Skoda Laura vRS launched amidst much confusion


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Skoda were supposed to launch their souped up Laura vRS variant today in India, however the launch event got cancelled due to incessant rains from the past two days. However, in a surprising show, the company went ahead and launched their car online. The link shows the website and details of the car. Cornering head lamps along with the LED pearl necklace is something which would be the most appreciated feature of this car. A new 6.5 inch LCD infotainment system has also been configured for this car. Unfortunately, this car still misses out on the steering mounted controls.

As of now, the company is giving out 16 inch Draconis alloy wheels, dual exhaust pipes and also all the exquisite body kit. As is the norm, a sunroof is also offered. Over the standard Laura, Skoda are charging Rs 5 lakhs premium and the ex-show room price of the Laura vRS stands at Rs 15,19,906. This is an introductory price and chances are that it may increase soon after. The vRS variant of the Laura comes with a 1.8 liter, 160 Bhp motor mated to a 6 speed manual transmission.

Audi Q5 2.0 TDI in India Review

Its an American trend to bring in cars which have more or less the same body structure but downsized engine capacities which produce more or less the same power that the previous iterations did and at the same time, price them lesser. This move by American companies certainly brought them the customers that they so wanted and at the same time gave the customers a very good image about the product that they are buying or going to buy. Seems like the same companies are using these ideas in India as well. BMW did it with their 5 series and now Audi are doing it with their Q5 range. Just ahead of the launch of the 2011 BMW X3, Audi India launched the Q5 with a downsized 2.0 TDI engine. Here is a review of the Audi Q5 2.0 TDI in India. Check on Road Price

Looks

Looks like its bigger 3.0 liter engined one or even for that matter the 2.0 TFSI unit. The same wide grille and those LED lamps with the smallest configuration of fog lamps flanking them. The road presence that one looks for from Audi cars is very much there even with this lesser version of the Q5. As for the Q5, it is not only a mirror image of its bigger brother the Q7 but also one for the integration specialists. No change in the wheel size and with only a 2.0 TDI badging at the rear revealing the contents under the hood, the Q5 has got its work cut out. Twin tail pipes define the muscular attitude that this car so ably presents.

Audi Q5 2.0 TDI in India

Interiors

Well, we expected drastic cut of equipment and stuff in here, but no. Audi haven’t skimped on the equipment level and one basically gets the Luxury Package which consists of the wonderful new generation MMI system along with a rear camera for the Parking Assist and also the head rests with entertainment screen slots. The seats in the front are like thrones whereas the ones in the rear are a bit tight on the leg space but are good as far as the head room is concerned. The build quality is superb. However, as we have maintained in the past, the excessive use of aluminium for the body means that there would be some rattles down the line and also most of the Indian roads are laid with a certain rockfeld mesh to them, its all the more problematic. The boot space is also adequate for most outhouse parties. Audi’s attention to details cannot be ruled out in here as well. So, inside the cabin, till the time one pushes the starter motor, there is nothing to be discertained with its other brethren.

Ride and Handling

The Quattro package comes with this one as well and there is no distinguishing thing happening here as well. Now, for the ride and handling, one has to start the car and here is where the problem lies. It immediately becomes apparent that Audi have cut out on the NVH factor and there is nothing which would make us believe that we are sitting in a 2.0 liter TFSI or even 3.0 liter TDI engine than the earthly 2.0 TDI. There are far too many vibes coming into the cabin via the accelerator pedal and also, the NVH when driven around is far too much. As for the ride quality, its similar to the others from its stables, reassuring and pliant. The handling is a dream courtesy the Quattro and other electronic aids coming its way. The steering wheel is also a delight to use with its light configuration. For the speedier runs, it didn’t instill too much of confidence due to its slightly thin configuration.

Audi Q5 2.0 TDI interior

Engine, performance and fuel efficiency

The 1984 cc diesel engine has got an advanced common rail technology going for it which produces 170 Bhp of power and 350 Nm of torque. The torque converter is a 7 speed one and is called the S-tronic system. For an average driver who would prefer to have a top speed of 80 kmph done sedately, the 2.0 TDI Q5 is the best. However for one looking for more performance, well, it definitely feels underpowered. The gearbox is very good and tries to mask the power deficiency of the engine, but only manages upto a certain extent. The 0-100 kmph figure comes up in 10.2 seconds and the top speed we managed to take her was 168 kmph with the engine screaming hoarse and reluctant to go any further on the speedo climb.

Brakes are first rate and inspire confidence. The plethora of safety features provided is also mind boggling and it is always reassuring to know that there is something covering your thorax in the event of a side collision. As for the fuel efficiency, its not much fuel efficient than the 3.0 TDI. It returned an overall 11.2 kmpl.

Verdict

If you are willing to sacrifice the bragging rights of the 3.0 liter TDI engine, then the Audi Q5 2.0 TDI in India is for you. The same looks, equipment levels, Quattro and what not. However, turn on the engine and the difference in the Rs 10 lakhs price tag becomes apparent. The Audi Q5 2.0 TDI price in India is Rs 35 lakhs, ex-show room, Mumbai. Fantastic value for money product but with a cut in the engine department.

Luxury car manufactures in India not worried despite a dip in overall auto sales

Though there’s a dip in overall auto sales in India, Luxury car manufacturers are having a decent run by recording their highest ever sales currently.

Audi, German car manufacturers, have already registered plenty of sales in the initial 6 months of the current financial year when compared to what they did for the whole of 2010.

On the other hand, Mercedes told they’ve also recorded a sales jump of nearly 60% in six months this year of around 3800 vehicles while BMW sales had almost doubled up.

Head of Audi India, Michael Perschke, told there was no question about them not seeing a dip in the overall auto sales in India. He attributes factors like petrol prices and interest rates combined with a lot of other factors are indeed affecting sales and contributing vastly to the general slowdown.

He told the Audi effect was making the difference in their sales saying they had new engines, a strong brand name and increased their dealer market. All these make them confident about a slowdown not affecting them, but in fact would increase the product’s aspiration.

Confident with the current demands, Audi’s gone ahead and launched new cars in the Indian market.

Meanwhile, Mercedes Benz’s launched the Roadster, the price of which would be US $140,000.

Audi did introduce its A6 series whereas Volkswagen did re-launch its diesel version of Jetta Sedan in hopes of reaching a wider market.

Director of Volkswagen India, Neeraj Garg, told whenever activities like a new launch happens, there was an exponential growth to the segment. With the launch of the diesel Jetta Sedan, he felt the segment should be expanding. Taking that into perspective and going back to the earlier Jetta, they did have segment shares of around 8%.

He further told with the newness to the product, more power to the car, and with the car placed at a competitive price, they think this should enable them to improve their market shares as well.

Car manufactures voice that luxury car sector was a bit insulated from others in the auto industry due to the slowdown taking its time to really affect their customers’ profile. Though the interest rates are peaking, luxury car manufacturers have no plans of increasing their prices.

Sonalika Motors to now launch a passenger SUV

After Force Motors, it is now the turn of Sonalika to launch their own SUV in the Indian passenger car segment. Sonalika is credited with having the Toyota Qualis look-alike, the ICML Rhino in the passenger MUV segment. Force Motors have inspired many other niche manufacturers to try their hands at making SUVs for the passenger car segment in India. Pininfarina, the famous Italian design house is rumored to design this new SUV and Sonalika would be developing this car mostly in house with some inputs from suspension tuning specialists, Lotus.

A sum of about Rs 500 crores is set to be invested by the company in the passenger car segment now. After the launch of the SUV somewhere down by 2012, there would also be a passenger car segment which would be launched later on. This sedan would take on the likes of the Honda City, Vento and others and would be priced between Rs 8-10 lakhs. Initially, the company plans to roll out only a diesel engine. It would be the same Rover derived one with a capacity of 2.0 liters and varying power ranges from 120 Bhp to even 140 Bhp.

Ratan Tata confirms interest to invest in Bengal provided there’s no more hostility

After what happened in Singur, Bengal, Ratan Tata doesn’t think the chapter is closed yet. He feels they weren’t disinclined to invest further in Bengal if they were convinced that the hostility towards the Group was no more. He tells they needed to be satisfied with the prevailing hostility issue. He further elaborated saying at the moment there were no new plans, but would be investing if the right opportunity comes along. Ratan Tata attended the Tata Global Beverages’ general meeting held annually.

Chief of Tata Sons, Ratan Tata did call M.K. Narayanan, the governor, at Raj Bhavan talking about expectations in and around political circles and told the Group didn’t have ill feelings about Bengal from where they shifted their Nano unit in 2008 October.

A lot can be said about Tata’s remarks regarding the Singur incident in that he finally broke his silence and this being his first statement after a change in Governments in Bengal. Ratan Tata did in fact visit Kolkata a few days after Mamata Banerjee became the Chief Minister, but had not met the media in May.

Partha Chatterjee, State’s Industry and Commerce Minister, didn’t take the Group’s hostility issue lightly either. He told it was unfortunate and unwarranted for and that there were a lot of facilities belonging to the Tata Group that were running smoothly in Bengal. He also told Mamata Banerjee, their leader, didn’t believe in taking any kind of revenge.

It’s now three years after Tata controversially pulled out of Singur. Ratan Tata did spend 10 minutes answering questions on Singur. It could be said there was a hint of the Group trying to build the bridge back with the current Government. However, he did evade when questioned about a possible out-of-court deal and told the issue was sub-judice.

If you have the cash, we have the used car suggestions here – Part 2

The question is if you have Rs 16 lakhs in hand, why would you want to invest in a used car. There are many of the new car options floating around which would definitely help considering that buying a new car is mostly a pain free affair whereas buying a used one requires various checks and stuff to be done to ensure that it is a pain-free affair later on. For a second car and mostly in the price bracket of Rs 8-16 lakhs, a lot more options open up and regardless of the options or the condition the vehicle is in, one should first check the vehicle papers, road tax and related stuff have been paid for and also the preliminary checks regarding the car have been done as well. The car should be inspected in broad day light and also the paint quality should be checked for. A friend who is very knowledgeable as far as automobiles go should be tagged along or even a local mechanic would do. They can check the vehicle’s condition and ascertain it to be a good buy. Buying a car from a reputed second hand show room also makes the difference as most of these show rooms offer considerable amount of warranty and assured aftersales for these cars. Here is a list of some of the desirable cars which when brought in as a new buy, would definitely require some careful planning of the finances.

Ford Endeavor :

The Endeavor was launched in India at around 2004. It is counted as one of the most successful SUVs across the world and it has also got various names attached to it. Sales figures have always been on the higher side of things and Ford Motors have ensured that they keep on giving the SUV some steady upgrades all through its model years. In India, Ford have provided for a 4×2, 4×4 and also automatic transmission options. Nowhere in the sub Rs 40 lakhs category is an SUV offered with so much options. Since its basically an off-roader, the connecting tie-rod ends and also the steering column have to be looked out for. Wear and tear of this is very natural for a SUV which is used for off-roading jaunts. The suspension as also the driveshaft along with the condition of the tyres need to be checked before giving the go-ahead for this SUV. For a 2008 model, the asking price is Rs 9.4 lakhs and for a model after it, it would range anywhere between Rs 10-11 lakhs. Fuel efficiency hovers around the 10 kmpl mark and another worthy alternative would be the Mitsubishi Outlander. However the Outlander is available with only a petrol engine.

Honda CR-V :

Honda’s model lineup in India have sculpted a success story for itself with the exception of the Jazz. Even pricier models like the CR-V have made a mark for themselves. The CR-V which was launched in 2003 was India’s first cross-over car and Honda have provided it with both automatic and also manual transmission along with a choice of 2WD and 4WD options. Honda has also facelifted it once since its launch here. Even though many owners of the 4×4 optioned CR-V would have never ventured off-road, its good enough to check the underpinnings of the car. If the electronics of the car have been tinkered around with, then its best to stay away from this example. Also Honda engines are known to be very reliable and hence if the engine of the SUV that you are inspecting has been opened up, it’s a warning to stay away from it. Fuel efficiency of the petrol engine is on the lower side and don’t expect anything more than 8 kmpl overall. A worthy alternative to the same is the Chevrolet Captiva. The asking price of this SUV is on the higher side with a 2008 model going for around Rs 13 lakhs while a 2010 one would fetch close to Rs 18 lakhs.

Mitsubishi Pajero :

The  Pajero has been in India for the longest of times. To be exact, it was in 1998 that it was launched in India. It was the second generation vehicle which made its way to the Indian market. Even before the SUV made its way to India, its off-roading credibilities preceded it. Off-roading junkies needed no other reason to buy this SUV and the fact that it was provided with an oil burner only sweetened the deal. Moreover, all the politicians as also film stars assured that sales of the Pajero was an appealing prospect to Mitsubishi. Globally, the Pajero has been replaced with the Montero. However, in India it still continues to be sold alongside the Montero. When buying a used example, the buyer has to ensure that the underpinnings of this car be checked thoroughly. Though the Pajero can take quite a lot of abuse in its stride, its better safe than be sorry. Any off-roading vehicle needs to have its driveshafts checked and also uneven wear of tyres and alignment issues also needs to be given a look. A 2007 Pajero could go for as high or low as Rs 12 lakhs. Another alternative to it would be the petrol guzzler Maruti Grand Vitara. Fuel efficiency stands at 10 kmpl.

Honda Civic :

The Honda Civic made its way to the Indian soil in 2006. The futuristic theme of this car is something which everyone praised and its interiors are also well appreciated. The good thing is that even amongst the horde of newcomers in the market, the Civic doesn’t feel dated enough. Honda reliability is for given on this car and the only downside appears to be its lower than required ground clearance and also the petrol sipping engine. Due to its lower ground clearance, this car has a notorious reputation of getting its underpinnings damaged on speed breakers. The bumpers also due to their overhangs result in scrapes. If at all the engine has been opened, its time to say goodbye to the second hand car that one was eyeing. Civic cars also retain their value over the years and a 2008 model would be priced similar to the top end Honda City at Rs 8.5 lakhs. Fuel efficiency is supposed to be around the 11 kmpl mark. A worthy alternative and that too two of them would be the Toyota Corolla or the Chevy Cruze.

Skoda Laura :

The Laura was billed as the replacement for the oh-so successful Octavia in India. However, that didn’t happen and both happily sell alongside each other. A meter wide grin is what the Laura promises when one drives it. Since most of Skoda cars are skewed towards being enthusiast’s machines, its better to get the suspension as also the condition of the tyres checked. There are very few problems from the DSG gearbox or even the engine. Skoda engines are notorious enough to guzzle oil and this should be kept in mind while buying a used Skoda car. The car overall reeks of an expensive demeanor.  Skoda service is notorious on being very expensive. The average fuel efficiency of this car borders on 13 kmpl and another alternative to it would be the much pricier Honda Accord. The price of a 2008 Laura would be around the Rs 8.5 lakhs mark.

Skoda Superb :

The Indian market saw the Skoda Superb’s launch in 2004. Styling is the forte of Skoda cars and the Superb amply demonstrates that with its timeless silhouette. Everything about this car amplifies its name and one would just go Superb on seeing it. Skoda as a company recommends that all of their engines be fed with synthetic oil and a second hand car buyer should see to it that it has been adhered to. Also the DSG gearbox needs to be examined for any faults as repairs tend to be very expensive. The car offers a good ride quality as also handling. Moreover, it has good fuel efficiency to boot for with its diesel avatar. The fuel efficiency hovers around the 11 kmpl mark while the TSI variant would give around 8 kmpl. A worthy alternative to it would be the BMW 320d with almost similar servicing costs and all. The price of a second hand Skoda Superb would be just on the fringe of Rs 16 lakhs. The build quality should see it through the bad Indian road conditions.

Toyota Camry :

Toyota’s third launch in India just a few years after it set foot in here happens to be the Camry. A good ride quality along with high quality of equipments provided in this car ensured that it found many takers. However, over the years, the charm of the Camry was lost as newer competition barged in. Also with the advent of the luxury taxi market, most of the Camry cars began doing duties for 5 star hotels. Toyota cars are well built but then since the Camry didn’t sell all too well, the spare parts are on the expensive side of things. Also, the interiors do stand the test of time very well. An alternative to it would only be the Skoda Superb and Camry is the only Toyota car in India which doesn’t have a good resale value attached to it. A 2008 Camry can be brought for as less as Rs 12 lakhs. Fuel efficiency hovers around the 9 kmpl mark.

While all these cars are a great buy as second hand, it is imperative that the servicing as also the running costs be factored into the buying decision. Also the proximity of a service station or a reliable mechanic should also be counted in.

Hyundai India to launch Hyundai Eon in October at 3 lakhs

Rumours and sightings were abuzz in some parts of the Chennai suburbs about the new small car from Hyundai, car manufacturers from South Korea that they are planning to launch in competition with Chevrolet Spark and Maruti Alto. According to Hormazd Sorabjee, Editor of Auto Car India, Hyundai are planning to name their new, small 800 cc car as Eon.

It certainly confirms that Hyundai have given a proper name for the small car it has developed. It is also felt that this car would be for the Indian market rather than a car made globally for other consumers by Hyundai. The small car is powered by a three cylinder, 800 cc engine. Hyundai claim that the small car would excel both performance wise and also have good fuel economy. They plan to price it at 3 lakhs hence directly competing with the likes of Maruti Suzuki’s Alto, which is their highest selling car in recent years.

The launch of the Eon is still unconfirmed at the moment, but there are news circulating saying that a tentative launch date has been set by them in October coinciding with the festive season in India. Insiders from Hyundai have told that Hyundai Eon’s initial production has already started and there was plenty of anticipation and excitement surrounding Hyundai India with its launch, which would help them compete with Maruti’s Alto.

Dealer footprints have also been expanded aggressively by Hyundai for Pan India recognition as they feel the brand is a bit behind Maruti Suzuki when constraints like brand recognition and dealer penetrations are primary, and the demand for a car worth 3 lakhs is particularly strong in India. With all these strategies to be employed by the carmaker, Hyundai Eon hopefully would contribute to huge volumes for Hyundai India. So, with the tentative date set already ticking, we would see the small car rolling out sometime soon.

Factory premises sealed at Maruti’s Manesar Plant

Maruti is facing a crisis at its Manesar Plant in Haryana. Unhappy workers have found out a new way to disrupt ongoing work at the plant by creating serious defects in quality of the cars, so they would fail the compulsory vehicle inspection (VI) quality test. The vehicles are instead pushed to the holdup unit in the factory premises and not being shipped to dealers.

In the previous weeks, workers aged 27 to 28 years are up to some crazy stuff. They are cutting off wire harnesses from fresh cars which are in the assembly line, loosening or removing door hinges making the entire door fall off at the time of quality checks.

There are instances like deliberately trying to sabotage by employing methods like denting a new car. This would hold the car from reaching the dealer for an extended time as these cars would need fresh repairs. There are also instances like fitting parts from one model to another.

On a specific day of the previous week, reports indicated that only ninety six cars came out of the assembly line after vehicle inspection and quality checks whereas there were about 1200 cars rolling out daily from production.

Considering the depth of the issue to be seriously affecting the quality of their products, Maruti Suzuki, this Monday morning, sealed the facility temporarily.

Production stoppage like these in Manesar plant have happened thrice before where they produce cars like A-Star, SX4 and Swift models.

Insiders belonging to Maruti Suzuki told that the staff had been undertaking the ‘go-slow’ policy for many weeks currently and production was obviously down in the plant, but Maruti Suzuki only sealed the premises on Monday, which was a slight delay.

On the other side, production at Gurgaon, the company’s 2nd facility, had to be cut down this month because of a slowdown in demand.

A components supplier and a vendor, who is a single source tier I for many models, told productions of Alto F8 and Alto K10 was a combined 36,000 in July, but was expected to go down to 26,000 in August with Alto being the highest selling product in India.

In the same way, production of Ritz’s down at 6,900 units (previously 8000 units) in August. Production of WagonR is at 9000 units (previously 15,000 units). Likewise, productions of all the other models have also been cut down due to a decline in demand.

A components supplier says every other car sold is a Maruti Suzuki car in India, but when they cut down production of cars when facing issues like labour or rising inventory that meant sales of almost half of the passenger cars is down. He also told the company’s growth last year was 28% to 30%, and he feared at this rate it would go down to 5% to 6%, and would be certainly affecting their business as well.

There are reports that car manufacturers also have cut down their production.

A vendor says that Tata had resumed its production of Nano at Sanand when they temporarily did suspend production for a fortnight. He says this was undertaken for maintenance purposes and also to align and rationalise inventory.

Going by what vendors had to say, they report about a hundred Nano cars are produced there where the installed capacity was 800 daily, but Tata haven’t given an indication as to when they would be raising the production.

Even the production of Tata cars namely Vista, Indigo and Indica are down.

There is an overall slowdown in production predicted by vendors. They say the production of all these cars combined together would go down in Sept and Oct 2011, i.e., 11,500 units and 13,300. They feel, in November, it could go up to 15,000, but dipping further in December to 12,000.

Maruti Suzuki and Tata Motors account for a big market share in the car market when it comes to passenger cars. The ongoing dip in production in their respective plants would impact the supply chain entirely.

Car analysts report that utilisation of capacity by car manufacturers generally was expected to further decline by 6% in the coming 2 years even if they increase their capacities.

However, Akshay Saxena and Jatin Chawla of Credit Suisse Equity Research, are seeing a 30% expansion in capacity in the coming 2 years.

Do driver aids really work? – Indiandrives finds out

We have often heard about all the new technologies boasting of making driving an easy task for all. Classic case is the example of the new VW Passat which has got a Parking Assist thing which helps in parallel parking the car in tight parking spaces. There are many more technological marvels coming up in future cars plus some of the Mercedes as also the Volvo cars boast of technology which some years back would have felt like an alien speak. More and more manufacturers are coming forth in their quest to mate the driveability of a car with its own iterations of driver aids. These technologies ensure that driving doesn’t become a chore and is more of a pleasure thing. Many would counter this statement by saying that all this cutting edge technology spoils the pure thrill of motoring. Moreover, the technologies take over the car and hence there is very precious little that the driver can do in the event of managing the car. Manufacturers counter this argument by saying that they infact provide switches which can deactivate most of the systems present in the car. We at Indiandrives set out to dissect the various systems available in a car and whether they actually help out the driver or not.

Head-up display :

Also referred to as HUD, this system projects the important data of the car on the windscreen, thus allowing the driver to not even take his eyes off the road for a second, to check the speed or kms covered. Also, navigation signs are displayed on the windscreen enabling the driver to follow the GPS and not miss out on turns. The best part is that this Head-up Display is only visible to the driver and thus co-passengers aren’t distracted by it. A small projector is used in front of the instrument panel and which in turn projects the image onto the windshield in front of the driver. Manufacturers put in a special coating so that the driver’s line of vision isn’t hampered overtly and the HUD can also be adjusted based on the height of the driver.

We believe that this technology, though on the expensive side is definitely worth it. At first, manufacturers projected it as a marketing gimmick, however, later on, it is being put more into the safety features list. Its best use is when one is crawling close to the speed limits.

Parking Assistance :

Parallel parking is a pain in the you know where. Even for seasoned drivers, its an issue if the vehicle one is trying to park is anywhere close to a sedan. However, Europe’s number one car maker VW have introduced the Parallel Parking thing in the new Passat. All one has to do is press the “Park Assist” button and use the indicator before the car passes through the designated parking space. The car is fitted with ultrasonic sensors which will check the edge of the road and accordingly when the slot is found, the driver receives a notification from the car. Once the reverse gear is engaged, the driver has to apply the brakes as necessary and also give throttle inputs. The entire steering wheel control is taken over by the car and all the maneuvering and turning is also done by the car. This system can also be deactivated once the driver makes the car to come to a standstill or the driver tries to modulate the steering wheel.

We think that this feature would be totally useless in India since most of the times, the Parking Assist works on the basis that the other cars are parked correctly. So, as of now, until the infrastructure improves, this is a big thumbs down.

Proximity Control :

This one keeps a set distance from the car ahead of you and hence if at all, the car in front comes to a halt suddenly and you don’t have enough time to react, then the Proximity Control takes over and does the braking on your behalf. Before auto braking, it also warns the driver via an audio beep. The proximity control system works between the speeds of zero to 200 kmph. The set distance is also maintained. Its an advanced version of the Adaptive Cruise Control function.

Since Proximity Control isn’t programmed to find out if the thing in front is a human being or vehicle, it doesn’t have a use in the Indian driving conditions. Moreover, with it in use, unnecessary alarms would be generated.

City Braking Assistance :

This feature has been provided so that collisions can be minimized. It includes the likes of a laser or sensor which is placed in the rear view mirror and continuously scans the road, approx one car-length ahead. It primes the brakes upon sensing any obstacle ahead of the road and if the driver doesn’t steer clear of the object or brakes, a hydraulic pump is activated, which in turn, applies the brakes automatically. If a collision is imminent and the driver supposedly takes no action, then about 50% of the braking power is provided by the system so that the impact of the collision is minimum or even in some cases, prevented. This happens only below speeds of 30 kmph. At speeds lower than half of the cited, a collision is definitely averted. Above speeds of 30 kmph, the system disengages itself and is redundant.

We say that this feature is very good and helps in preventing accidents, moreso during traffic conditions wherein one may lose attention for a second or so.

Lane Departure Warning :

Driver attention is what this thing checks on constantly. An integrated network of cameras pay a close heed to the lines on the road. If the driver doesn’t signal before lane changes, this system comes to life. The cameras pick on the lines of the road and accordingly inform the driver to get back to the lane he was driving in. These feedbacks are provided via a gentle nudge on the steering wheel or via audio beeps or even by a warning alert light. Since the concept of lanes in India is blatantly violated, it is more of redundant here.

Even in Europe where this system is more prominently sold even in hatchbacks, most of the times, it fails. It is deemed as unreliable even there. This one would just be for the gimmicks and have no practical usage in India.

Driver Alertness System :

The driver’s performance behind the wheel is analyzed by this system. If an erratic steering input is detected, then this system alerts the driver. This one also works to a large extent on the lane markings. The on-board computer sets up a prediction as to which path the vehicle should be traversing based on the steering inputs as also the markings. If there is a significant difference, then the system throws in a soft warning. If the driver still continues with his erratic driving manners, then a second warning is given by the system. If the driver even fails to acknowledge this warning, then the system would start displaying a coffee cup signal. This can only be removed once the vehicle is stopped and the driver’s door opened.

We say that this works fairly for us and though its based on the marking on roads, it still works just fine even with roads without markings. Now, how about giving this feature to the Indian truckies?

Blind Spot Assistance :

The area behind the car and also alongside is a relative place where the vision of the driver is limited enough. The Blind Spot Assistance works in such a way that a radar constantly monitors the spots. It warns the driver when changing lanes can be dangerous enough. On the rear bumper, short range sensors are placed to monitor the areas directly alongside and also behind the car. This enables the system to see if there is a vehicle just in the driver’s blind spot region. A red warning signal is illuminated in the glass exterior mirror or via a warning sounds as well.

This one works well, however, it can become a tad too irritating in crowded places. Moreover, in the Indian context, drivers rarely use the wing mirrors and hence this system wouldn’t be as effective here.

Intelligent Lights :

A dual Xenon Headlamps is what consists of Intelligent Lights. They are basically used for tackling different lighting situations pertaining to weather and the stuff. When visibility falls beyond a certain limit and the driver is forced to turn on the rear fog lamp, then the head lamp swivels outwards by a fair degree and also lowers the cone of the light. The nearside road is illuminated more clearly by this and the wide beam reduces the glare in the fog. These enhanced lights stay upto speeds of 110 kmph. The cornering light function is also attached to this Intelligent Light system. One or more fog lamps are automatically switched on when the driver operates the steering wheel or turns on the indicator. The range of visibility around a bend also increases significantly due to this.

We would welcome this feature in all the cars in India since this feature takes away the need to change to low beams so that the oncoming traffic isn’t dazzled.

Adaptive Airbags :

Most of the cars have a driver and passenger airbag system. However, adaptive airbags mean that there are airbags in other parts of the car as well. A comprehensive protection thing is achieved in this event like the side impact thing. Also, there are thorax and head protection airbags which protect the upper body from injury vis a vis by the airbag. The vehicle’s underbody also carries a braking bag which gets activated just before the collision. A friction coating to support the car against the road surface is created which provides for additional deceleration force, which reduces the force of impact.

Since accident is something which necessarily doesn’t happen head-on, there are many other areas where a person can get injured and hence adaptive airbags come to the fore. A total thumbs up proposition.

Preventive Safety :

This safety system comes to the fore when any unnatural skidding or braking is detected. Once the system is activated, the co-passenger as also the driver’s seat belts are primed by the seat belt pretensioners. The windows or even the sunroof, if open are automatically closed. A safest position is selected for the front seats. If the accident situation has been averted, then the seatbelts assume their original position. Moreover, the ABS, ESP and Brake Assist system are linked with this to minimize the chances of an accident.

This one is the best amongst the lot and certainly deserves a kudos. Its equal to getting an insurance policy for all the occupants of the car.

In the end, it turns out that most of the systems in a car are barely useful to us, however, as a part of the marketing gimmick and to eke out more money from the discerning buyer, manufacturers tend to introduce them in their cars. Most of these systems are present in Volvo cars and if one or two of them are removed, then the price of the cars would automatically come down to a great extent. Now, we don’t intend to promote Volvo cars in this section, however that’s the thought which just crossed the mind. Inclusion of these systems in some of the lower end cars would bump up the price, however, it would be a very brave effort on some manufacturer to even put these features as optional ones.

Maruti Suzuki would be launching 20 models in the coming five years

People well known to Maruti Suzuki, India’s largest car manufacturer have told they are all set for a big product onslaught by planning to launch 15 to 20 new products in 5 years. With the idea of remaining competitive and protecting its market shares, Maruti Suzuki would continue its focus on low-cost products with about 70% to 80% of its upcoming models being small cars and that would include new variants and facelifts for existing cars.

Five of the new products that they are planning to launch are already being developed in the advanced stages. Maruti Suzuki was likely to launch Swift Dzire, sub-4 metre, at the Auto Expo 2012 in Delhi. This would be further followed by the multipurpose automobile based on R-III concept, Ritz backlift, A-Star facelift and a new generation of Alto 800 to be launched by 2013.

Maruti Suzuki would be investing Rs. 1000 to Rs. 1,500 crores on development of products to include their R&D unit in Rohtak in the next 3 to 5 years. The Rohtak unit would be fully operational in the initial 6 months of 2014. Industry experts iterated that a dedicated R&D unit would lower cost in development and would enable them to aggressively price the vehicles.

Maruti Suzuki would be launching 20 models in the coming five yearsExperts felt since the product lifestyle was getting diminished, it was empirical that companies introduce fresher and newer products. They said that new products would certainly pull the customers and Maruti Suzuki was responding to that demand. Maruti Suzuki is currently working on their strategies for future product needs in its Japan headquarters.

I.V. Rao, Chief Executive of R&D, Maruti Suzuki, had declined to speak on the total number of products planned for release in the coming years. He told that Indian engineers’ contribution for development of these cars would be peaking up in the ensuing years. He told the engineers were involved in the development of both Indian and global products. He feels with the current dynamics in the Indian car market environment where competitiveness and expectations of customers changing continuously, they were in a better position and would have enough time to react in the coming years.

Furthermore, Suzuki plans to combine the Japanese R&D unit with India and plans to move forward where India would be playing a big role in development of products.

Rakesh Batra, Partner & National Director, Automotive, Ernst and Young, elaborated that the company’s biggest challenge would be to protect its market share. He told Maruti Suzuki would have to offer newer vehicles for comparable competition in a short timeframe. He told the Indian R&D unit, which is stronger with plenty of responsibility on its shoulders would definitely help.