The 2020 Rewind: A reminder of everything endured and triumphed
Some of the key moments for the auto industry in 2020 have already shown a lasting impact, with some set to solidify in the coming months. While the pandemic is not over yet, the Indian automobile industry does have a gradual upturn to look forward to, coming from some of the darkest days it's faced yet. This, and the happenings the industry has to celebrate is listed below.
First Indian electric SUV launched
Tata launches the Nexon EV, and it proves to be the year's best-selling EV cornering over 70 per cent of the market. While questions remain over charging infrastructure for now, the march forward is inevitable, and now more affordable thanks to Tata.
Bajaj and Triumph entered into a non-equity partnership that will be working on an all-new mid-capacity engine (200-750cc) platform for a range of motorcycles, prices of which will start from sub-Rs 2 lakh. These motorcycles will be sold under the Triumph brand. Also, Bajaj Auto will take over the distribution business of Triumph motorcycles in the country.
Bajaj enters EVs with Chetak
Bajaj Auto made a re-entry in the scooter market with their first-ever EV, the Chetak priced at Rs 1 lakh, ex-showroom and a maximum range of 95km. What makes it important is that it will be sharing its underpinnings with the upcoming performance scooters from KTM and Husqvarna.
China, at the Auto Expo
Before COVID-19 and anti-China sentiments were realised in India, Chinese manufacturers Great Wall and SAIC's MG Motors showed the extent of their interest in the Indian market with sprawling stalls at the Auto Expo. Now, Great Wall's plans are on hold, and the future of auto shows worldwide hangs in the balance.
Days before the nationwide lockdown was announced, Hyundai's most important car for India, the new-gen Creta, is launched, joining the VW T-Roc as the last launches of the year pre-lockdown.
For the first time in history, every single manufacturer reports zero sales, with all production facilities and sales outlets shut down across the country. This, as the biggest shift ever in the auto industry comes into effect, with BSVI-norms taking effect, and small diesels making way for more turbo-petrols. As a side effect, the lockdown (not BSVI norms) also results in the cleanest air our cities have ever seen.
Fuel to fire
Also a historical first, crude oil reaches negative prices. Demand hits a wall, and storage runs out. Ironically, though crude prices are still among the lowest they've ever been, fuel prices in India hit the highest it's been in two years towards the end of the year.
Some losses are greater
A constant reminder that the clock keeps ticking, sometimes indiscriminately, with the untimely loss of a dear friend in the industry, Rudratej Singh, CEO BMW India, and Sir Stirling Moss, an F1 legend and inspiration to scores.
TVS's GBP 16 million acquisition of the Norton has brought hope for customers who have paid deposits for the bikes but didn't get delivery. Though TVS has shrugged off responsibility from Norton's past liabilities, it will respect the warranty claims of some of the owners, even though it does not have an obligation for the same.
From showroom to smartphone
Every major automaker readies digital customer experience platforms, if not already there, spurring growth that was a long time coming. From augmented reality to customisation programs, people could experience their next car without leaving home.
Vehicle sales bounce back to near pre-pandemic levels, even ahead of the festive season spike in sales, with attractive finance schemes helping enable more people afford safe personal mobility, an increasingly important consideration in light of the virus.
New City/future cities?
The first all-new car to hit the sedan segment in years, the new-gen Honda City re-ignites interest in the sedan category, a so far dormant segment. On the other hand, major auto manufacturers, like Maruti Suzuki and Tata, launch leasing plans for cars. A fresh concept but one, along with shared mobility, that has the potential to change the industry.
RE becomes a bestseller in the UK
India-made Interceptor 650 topped the sales charts in the UK making it the best selling naked, followed by the BMW R 1250 GS Adventure. It was the best middleweight motorcycle on sale from June 2019 to June 2020. Even the Himalayan posted impressive numbers, making RE one of the fastest-growing motorcycle brands in the UK.
Spare a thought
An amendment to the Central Motor Vehicles Rules allows manufacturers to skip out on providing a spare tyre, thus far mandatory, seemingly in a move to free up boot space. No one thinks that's a good idea.
OVERDRIVE turns 22
For our 22nd anniversary, we celebrate the relaxation of lockdown with the first ever cross-state road trip since the world turned upside down, and a collector's issue packed with over 3,000PS!
Another Korean best-seller
Kia launches the Sonet sub-4m SUV, seen for the first time earlier in the year at the Expo. Immediately, it moves the segment forward, and the Indian public make it a best-seller for it.
Harley India shuts gates
H-D India shuts its local assembly plant as well as curtailed its sales operation. Later, it entered into a distribution agreement with Hero MotoCorp, through which H-D will be selling existing and upcoming motorcycles. The existing dealerships, however, weren't taken into consideration before announcing the closure, also they have not been given proper compensation for the same.
Cutting travel time from Manali to Leh, and opening up travel throughout the year, the 8.8km long Atal 'Rohtang' tunnel finally opens 18 years after the foundation stone was laid. Our feature in the November issue highlights its engineering feats.
Comeback of the Thar
"Made in India" reads the plaque on the new Mahindra Thar, the segment's first (relatively) domesticated 4x4, making us all proud and quickly selling out for months to come.
First Indian AMG
From launching India's first luxury electric car, the EQC SUV, to India's first locally assembled performance car in the Mercedes-AMG GLE 43 Coupe, Mercedes seems intent on extending its lead in the Indian luxury car market.
Flying the flag high
22-year old Jehan Daruvala makes us proud yet again with a third place podium finish at the F2 Championship race in Bahrain, his highest ever placing and the first Indian to achieve the feat.
Tesla confirmed to enter India
After years of 'will they-won't they', it is finally confirmed that Tesla will set up shop in India, potentially disrupting the way EVs are sold, and hopefully, charged. Elon Musk is not known for half measures, and a network of Superchargers could revolutionise EVs in India, however unlikely it may seem now.
DC runs afoul
Car designer, and namesake of India's first automotive design college, Dilip Chhabria is accused of vehicle registration fraud, and bank fraud. While some of his designs in the past have been arguably questionable, these allegations definitely fall on the wrong side of the law.
Ola Electric investment
Ola Electric plans to invest Rs 2,400 crore to build the worlds' largest scooter factory in Tamil Nadu, which will churn out 2 million scooters a year. The facility will manufacturer Ola-Etergo electric scooters and create 10,000 new job opportunities. Ola Electric has raised about USD 400 million in funding from Tiger Global, Matrix India, Ratan Tata and others.
Starts Rs 10.9 Lakhs
Starts Rs 9.8 Lakhs