By Ruma Dubey
The Auto Expo show in New Delhi in 2014 was very BIG news; it was almost euphoric with almost all vehicle makers wanting to display new models. That was a time when demand was very low and companies were sitting on some huge inventory.
The 2016 show (Auto Expo is held every alternate year, biennial) was a bit lukewarm with some seven prominent companies opting out of the event.
This year’s Auto Expo, which will begin on 9th Feb will see some more companies opting out – Bajaj Auto, which a few years had used the very same Auto Expo to showcase the prototype of its quadricycle, has opted out. So has Royal Enfield, Eicher Motors, Isuzu, Ashok Leyland, Fiat, Piaggio, Fiat, General Motors, Volvo Cars, Jeep, Harley Davidson, Ford India, Nissan, the entire Volkswagen group which includes Volkswagen, Skoda, Audi, Ducati, MAN, Scania, Porsche and Lamborghini. In fact since the time Volkswagen first entered India, this is the first time ever that it has decided to give the Auto Expo a skip.
And the participants list includes almost all the big names we know and trade on the bourses – Maruti Suzuki, M&M, Hyundai Motors, TVS Motor, Tata Motors, Hero Moto and some big unlisted ones too- Mercedes, Renault, India Yamaha, Hondo Motorcycle, Kia Motors, BMW, Kawasaki.
So why is it that the number of companies giving the Auto Expo a miss increasing? Rajiv Bajaj, not the one to mince words had said that it was a waste of money. In 2016, he launched his new bike, “V” one day before the Auto Expo began. He said, “To participate in such an event, it takes around Rs.10-15 crore to make those concepts and the poor R&D department is spending half its time creating these concepts. To show the same thing, the ‘V’ model, at the Auto Expo, it would cost Rs.5 crore, we have managed it here for Rs.5 lakh.”
If that is the case then why is it that other rivals – Hero and TVS continue to remain active participants? There is a growing voice of manufacturers who feel that expos have little or no positive, long-term impact. But then aren’t expo’s a good platform to display new concepts, which go a long way in generating a feeling of admiration and brand loyalty?
Many say that today the concept of brand loyalty is fast disappearing. And it’s a lot of money – a medium sized stall costs Rs.10 crore, where at least 7 products are allowed to be displayed. The same money, if spent on a much longer running ad campaign, can generate more interest.
There are other reasons too why so many are pulling out – many vehicle makers say that they simply do not have anything new to display; Volkswagen and Skoda have no new product for 2018. Then there is also this growing thought that with the advent of social media tools, there is no longer any “surprise” element left, which can lure one to attend the show. Most people already know about the upcoming cars thus do not bother making the long trip to Greater Noida. Also many manufacturers feel that majority of those who attend are just curious onlookers and rarely the target audience.
Well for all its worth, the Auto Expo this year is expected to be dominated by the theme of ‘Electrification.’ So does this mean that the Auto Expo will miraculously spur on the auto sector; will people suddenly give in to their pent-up demand and start buying? No, that is most certainly not likely to happen. People will visit the expo in droves, given the glitz and glamour it now attracts. But that’s it – it will be a curiosity factor, a show which will not loosen any purse strings or spur demand.
Cars/bikes to look forward to at the expo:
- Tata Motors hatchback, codenamed F4 and also a compact sedan, F5.
- Maruti’s Celerio hatchback, an unnamed concept sedan and SUV.
- There will be refurbished version of Hyundai’s i20.
- Honda’s new launch would be Amaze and CR-V, with diesel option.
- BMW will showcase its 6 Series GT, new M5, i8 Roadster, X3.
- Maruti’s new Swift will also make its appearance and on the concept front, there will be Concept Future S – a peek into a version of a compact SUV, slotted below the Vitara Brezza.
- Mercedes-Benz will display the All-Terrain version of the E-class, an opulent version of Maybach S-class, the S650 and the all-electric Concept EQ SUV.
- Renault’s hatchback, Zoe - a pure electric car, which can run 300 kms in one charge and will get charged 80% in one hour
- Tata’s new hatchback, codenamed X451 will be showcased in concept form and the Tigor Electric, which currently only the Govt of India has access to.
- Mahindra’s electric version of Aero
- Concept version of Hyundai’s electric car, Kona
- Yamaha has three products - R15 Version 3.0 sportsbike, the BS4 compliant R3 twin cylinder sportsbike and a new 125cc automatic scooter.