Car market leader Maruti Suzuki India, which accounts for half of India’s small car sales with seven models, including the Alto and Swift, is now preparing around five fresh product offensives for the premium car market where the brand has traditionally struggled to attract buyers. In the works are a new crossover, two SUVs, an MPV and a mid-sized sedan, a few of which will be shown at the Auto Expo next month.
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First off the line will be the Ciaz, a new mid-size sedan scheduled for launch by the end of this year and its fourth attempt in the segment after the Esteem, Baleno and SX4 — in fact, the SX4 is likely to be discontinued. Based on the ‘Authentics Concept’ shown at the 2013 Shanghai Motor Show, the Ciaz will spell an all-new design language for the Japanese carmaker’s sedan range. In India, the Ciaz is expected to come with a 1.4-litre K-Series petrol engine that today does duty on the Ertiga, and a 1.6-litre diesel engine, which will likely be sourced from Fiat.
“The Ciaz is expected to be launched around the festive season this year. The company is targeting initial volumes of about 50,000 a year with exports,” an industry source told FE. The Ciaz will compete with segment leader Hyundai Verna, besides others like the Honda City and Volkswagen Vento.
Maruti Suzuki declined comment to an emailed questionnaire, though a company official confirmed that the mid-sized sedan is built on a new platform and will be a completely new car for Suzuki’s global range. The Ciaz will also be sold in China, West Asia and Africa, where kits are expected to be exported from India.
Another company official added, “There will be big focus on bigger cars in the Auto Expo this year. We realise that the customer is moving upwards, and we need to evolve with the market as well.”
Gaurav Vangaal, automotive analyst for light vehicle forecasting at his, said, “When most of the carmakers are entering into the hatchback segment and looking to compete with the leader directly, it makes sense for the leader to return the favour by entering into their segment to keep them engaged. This is the general strategy of competition.”
Other new models on the anvil include the S-Cross crossover that will be launched in early-2015, and a compact SUV based on the XA Alpha design showcased at the 2012 Auto Expo that will be launched in 2016. Maruti and parent Suzuki are also working on a larger MPV positioned above the Ertiga to challenge the Toyota Innova and a larger SUV based on the iV-4 concept shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show last year.
Maruti, which has a turnover of Rs 4s 3,600 crore and commands a 40% market share in India’s 27-lakh-unit passenger vehicle (PV) market, recently started the third production line at its Manesar plant (the sixth line including the Gurgaon plant). The company, which currently has a capacity to manufacture about 15 lakh cars a year, recently delayed the start of its new plants in Gujarat by two years to 2017. In April-December FY14, Maruti’s volumes were up just 0.3% at 8.3 lakh units, while the PV industry fell almost 6% to 18.28 lakh units on the back of sluggish consumer demand.