sold for almost 14 years (2004 to 2017).
  • Not surprisingly – this best selling Chevy was not a General Motors product; rather it was a re-badged Isuzu Panther! However; it was developed together as the “160 Project”.
  • The Tavera was actually built in the GM Halol, Gujarat plant with knock-down kit sourced from Isuzu Indonesia!

  • Tavera was developed to meet local Indian conditions in terms of harsh climate, uneven roads and large family structure.
  • The model was highlighted as a durable vehicle. It was also the Taxi operators favorite and they use to swear by the Tavera’s reliability and low running costs.
  • Tavera was a bigger brand than Chevrolet in Rural India. The rural customers may not recognize Chevrolet; but they could easily identify a Tavera!
  • In many cases; one could even hear the Chevrolet dealership being called as a Tavera dealership instead. Such was the brand equity of Tavera in the rural pockets of India.
  • The model was Chevrolet’s cash cow in India. The model had the most consistent sales volume in the Indian market with little / minor changes in its lifetime.
  • Even during the last stage; Tavera was contributing to over 50% of General Motors India’s sales! In 2017; Tavera sold 3,028 units v/s the overall GM sales of 7,434 units.

The name of the vehicle comes from the name of the small French village Tavera, in Corsica, known for its steep paths and rough roads. Tavera’s main competition included vehicles like the Toyota Innova, Mahindra Bolero and Tata Sumo. Tavera was available in India with diesel engine and a manual transmission. The vehicle was available in 7,8 and 9 seater configurations. Under the hood it was available with 2.5 litre diesel engine delivering a power and torque of 72 bhp and 171 Nm respectively. As for the fuel economy, the BS3 compliant diesel engine claimed to deliver 13.58 km/l.



Let us look at the Tavera’s Sales Trend through its years of existence in the Indian market –

  • Chevrolet Tavera registered its all time highest sale in the year 2007 when it sold 21,866 units. Also Tavera’s highest monthly sales was reported on September 2006 (2,222 units).
  • The model saw an upswing in sales in 2011-12 as well when it consistently reported >20k sales for 2 years repeatedly.
  • The model was primarily termed as a cheaper option to the Toyota Innova and had a strong fan base in the rural & taxi markets.
  • Even during the General Motors exit from the Indian market; Tavera was easily liquidated by its dealers and its void still hasn’t been filled by any OEM till date.
  • Even after the launch of a much cheaper MPV Enjoy; Chevrolet used to sell much higher numbers of Tavera.
  • Anyhow Tavera’s ride in the country, was not a smooth one. GM had to recall all Taveras built between 2005 and 2013 as they were manipulated to beat the emission norm. General Motors’ emission fudging episode left the company and government authorities red-faced.
  • The emission norm changes too led to the death of the model. The model could never upgrade to the BS IV norms and it had to slowly phase itself out.

Tavera will always be remembered as a capable, fuss free and a reliable workhorse. The model still has a huge fan following among the rural & taxi buyers and is sorely missed over the years of its phase out. Even GM itself wouldn’t have anticipated that Tavera would become its best selling and most consistent model in the Indian sub-continent. Hence though that the model is Gone; it is definitely not forgotten.

MoRTH

MoRTH Issues Notification To Limit Unfair Fastag Lane Use – Opinion

Ministry of Road Transport and Highways recently issued a notification to address a keyword issue. You had to have a Fastag to drive through the Fastag lanes. Even if it was damaged, you could, technically, fight your way through with the official word on your side. The MoRTH addressed this with GSR 298E. The clause now says that the tag should also be functional and valid.

Entry for non-tag users in Fastag lanes results in double toll as a fine.

Click here to read the official circular.

Here’s the excerpt from the amendment:

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued notification GSR 298 E,  dated 15th May 2020 for  amendment in the  National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules, 2008 which provide  that if a vehicle which is not fitted with FASTag or the vehicle  is without a valid or functional FASTag, enters into “FASTag lane” of the Fee plazas, then they  shall pay a fee equivalent to two times of the fee applicable to that category of vehicles. 

Before this amendment, the user of vehicle was to pay twice on the fee plaza only if the vehicle didn’t carry the FASTag and entered in dedicated FASTag lane.

FASTAG
FASTAG

Opinion

Even if you have a functional tag and the toll plaza’s hardware is the issue, it’s going to be difficult to prove that your tag is fine. Incorrect installation and non-maintenance could also lead to the malfunctioning of the RFID reader.

A rushed approach towards implementing the Fastag had its fair share of hurdles and caused traffic jams at several booths. That’s the exact opposite of what we were promised. Lots of road users have also had to pay cash at the booth only to find out later that the toll was also deducted from their account. Instead of educating the road users and delivering the promised results, the MoRTH bullied road users into getting a tag by closing all but one lane at toll plazas for non-tag users. Ideally, it should work as any startup does. Offer enough value to the end-users that they’re happy to pay for your product or service. This could be done by gradually increasing the number of Fastag-exclusive lanes at all toll booths.

The Reality

At the Kherki-Daula toll (NH8 Gurugram), for instance, there were 2 Fastag-exclusive lanes on each side. This is long before the Fastag became mandatory. The order to penalize non-tag users for using the tag lane has been around for a few years. Yet, it was never implemented at this plaza. Eventually, thousands of drivers found that there was no value in having a tag. Since the number of cash transactions was still quite high in these lanes, the authorities decided to drop the number of Fastag-exclusive lanes to 1 on each side. Poor enforcement of rules at the plaza was proving that the Fastag wasn’t offering enough value to the drivers to encourage adoption.

The Pain

All of a sudden, Fastag became mandatory, which led to huge traffic jams at the this Kherki Daula plaza. It got so much worse, that taking a longer alternate route became not only cheaper but faster for people. Talk about falling in your own pit.

The worst case is that everyone gets stuck in traffic because the road users aren’t ready to pay twice the tax. As a best case, the Fastag was speeding up the journey for its users by slowing down non-tag users. As there’s only 1 lane for non-tag users, it creates a severe bottleneck even at booths, which can use other lanes could ease the flow without affecting tag users.

This is a huge source of revenue for MoRTH as car owners have to buy a tag and maintain some balance. Those who have to rarely travel on the highways may also cave-in to avoid the pain of getting stuck in the only cash lane. Fastag was supposed to be faster for tag users. Not necessarily at the cost of slowing down non-tag users.

Risk To Privacy Though Location Tracking

Every time you go through a toll booth, the transaction record notes your location. Granted that this could potentially help you locate your lost vehicle. But, in the wrong hands, it’s a record of your routine, which can easily predict your location in future by drawing patterns. Machine Learning algorithms are already capable of doing this. Whether you’re comfortable sharing your location with the government officials depends on how much you trust them to safeguard it. History is not on their side. Aadhaar data breach and the recent revelation of security risks in the Arogya Setu app should be proof enough.

NHAI
NHAI

No Official MoRTH Order Mandating Fastag

I dug deeper and tried to find the actual order mandating Fastag. I’ve scoured through MoRTH’s and NHAI’s portal and Googled the hell out of Google and the closest thing I could find was a press release on PIB claiming that the MoRTH has “decided to declare” all lanes as Fastag-exclusive lanes. But, there’s a big difference between “deciding” to declare and “declaring”. “My friend has decided to buy a car” and “My friend has bought a car” have different meanings.

For clarifications, I’ve personally written to the Nodal Officer of the Indian Highways Management Company and NHAI officials but never received a response. Since Paytm and other banks were also marketing and selling Fastag, I tried to reach out to Paytm and HDFC. Their representatives claimed to acknowledge that Fastag is mandatory but couldn’t show me a copy of the MoRTH notification. The reps tried their best to end the conversation as soon as I asked for their permission to quote them.

Perhaps I’m missing something. If you happen to come across such a MoRTH order/notification mandating Fastag at all national highway toll plazas, then kindly consider providing us with the link for the same in our comment section.

No Toll If ETC Machine Malfunctioning

Another circular from 2018 allows you to drive through a Fastag lane for free if you have a valid, functional tag with adequate balance but the electronic toll collection machine can’t read your tag. We strongly urge you to keep a hard copy of this order with you to minimize the chances of getting in an argument with the toll booth operator – should you end up in such a situation.

Click here to read/download a copy of this MoRTH circular

Suggested Reads:

Hindustan Times: Chaos at Laddowal Toll as FASTag glitches continue

Times Of India: FASTag chaos at toll plazas on Solapur-Dhule highway

Indian Express: Long lines at Kherki Daula on day 1 of FASTag rollout, jam stretches 2 km

MoneyLife: Aadhaar Data Breach Largest in the World, Says WEF’s Global Risk Report and Avast

India Today: Aarogya Setu not mandatory? Govt softens stance in Lockdown 4.0 guidelines

In Home Ministry’s sharp U-turn, Aarogya Setu not mandatory to resume office

Kia Sonet Official Image

Kia Sonet Could Bring Clutchless Manual iMT With Turbo Hybrid – Reading Between The Lines

Kia had announced at the 2020 Auto Expo that the Sonet will get a clutchless manual transmission. They call it the iMT – as in, Intelligent Manual Transmission. Now let’s try and figure out how it’s going to work. But, before we do that, let’s first understand how a clutchless manual transmission works.

As the name suggests, you let the computer and a motor handle the clutch while you manage the gear. So, it leaves complete control of gear selection up to the driver.

Also Read: The Highway Problem Of Electric Cars

Auto Clutch by AutoMate

Pune-based AutoMate is already making it and they have over a decade worth of experience making auto clutches. You can probably find a couple more brands offering aftermarket auto-clutch systems. For now, let’s take the Auto Clutch to understand how it works.

Click here to know more about their Auto Clutch.

On the gear lever, you have On/Off toggle switch and a touch sensor. With the switch, you can enable or disable the system. This way, you can use it in traffic and enjoy shifting through the gears in the hills as you would with a standard MT.

When you touch the sensors on the gear lever, the clutch disengages (goes inside). To change the gear, release the accelerator pedal, touch the sensor on the gear lever, shift it and release it. Then accelerate as usual. It also monitors the tachometer and disengages the clutch if the RPMs drop too low.

The entire muscle (motors) and the brains (logic board and silicon) sits under the driver’s seat. It’s transferable to another car. When you upgrade, you can take it out and install it again in the next car. That is a good way to increase the value of the system. Because it costs about Rs. 40-45,000, it ought to offer better value than an AMT.

For instance, you can get an AMT automatic transmission in the Renault Triber for Rs. 40,000. The Renault Kwid automatic is Rs. 30,000 more expensive than its manual counterpart. When you put these prices in perspective, you see that an aftermarket auto-clutch system is quite expensive. For a similar or lower price, you can even automate the gear changes. Not to mention, you get the complete multi-year manufacturer warranty on the entire AMT system.

Kia Sonet iMT (Intelligent Manual Transmission) Clutchless Manual Transmission

Now, here’s the juicy part: Kia Sonet will get the 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine with 48V mild-hybrid tech and iMT. How do we know that? Well, let’s break it down.

2020 Kia Sonet Front Auto Expo
2020 Kia Sonet Front Auto Expo

Kia Sonet iMT

Let’s get this fact out of the way that the Sonet will get the iMT or the clutchless manual transmission. Kia have already announced it at the 2020 Auto Expo.

2020 Hyundai Elite i20 Turbo Hybrid iMT (Clutchless Manual Transmission)

We know that Hyundai are also bringing the next-gen Elite i20 to India very soon. Perhaps early in 2021. Some of the details about the 2020 Elite i20 are already out. Check the engine specs in following sections.

How Kia Sonet’s iMT Works?

In the AutoClutch example, we found out that it engages and disengages based on 2 factors – engine RPM and touch sensor input.

Hyundai have already confirmed how the iMT clutch will engage or disengage. The Sonet’s iMT clutch will work based on the accelerator input and RPM. If the revs drop below a certain point, it’ll disengage to prevent stalling. It’ll also monitor the accelerator pedal input and disengage when you take your foot off the pedal. This will put it in coasting mode, which will give it good fuel efficiency. Shifting gears in the Kia Sonet iMT will work just like a normal manual transmission – minus the clutch. There’s no need to worry about slipping off a touch sensor on the shifter lever mid-way during a gear change.

Here’s a video of the upcoming Elite i20 with a small detail about the iMT. Jump to 3:00 to hear about powertrain and transmission details.

Hypermilers already know that you can coast for longer if you take the engine braking out. Their iMT does just that as mentioned by the Hyundai rep in the video. It disengages the clutch when the driver takes the foot off the gas pedal. This way, the battery could recharge faster and you get far better real-world fuel efficiency. The Sonet’s iMT with 1.0-litre turbo-hybrid will not just be a powerful and convenient engine option, but also the most fuel-efficient.

2020 Hyundai Elite i20 Engine Options

Here are the engine and transmission options for the new i20 in the European market:

2020 Hyundai Elite i20 Engine Transmission Options

1.2-litre

1.0-litre Turbo

1.0-litre Turbo Hybrid

1.0-litre Turbo Hybrid

84PS

100PS

100PS

120PS

118Nm

172Nm

172Nm

172Nm

5-speed MT

6-speed MT

6-speed iMT

6-speed iMT

7-speed DCT

7-speed DCT

7-speed DCT

As you can see, the iMT is only available with the hybrid tech. Sonet should be no exception.

2020 Kia Sonet Rear Auto Expo
2020 Kia Sonet Rear Auto Expo

2020 Kia Sonet Engine Transmission USP

We believe the Sonet will introduce 48V mild-hybrid with the 120PS engine. To offer the iMT, they have to. With iMT and hybrid tech, Kia Sonet can challenge the Vitara Brezza hybrid with possibly better fuel efficiency and performance. With the coasting function, Kia’s clutchless manual transmission can handily beat the Brezza MT’s FE figures even if it gets hybrid tech. In case of the automatic transmission, the DCT is naturally more efficient than the torque converter. So, it should have no problem beating the Brezza hybrid’s figures.

The Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza’s petrol engine has an official fuel efficiency figure of 17.0kmpl with the manual transmission. The automatic transmission is a 4-speed torque converter and it also gets mild-hybrid tech. It has a fuel efficiency figure of 18.76kmpl.

Kia Sonet Launch Timeline

Kia recently confirmed that they are starting to retool and setup assembly line for the Sonet. Autocar India interacted with Kia officials and they say that the production of the Sonet is on schedule. However, any more interruptions because of the COVID situation could push the launch schedule further.

The Sonet is currently on track for August/September 2020 launch.

Disclaimer: This article contains personal opinions and should be consumed with a pinch of scepticism. We strive to maintain a clear distinction between reporting and opinion so that we don’t adulterate the objective info with the author’s subjective thoughts.