After listing down the top 3 star brands of the 2020 Auto Expo, it’s now time we walk you through the brand stalls that could have done better. Places with carmakers that make you rethink your decision to buy the ticket to the expo. Stalls that need to give us more reasons to look forward to their cars. Let’s get counting –
1. Mahindra: Mahindra was by far one of the biggest disappointment at the 2020 Auto Expo. The Funster was sure an eye candy but it smells like vaporware, just like the XUV Aero. Mahindra also launched eKUV100 (Rs. 8.25 lakh) with a laughably low range of 147km. For an electric car launching in 2020, 147km of claimed range is unacceptable, knowing that the real-world range is going to be worse – especially if you get stuck in traffic on a hot day. Mahindra also showcased the eXUV300 – which is not ready for launch yet. Unfortunately, neither of these cars are above 4 meters long, which means their petrol/diesel-powered rivals enjoy the small-car tax benefit. Unlike a sub-4m car, a bigger SUV, which suffers from higher taxes, is easier to compete with on the electric front. Mahindra had none of that at the auto show.
While other carmakers are trying to hype up electric vehicles to make them desirable, we could see Mahindra attempting to capture the uninspiring end of the EV market. The idea was further reaffirmed with the showcase of the Atom at the expo. It’s their electric alternative to the auto-rickshaw, with AC, touchscreen infotainment and a phone mount. It’s clearly made for shared mobility platforms like Ola and Uber. The charging could impact its uptime as several fleet owners run their cars all day and all night with 2 drivers working in shifts. Prices aren’t out yet, but the higher cost of acquisition than a 3-wheeler could also affect its adoption. It rivals the Bajaj Qute.
The next-generation Thar and next-gen XUV500 would’ve done better as showstoppers. The bigger XUV, (a.k.a. the money maker) especially, is witnessing the ‘rise’ of new challengers every other day.
All things considered, Mahindra could’ve put up a better show with by showcasing newer models of cars that are nearing the end of their life cycle. But they didn’t. 2. Volkswagen Group (VW, Skoda):
Skoda and Volkswagen have a reputation for making reliable, refined, and punchy turbocharged diesel engines. For some reason, they’re turning their backs on diesels and moving towards the turbocharged petrol engines, which, while pretty good in their own right, aren’t heroes of reliability. When paired with a dual-clutch transmission, their poor resale value reflects our “love” for cars without a proven track record of reliability.
Moreover, the VW Group showcased T-Roc, Taigun (wonder how that name’s gonna age?), and Vision IN. All three are hoping to bite a slice out of the compact SUV pie but only the Skoda Vision IN seems to have the dimensions and stance to pull it off and please the Indian audience. The Volkswagen “SUVs” are too small and too sedate for their own good. Hell, some subcompact alternatives like the Kia Sonet and Ford EcoSport look more butch than the Taigun and T-Roc. Then there’s the question of pricing and positioning. Neither of these are less than 4 meters in length. So, VW can kiss goodbye to the tax breaks. That puts it in the race with some seriously competent, spacious, and powerful cars like the Creta, Seltos, Harrier, and Hector. Mind you, this is the segment where a lot of buyers still prefer a diesel powertrain, which VW Group has no plans to offer.
Put together the lack of diesel engines, expectedly expensive compact SUVs that are barely over 4 meters, a competent lineup of rivals, and an overlapping product portfolio, and what you get a disastrous long-term outlook. Even with 13-15% lower part costs and heavy localization. If Mahindra can find a way to fit the Tivoli under 4 meters, Volkswagen has no excuse for not having a sub-4m SUV at the 2020 Auto Expo.
Before you bring up the I.D. Crozz, let me clarify that it’s too far into the future and would be too expensive to have a measurable impact on the volumes and the bottom line. 3. Renault
At the 2020 Auto Expo, Renault pulled the wraps off a car we can walk into the showroom and drive home. They “showed off” a dual-tone Triber with AMT automatic. Then, there was the Electric Kwid (K-ZE), which will go on sale by late 2021 or early in 2022. Frankly, the Kwid electric was the only exciting and relevant car at Renault’s expo stall. There were the expensive ZOE electric hatchback and Twizy single-seater electric car also on display. But, neither of those two are slated to go on sale in India in the foreseeable future. Besides the concepts, Renault also had a Duster facelift on display, which I almost missed.
Renault Kwid Electric (K-ZE)
What Renault really needed was the second-generation Duster, which has been available internationally since 2017. And to further lift the spirits of the visitors, a production-ready version of the Triber-based subcompact SUV, along with the rumored subcompact sedan in concept form would’ve made the trip to the auto show worth it.