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Maruti opens booking for new WagonR

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Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) Monday announced opening of bookings for its upcoming version of WagonR. Customers can book the third generation WagonR at its authorised dealer network across the country at an initial payment of Rs 11,000, the company said.

Moreover, the customers can also opt for online booking on the company’s website, it added.

The new car will be launched on January 23.

The ‘Big New WagonR‘ will be available with a new 1.2 litre petrol engine option along with another choice of 1 litre engine. It will also be offered in automatic gear shift variant, the company said.

The new vehicle has been developed on the Suzuki’s fifth generation HEARTECT platform, “which makes the car stable, strong and safe,” it said.

Use of high tensile steel has improved the overall safety, rigidity and NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) performance in the new offering.

It also has safety features including driver airbag, ABS (anti-lock braking system) with EBD (electronic brakeforce distribution) and front seat belts reminder, speed alert system and rear parking sensors.

Earlier, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd had said it would hike its car prices by up to Rs 10,000 for select models with immediate effect to offset adverse impact of increase in commodity prices and foreign exchange rates.

Maruti Suzuki India in a regulatory filing said prices would go up “for select models owing to increase in commodity prices and foreign exchange rates etc. The price change varies across models and ranges up to Rs 10,000 (ex-showroom, Delhi)”.

The new prices were effective from January 10, 2019.

Currently, Maruti Suzuki cars start from the entry-level Alto 800 to the premium crossover S-Cross priced between Rs 2.53 lakh and Rs 11.45 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).

Earlier, Maruti Suzuki had cut its sales forecast to 8% from an earlier projection of double digit growth.

It expects the fourth quarter to bring back the momentum in the passenger vehicle sales, which have seen a flat growth for last 5-6 months.

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Nisha Shiwani hails from the pink city of Jaipur and is a prolific writer. She loves to write on Real Estate/Property, Automobiles, Education, Finance and about the latest developments in the Technology space.



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Harley-Davidson to build small bikes in China

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A few months ago, Harley-Davidson posted about its intention of making their most affordable motorcycle with a South Asian company. Now, the company has finally disclosed their big alliance with Qianjang Motorcycle, a Chinese company.

As a part of this new alliance, both the companies will co-develop their most affordable motorcycle, a 338cc naked bike that will be made in China and exported to the rest of the world. The American brand decided to go with Qianjang as it has experience in developing premium small displacement bikes, an established supply base and ability to meet customer requirements.

The American brand has released a prototype picture of its upcoming 338cc motorcycle. Harley-Davidson has ditched its traditional cruiser styling for a more modern streetfighter look. The bike seems to be built around a trellis frame, and a parallel-twin liquid cooled engine doing the job. Other bits like upside-down front forks, dual discs at the front and an all LED-headlamp setup can be seen in the released pictures. However, production model features may vary.

This new unnamed motorcycle will be first launched in China by the end of 2020, followed by launches in other Asian markets. We are expecting this bike to make its India debut in early 2021, and could be assembled at the company’s Haryana facility. By doing this, the company will be able to save on duties which will directly impact its pricing.

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Renault unveils Triber globally in India

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Unveiling what is its first all-new product for India in nearly two years, Renault has taken the wraps off of its compact seven-seater, the Triber. Making its global debut in New Delhi, the Renault Triber measures under four metres in length and, barring the Datsun Go+ MPV, is the only sub-four-metre offering in India to get three rows of seats.

Based on a modified version of the Kwid’s CMF-A platform, the Renault Triber is compact and does bear resemblance to the Kwid, but has new headlights, a new grille, a sculpted clamshell bonnet, a squared-off rear section and an upright stance, which is further accentuated by the roof rails. With the Triber, Renault aims to provide a function-over-form design that makes it possible to offer lots of space in the smallest footprint possible. The top-spec variant will sport 15-inch alloy wheels shod in 185/65 tyres.

The Renault Triber’s interior gets a dual-tone colour scheme, a 3.5-inch LCD screen in the instrument cluster and an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which is larger than the 7.0-inch unit on the Kwid, Lodgy, Duster and Captur. The infotainment system features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with few intelligent functions such as driving-style coaching and driver economy rating. The second row is adjustable horizontally and comes with a reclining and split folding function. There’s a dedicated AC vent for the third row of seats, armrests and charging sockets. The third row can be removed altogether to liberate up to 625 litres of boot space.

The Renault Triber’s safety equipment list includes dual front airbags, ABS, rear parking sensors, and a speed warning system as standard. Higher variants of the Triber will get a reverse camera and two more airbags.

Powering the Renault Triber will be an upgraded version of the Kwid’s 1.0-litre (BR10), three-cylinder petrol engine making 72hp and 96Nm of torque. This engine is the same 1.0 SCe petrol motor used in international models like the Renault Clio and Dacia Sandero. The transmission options for the Triber at launch will be a 5-speed manual gearbox and a 5-speed automated manual transmission (AMT). By mid-2020, Renault will add a turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol engine to the Triber line-up.

The French brand claims that the total cost of ownership is 20 percent less than B segment hatchbacks. Expect Renault Triber prices to start at the Rs 5.3 lakh mark.

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Maruti Ciaz sales surpass Hyundai Verna and Honda City in May 2019

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Though it was the sub 4 meter SUV segment that attracted more buyers in May 2019, the C segment sedans also recorded decent sales. Maruti Suzuki Ciaz was a segment leader in a No. 1 spot on the list. The Hyundai Verna scored at No. 2 followed by the Honda City in a No. 3 spot.

Maruti Suzuki Ciaz sales stood at 3,592 units in May 2019, featuring at No. 1 on the list of best selling C segment sedans. Beating the Hyundai Verna by a margin of 1,000 units, the Ciaz commanded this top position despite sales being 11 percent lower as compared to sales of 4,024 units in May 2018.

Maruti Suzuki Ciaz facelift was introduced in 2018. It is priced from Rs.8.2 lakhs and gets its power via a 1.5 liter petrol hybrid engine offering 104 bhp power and 138 Nm torque mated to a 5 speed manual gearbox. Its diesel engine offerings include a 1.5 liter turbocharged diesel engine offering 94 bhp power and 225 Nm torque mated to a 6 speed manual gearbox and a 1.3 liter diesel engine offering 89 bhp power and 200 Nm torque.

Hyundai Verna of which 2,567 units were sold in the past month, came in at a No, 2 spot on the list of C segment sedans. This variant also noted a 32 percent decline in sales in May 2019 as compared to 3,801 units sold in May 2018.

Honda City was the third best selling midsized sedan with 2,557 units sold, just 10 units below the Hyundai Verna. Honda City is poised to get a new generation model which will come in with revised exteriors and interiors as well as with a hybrid variant and BS VI compliant engines.

Further down the order was the Skoda Rapid of which 734 units were sold, a dip of 16 percent as compared to sales in May 2018. At No. 5 was the Volkswagen Vento of which 654 units were sold in May 2019, an increase of 20 percent as compared to sales in May 2018.

Toyota Yaris. with 373 units sold in the past month, registered a a huge drop of as much as 87 percent as compared to 2,843 units sold in May 2018. However, the Yaris registered an increase by 4.42 percent as compared to sales of 339 units sold in April 2019.

Also featuring in the same segment were the Nissan Sunny with 136 units sold in the past month and the Fiat Linea of which only 14 units were sold.

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Top 5 Things You Need To Know About Upcoming Honda Activa 6G

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The Honda Activa is the best selling scooter in India that tops the sales chart every month. We have reported earlier that Honda has started testing the upcoming Activa 6G scooter already and it will be launched before April 2020 in India. The test mule of the upcoming scooter was wrapped in heavy camouflage and was caught recently during the homologation process in Pune.

Here are the 5 things that you need to know about the upcoming Honda Activa 6G

1. New Connectivity Feature

According to the reports, the upcoming Activa 6G will feature an advanced digital instrument cluster that will get a smartphone connectivity feature. The instrument cluster will get turn by turn navigation and call alert feature that can also be found in the TVS Ntorq 125.

2. Updated Suspension setup

The Honda Activa scooter uses an old school trailing link suspension setup towards the front since the very beginning. However, the upcoming Activa 6G will sport a pair of telescopic forks that will replace the old suspension setup. The updated suspension setup will help improve the ride and handling quality of the scooter.

3. Redesigned styling

The Activa 6G will feature a redesigned LED headlamp cluster and a different set of LED DRL lamp. The front apron will get integrated side turn indicators while the side body panels will also get some sharp creases and new graphics. Expect the scooter to also feature an updated taillamp as well.

4. Updated BS-VI compliant engine

Expect the upcoming Honda Activa 6G to feature an updated 110cc, air-cooled engine. This new motor will also get fuel injection technology and most probably Honda’s new idling stop system. The idle stop system will automatically turn off the engine when the scooter stops at a traffic light or any other brief halts. The motor is again turned on with the twist of a throttle. This feature will definitely help improve the overall fuel efficiency of the scooter.

5. Better stopping power

Honda will offer a disc brake on the top spec model of the Activa 6G which will help improve the overall braking performance of the upcoming scooter. Moreover, it will also get Honda’s combi-braking system as well for the safety of the rider.

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Book a Bajaj Qute taxi through Uber now

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Uber has announced the addition of a new category on its smartphone app that allows customers to book Bajaj’s Qute quadricycle. The category, called UberXS, is exclusive to users in Bengaluru.

While the company has not yet revealed if UberXS fares will be higher than its auto rickshaw hailing category (UberAuto), the option will almost certainly undercut other categories.

Launched officially in Maharashtra back in April 2019 (at Rs 2.48 lakh, ex-showroom), the Bajaj Qute.(at Rs 2.48 lakh, ex-showroom), the Bajaj Qute(at Rs 2.48 lakh, ex-showroom), the Bajaj Qute gets a 216cc, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled engine that can be fuelled by either petrol or CNG – it produces 13.2hp and 18.9Nm on the former fuel and 11hp and 16.1Nm on the latter. Both options are available on Uber.

The smallest production four-wheeler on Indian roads, the Qute weighs 452kg (504kg with the CNG kit) and has an ARAI-rated mileage figure of 35kpl on petrol (43km/kg on CNG). It’s dinky dimensions and 7m turning diameter makes it a viable alternative to Bajaj’s three-wheelers that are used as auto rickshaws.

For now, Uber will only offer the UberXS category (and the Bajaj Qute) for users in Bengaluru, though it would make a lot of sense to roll out this category in other major metros such as Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, and Kolkata, among others.

It was only in November last year that the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) added quadricycles to the ‘non-transport’ category of vehicles, making it available for personal use and commercial use.

 

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Suzuki, Toyota partnership to cross-sell products in India, abroad

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Nearly a year after signing an MoU to form a business partnership, Japanese auto majors — Toyota Major Corporation and Suzuki Motor Corporation – have now concretised their wide-range collaboration for Indian and global markets, including selling of Suzuki’s India-produced vehicles (Baleno, Vitara Brezza, Ciaz, Ertiga) to Toyota for targeting the African market.

Secondly, leveraging Suzuki’s expertise in developing vehicles in India, new products are expected to be developed on Toyota’s C-segment MPV for the Indian market. Further, the partnership between the two automotive giants is expected to go beyond sharing of a few vehicles and exchange of platforms.

Toyota, which has its strength in electric vehicles-related technologies, will be supplying hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) technologies in India to Maruti Suzuki through local procurement of HEV systems, engines, and batteries. Currently, Maruti Suzuki uses mild hybrid and some plug-in hybrid for some of its models.

Also, while two of the compact vehicles built on Suzuki platforms (Ciaz and Ertiga) will be sold through (cross badge) Toyota in India, the production of the Suzuki-developed compact SUV Vitara Brezza will start at Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM)’s plant from 2022.

Both the rivals had earlier last year announced their plans for partnership by way of synergising the usage of the platform, technologies, product development, dealer network, etc. in India and globally. As per an estimate, Maruti-Toyota together sells about 55% of total passenger vehicles in India.

Commenting on the development, Toyota president Akio Toyoda in a statement said, “Through our new agreement, we look forward to the wider use of hybrid technologies, not only in India and Europe but around the world. At the same time, we believe that the expansion of our business partnership with Suzuki—from the mutual supply of vehicles and powertrains to the domains of development and production—will help give us the competitive edge we will need to survive this once-in-a-century period of profound transformation. We intend to strengthen the competitiveness of both our companies by applying our strong points and learning from each other.”

Suzuki chairman Osamu Suzuki on his part said that he appreciates the offer from Toyota to let Suzuki make use of their hybrid technology.

According to analysts, the business collaboration between the rivals is here to stay. Mahindra Group and Ford Motor Company last year announced to jointly develop new SUVs and a small electric vehicle. Both the companies had first gone into an alliance in September 2017. However, Tata Motors Ltd and Volkswagen group firm Skoda Auto’s collaboration ended even before it began in 2017. Both the companies said they have performed technical feasibility and commercial evaluation and later found that the envisioned areas of the partnership may not yield the desired synergies as originally assessed.

 

According to Sridhar V, partner, Grant Thornton India LLP, the cross badging or strategic alliance between the OEMs is not new and it is done with the intention of saving cost on new introductions, reduce time lag on such introductions, gain advantage of technology and increase capacity utilisation in some case.

“One needs to be wary of the right positioning so as not to cannibalise into each others market and optimise on the cost savings achieved through such alliances. We can see more such partnerships, especially, in the new era of electric vehicles (EV),” said Sridhar.

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Motown woes worsen as inventory rises up to 100 days

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As automotive industry continues to struggle with a prolonged slowdown in sales, the increase in inventory level at the retail showrooms after a slight dip in December-January has begun to worry the retail showroom owners.

The situation is worst in the two-wheeler segment, where in certain geographies the inventory level has nearly doubled to almost 100 days.

The continued slowdown in sales across all the segments has forced the industry stakeholders to review their growth prediction to about 3% for the fiscal from around 8-10% made earlier during the year.

A Delhi-based retailer said there has been a substantial increase in operational costs in recent times due to various factors as well as increased working capital needs, and that too, in a tight liquidity environment. And prolonged maintenance of such high inventory and its additional costs is getting unsustainable.

“If a similar situation persists, it will get difficult to survive in the business,” the dealer said.

The average inventory level across the country in the passenger vehicles segment currently stands at 50-60 days. Similarly, it is 80-90 days for two-wheelers and 45-50 days for commercial vehicles, the retailers said.

Ideally, the manageable inventory level across segments is around 30 days.

The dealers are of the opinion that the pile up in inventory happened because the original equipment manufacturers (OEM) wrongly predicted that the slowdown during the last months of 2018 was a temporary phenomenon and sales were predicted to spike up in the new year. Though OEMs reduced the inventory levels during December-January, they raised it again in February. However, the sales continued to remain mild leading to accumulation of inventory at the showrooms.

According to Sridhar V, partner, Grant Thornton India LLP, while month-on-month wholesale movement shows a push from the OEMs to dealers assuming an uptake post interest rate reduction, the retail numbers have shown a decline and the challenges faced by the dealers. With elections, the situation is expected to continue with the current low sentiments.

“Discount and offers could be expected to bring down the inventory level,” said Sridhar, adding that lowering of interest rates, if passed on by financing institutions, can increase demand to some extent.

Ashish Kale, president of retailers’ body Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations (FADA), said, “After a month of spike in PV sales in January, which was largely due to year-end stock clearance getting extended and a few new launches which generated some excitement, the industry is once again witnessing downward trend as February turned out to be one of the slowest months for auto retails during his  financial year.”

Experts say the Indian auto industry is experiencing a prolonged slowdown as it has already seen six months of slowing sales and growth reversal and positive triggers in the near term appear few.

According to the executives across the OEMs, retailers and component makers, one of the primary reasons for the slowdown has been tightening of liquidity by non-banking financial institutions (NBFCs) following the defaults by Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd.

The other prominent reasons include the rise in fuel prices (though they have softened in the past few months), rural distress due to lack of rains in certain regions of the country, severe floods in Kerala during August, new insurance laws leading to increase in costs and slowdown in certain industries leading to a dip in consumer sentiments.

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Volkswagen beetled by Rs 500-cr fine for ‘cheating’ emission tests

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The National Green Tribunal slapped German auto giant Volkswagen with a fine of Rs 500 crore on Thursday for installing ‘cheat devices’ in its diesel cars and damaging the environment.

The green panel ordered the car manufacturer to deposit the sum within two months with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

The four-member bench, headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, also asked the CPCB to utilise the money to improve air quality in the National Capital Region. The order follows a study by a Swiss-based group which ranked Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Noida — all in NCR — as some of the most polluted cities globally.

The company had already been ordered to pay Rs 100 crore in November as preliminary liability for polluting the air. But the bench ordered for the compensation to be enhanced, noting, “We are unable to accept the objections of the manufacturer…”

During Thursday’s hearing, Volkswagen counsel Pinaki Mishra objected to the tests carried out on the company’s vehicles, saying they were road tests and not lab tests. But the bench referred to the findings of the expert committee it had constituted to assess the health damage caused by the ‘cheat devices’, which could pass pollution checks but cause higher emission of nitrogen compounds on road.

The order was passed on a petition moved by schoolteacher Saloni Ailawadi.

A Volkswagen India spokesperson said it had complied with all relevant emission norms defined in the country and would challenge the order in the Supreme Court.

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Centre plans Tesla-like battery plants to push EVs, storage

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The government on Thursday announced a plan to set up Tesla like battery manufacturing Giga plants in India under National Mission on Transformative Mobility (NMTM).

The plan, which will be phased out over a period of five years, envisages setting up a few large scale, export competitive integrated batteries and cell manufacturing plants.

The Tesla Gigafactory 1 is a lithium-ion battery assembly factory near Nevada which provides battery packs to the electric vehicles and stationary storage system.

“Creation of a phased manufacturing programme (PMP) valid for five years till 2024 to localise production across the entire electric vehicles value chain. The scheme will be finalised by the National Mission on Transformative Mobility (NMTM) and battery storage, and all necessary approvals will be taken” said a a statement issued by the government. The plan is to localise the value chain, the officials said.

The Cabinet had last week approved Rs 10,000 crore for second phase of Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric & Hybrid vehicles (FAME) scheme, which provides subsidy for electric vehicles. The incentives are primarily targeted at two- and three-wheelers, fleet taxis and buses as a sizeable number of Indian public travel in it. The first phase, FAME-1, was introduced in 2015 and offered incentives to hybrid and electric vehicles of up to Rs 29,000 for two-wheelers and Rs 1.38 lakh for cars.

A Mumbai-based analyst said the new policies related to the electric vehicle mobility ecosystem is likely to give a push to the EV industry, as a charging station is being planned at every three kilometres, though initially it will start in bigger cities and along the national and state highways.

India had an early start of its power-electronics, which is used by EVs extensively However, the industry has not kept pace with new developments that have seen digitisation of power-electronics over the last decade. India would need a new power-electronics industry that can help develop and produce high-efficiency sub-systems for EV industries.

A recent Icra report claimed that the battery cost of EV, accounting for almost one-third of the total cost, will remain a key determinant in the rate of acceptance of EVs globally. In a significant development, the cost of lithium-ion EV battery has fallen to almost one-fourth to $208/Kwh in 2017 from $800/Kwh in 2011.

According to industry experts, the EV industry is at a nascent stage in India. It is less than 1% of the total vehicle sales, but has the potential to grow over 5% in the next few years. At present, there are more than four lakh electric two-wheelers and few thousand electric cars on Indian roads. The industry volumes have been fluctuating, mostly depending on the incentives offered by the government, the experts said. Further, more than 95% electric vehicles are low-speed electric scooters (less than 25km/hour) that do not require registration and licences.

Almost all electric scooters run on lead batteries to keep the prices low. However, failures and low life of batteries have become major limiting factors for sales besides the government subsidies.

Commenting on the development, Sohinder Gill, director general, Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV), said, “If introduced and implemented successfully, it should make India self-reliant on the most important element of EVs and also help significantly bring down the cost of EVs. Given the government thrust on e-mobility, it can become a lucrative business proposition in the near future. All it needs is a leap of faith by some business houses to quickly invest in an integrated plant to produce global quality batteries, without waiting for the threshold volumes of EVs to kick in.”

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Maruti Suzuki hikes car prices by up to Rs 10,000 for select models

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Maruti Suzuki India Ltd Wednesday said it will hike its car prices by up to Rs 10,000 for select models with immediate effect to offset adverse impact of increase in commodity prices and foreign exchange rates.

Maruti Suzuki India in a regulatory filing said prices will go up “for select models owing to increase in commodity prices and foreign exchange rates etc. The price change varies across models and ranges up to Rs 10,000 (ex-showroom, Delhi)”.

“The new prices are effective from January 10, 2019, ” it added.

India’s largest carmaker did not specify which car models will become costlier post this price hike.

Currently, Maruti Suzuki cars start from the entry-level Alto 800 to the premium crossover S-Cross priced between Rs 2.53 lakh and Rs 11.45 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).

Shares of Maruti Suzuki were trading 0.09 per cent higher at Rs 7,472.45 apiece on the BSE.

Earlier, Maruti Suzuki had cut its sales forecast to 8% from an earlier projection of double digit growth.

It expects the fourth quarter to bring back the momentum in the passenger vehicle sales, which have seen a flat growth for last 5-6 months.

“We recorded a good growth in the first quarter at around 10.5%, subsequent which there was a flat growth. But we expect this to return in last quarter taking overall growth for this fiscal at 8%,” Maruti Suzuki India chairman R C Bhargava said.

Last year, the company had said it was looking at a double-digit sales growth in the current fiscal.

After the first quarter, sales have been flat for Maruti Suzuki mainly in third quarter while the industry saw negative growth. There are historical instances of sales being lower in a pre-election year and picking up substantially again in the election year, he said.

“We have done an analysis of the past numbers and the conclusion is that sales always fell in the last two pre-election years,” he said.

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