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4.6.06

The Holden supermarket 

Among the searches for Denise Vasi on this blog, another regular one is for the results for the , or , as it is known Down Under. Most visitors wind up at my blog post about the , or new —a car that scores only two stars. That’s considerably down on the C, which formed the basis of the old Barina, and which scored four stars back in 2002—the year the Kalos hit the market.
   The new Corsa is out, and it probably scores even better than four stars—but is quite happy to sell an inferior that is more dangerous to . This is despite the following, and its engineers must have been able to predict something like this:

The Chevrolet Aveo, a facelifted version of the former Daewoo Kalos, was singled out for the “unacceptably” high risk of life-threatening injury to the driver’s chest, which was highlighted by the frontal test. As a result, the car’s final star was ‘struck through’, which, in EuroNCAP parlance amounts to a serious thumbs down. To be specific, the test revealed that the Aveo driver was at severe risk of injury in a frontal at 64 kph (40 mph).

Australian NCAP testing showed a similar two-star result—pretty shocking when you consider even the Hyundai Getz, another Korean car of similar vintage, can get four stars (according to EuroNCAP).
    hasn’t tested the Daewoo Lacetti, but let me solve the queries now. The Americans have test results for the , which is essentially the same car, built on the same production line as the Holden Viva. There, it scores four stars, which at least is better than the Kalos—though methodologies on both sides of the Atlantic differ.
   I still wouldn’t take the gamble, even though four stars is expected these days. The Astra G, which the Viva replaced in Australia and New Zealand, is still a better car in most respects. I just wouldn’t reward Holden for selling an inferior product—it has to learn that consumers call the shots.
   In , Holden may have been happy to bastardize its brand with rebadged Camrys (Holden Apollo) and Suzuki Samurais (Holden Drover) in the 1980s and early 1990s. But in , its success really came when it began “doing a ”. Its range was essentially that of , with the full-size, -based cars being unique to Holden (although they would eventually be under various guises as well). Australia followed suit once it ran out of Camrys to rebadge.
   By changing what the means (again), to the equivalent of a and rebadging Daewoos, Holden will lose a great deal of its .
   In the mid-1980s, Wheels predicted that Holden would turn into a brand flogging everyone else’s stuff. And the fact is, things got very near that. The fact the 1989 VN-series Commodore was even developed as a unique car for Australia, albeit on Opel bits, was a miracle that the earlier report didn’t foresee.
   In the 2000s, Holden has forgotten just how close it came to oblivion. But if its small- and mid-size car range custom disappears, and it creates a generation for whom Holden is a reseller of inferior Korean product, then it can kiss its future business goodbye, beginning today.
   Holden might have been able to fool the odd person in the 1980s, but in Australasia, the internet is just a little too handy—and those NCAP results just a little too easy to find. Given the hits I get on this blog, I should know.

Del.icio.us tags: Holden brand branding Daewoo brand equity safety NCAP consumer
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Comments:
Thanks Jack, though your tireless effort to bring Holden [or for that matter GM] into the right[ful] track deserves much more. GM seems to be digging its own grave for a considerable time now. Though safety is not much of a headache to an average Indian as yet [only the higher-end vehicles have features/options like air-bag or ABS etc.] and crash test data are not very relevant while one decides to go for the buy [No car manufacturer provides any information on crash-tests in their product-literature or publicity material, however it is being publicized by GM India that Aveo is designed by the legendery Giorgetto Giugiaro [Italdesign] with inputs from another legend Bob Lutz... perhaps people are only too satisfied hearing this] but since almost all the vehicles capable of doing 150 kph and more with improving roads making room for even more speed, safety is definitely going to be the top most concern. Where does GM think it's going to find itself down the line with an increasingly inferior product portfolio ?  
GM would be wise to be a safety leader in India—I still think these foreign manufacturers still think of India as a land of Hindustans and Premier Padminis. The reality, I know, is very different. The bragging about the Aveo is quite laughable as I am sure neither Signor Giugiaro or Mr Lutz would wish to have their names associated in such a way—GM India is making it sound like it has created the Corvette for India!
   I think GM will simply fall behind. Indians can get a Maruti Swift for Aveo money, and be better protected in an accident. The facelifted Aveo is, I understand, structurally the same as the old—which means two-star protection. And I doubt Aveo buyers will stretch to an Optra to get a car that scored four stars.  
The irony is, GM India is positioning the Aveo against the new Honda City ! - a much more refined and proven car.

Anyway, I seem to get very excited whenever you write anything about GM [although in the name of Holden] that's because GM is personally my favorite automobile brand [I cannot see it slipping] and I love American automobiles for their 'legacy value' [though only last month I read in BBC TopGear's Indian publication that 'All American cars are crap !' in a report on the Dodge Viper]. The GM brands are very deeply rooted in the Indian psyche and have good mindspace [GM knows it]. Although Pontiac and GMC remained specifically for the US and I'm doubful if they ever came to the sub-continent but there is a whole generation of our forefathers who had grown watching and driving the Buicks, Chevrolets and Cadillacs. Indians associate GM with history, class and heritage unlike any other automobile brands, so their expectation from GM is not just a car... something more with which they can savor on the nostalgia. I
think GM has decided to position Chevrolet as its global car brand in the mid-segment and it has also decided to replace the total Chevvy line with re-designing the older Daewoos [considering Corvette a history]. That way they
perhaps would have gained a massive cost benefit which is most necessary to stay afloat in its home ground itself... as US people are buying more Toyotas than others... and break-even in the new / emerging markets like India with a minimum investment. But what about the damage done to the originality of a good brand of almost historical value, in the long run ?
Maruti is the most successful automobile manufacturer in India after Hyundai which is coming up very fast as an intimidating contender giving Maruti a good run for its money. Tata Indica - in the third position is now lagging after doing pretty good for the past half decade. Indica's problem is design. And Tata - it's maker's, R&D. Indica was designed by IDEA in 1997. So it makes practical sense if it's now replaced with a contemporary design like the Hyundai Getz. The process could be on [though nothing is in the news] but as of now they are positioning Indica as a price-beater as compared to others. Tata is now serious about making a sub US$ 2500 car [it's rumored to be a two-door, air-cooled rear-engined, two-seat city car].
GM and Ford have been in India for more than a decade now. They need not be like timid any more in a country where they already remained strong legacy brands. It's a pity to watch them having market shares like a paltry 1.5 or 3 per cent.  
Thank you for your amazing insights, Rohan. I am very interested to learn about the consumer perceptions there in India.
   I agree the Indica (and Indigo and Marina) are past their prime. I wrote about the $2,500 car a while back and think it’s inspired: the great cars of the last century have been those that mobilized the masses, such as the Model T, Käfer, Mini and Fiat nuova 500.
   Tata has not had a great track record of replacing their cars with a western-style timetable: I see some of the older trucks are still offered. I would hate to see it follow the older manufacturers into keeping the same design for too long—the Hindustan Ambassador is, for instance, retaining little more than curiosity value, in my book, and they can count themselves lucky they can build the Lancer there.
   I do agree there is potential long-term damage to GM’s actions, particularly to those positive perceptions in the market-place there. Why sacri&364257;ce that for a bunch of Daewoos? Sure, they needed to be sold, and it is convenient to keep all that within one continent, but the odd, traditional Chevy—even the Corvette, as you say—would give the line a halo vehicle. To me, it was foolish to spin off the Corvette into its own brand for Europe, because Chevrolet seriously needs to connect with its American, and not Korean, roots.  
Thanks Jack. Actually I'm an automobile buff as far as design and branding is concerned and I’ve been studying on these two aspects since 1993 when the first automobile revolution happened in India with the introduction of Zen by Maruti-Suzuki coinciding India's entry into the WTO. However, I was very small when the actual revolution happened in 1983 when Suzuki first entered into India with the Government of India forming Maruti-Suzuki [a 50:50 venture between them] and introduced Maruti 800 as not a very stiff competition to the Premier Padmini and Hindustan Ambassador. In those days Ambassadors were regarded as the toughest passenger vehicle on road after Padmini. Maruti-Suzuki 800 and thereafter it's van and the new Maruti 800 along with the Gypsy were much ahead in terms of design and engineering [Maruti-Suzuki introduced the first disk brakes in India and the front wheel drive in 1983] but considered not as tough. But they did sell and in good numbers. You have, in the previous posts, mentioned that India should not be anymore considered as a country of Padminis and Ambassadors. You are very much right. Premier Automobiles Ltd was shut in around 1996-97 for the stiff compitition it received from the others [particularly Maruti-Suzuki] and sold all their assets to Fiat which first brought Uno in India and later the Palios. You can see Padminis now only in the form of taxis in around Mumbai, that too as long as the Unions could resist the move of implementing stringent pollution norms. As far as Ambassadors are concerned, they are a very laughable form of automobile in India now. Even the government is replacing their departmental fleet with the Indigos [notchback version of Indica] and the likes. I don't understand why Hindustan Motors still makes them. They sell in paltry numbers only for taxis in Calcutta. If we delve deeper into the histories of these two automobiles [Ambassador and Padmini] we'll get to know that HM bought and shipped the moulds into India along with the manufacturing & marketing rights of Morris Minor from Morris Oxford, UK in 1948 [production begun in 1954] while Premier brought Fiat 1100 from Fiat in around 1950s, then outdated in Europe and both received only minor changes since then. HM still, in vain, tries to sell the Ambassador [which has lost its snob value, legacy value and even curiosity value as you say, by now] changing a headlamp or a grille etc [it indeed refuses to die] while Padmini is completely out of production. HM now makes Ambassadors only in its West Bengal facility [the oldest in the country and they cannot seemingly shut it down for OTHER reasons] when it makes the Lancers & Cedias and assembles Pajeros in its Chennai factory which is capable of making any new generation vehicle. HM also assembles the Ford Fusion and Fiesta engines in the lines here.

I had told in my earlier comment that 'there is a whole generation of our forefathers who had grown watching and driving the Buicks, Chevrolets and Cadillacs' but I forgot to mention that it was before the early sixties, since then right up to the late eighties were the era of Padminis and Ambassadors when they reigned supremely in the market.

Unfortunately I was not known to you while you mentioned Tata's move of making a sub $2500 thing going. It’s out of your great generosity that you have slotted Tata into a place of high esteem by comparing them with the revolutionary moves made by the legendary Mr. Henry Ford and others but Mr. Ratan Tata of Tata Motors has been talking of this ambitious move since 1996 and he is still to find site for the facility to make it. India witnessed its first automobile revolution in 1983 by Maruti-Suzuki and then a second in 1993 again by them. It would have been great if a similar move was seen in 2003 by Tata as anticipated but it did not happen. It's now expected to happen in 2010 but not likely, according to me. Tata has not evolved much since the days they introduced the Mercedes Benz [Daimler Benz] trucks in India in early fifties. They have now bought the truck making facilities of Daewoo and focused in the markets of southern hemisphere like South Africa [deliberately remaining out of Australia & New Zealand]. Compared to even SCANIA they are nothing. It's a great pain to see that three pioneer automobile makers of India are now either non-existent or panting for existence after almost six decades of being in the business.

By the way, Mr. Tata is eying the vast two-wheeler population in India to upgrade to his ambitious vehicle [if it finally happens] but it remains to be seen how it appeals to this niche buyers. Because a two-wheeler cannot be compared with a less than basic four wheeler. Rather than making a revolution it's more likely to make life miserable in an already hellish traffic condition and also cause accidents as you can expect zero in terms of safety measures. I still doubt if it's going to be a four-wheeler capable of plying on the road [along wi' the Mercs !] with an air-cooled rear engine and two door with two seat fitted into a bubble like construction where even the Smart has failed ! As far as I know it's not going to be a design-wonder. People would still have the option of buying a more proper vehicle [Maruti 800] for a few more bucks with GM all prepared to re-introduce the Deawoo Matiz in the guise of Chvrolet Spark.  
Thank you for this splendid summary, Rohan, and what you have witnessed there in India. I’m old enough to remember even the Standard Gazel and you may recall the Sipani Dolphin!
   Tata trucks (the 207, mainly) were sold here briefly, but they were no match for the Japanese. Toyota, in particular, has incredible goodwill here for pick-up trucks, with Ford probably in second place with the Courier (Ranger in Asia). After a few years, I note the Toyotas have held up better than the Tatas. Maybe as India’s truck market grows, someone like Iveco or Volvo will eye Tata with some desire.
   There have been some odd moves by the Indian automobile industry—I count the Standard 2000, Sipani Montego and Hindustan Ambassador among them—and I had hoped that India would develop something that was unique to its situation.
   After having read your thoughts on Tata’s planned $2,500 car, I am having second thoughts about its potential, though at the same time I feel there are other countries that may need this minimalist form of transport. India may well be too sophisticated now, too, to entertain the notion of a car like this.
   In France, there are microcars that have been failures as well, though some have managed to make greater headway (e.g. the Ligier), so there is some evidence to say that a small, cheap car (I use the term loosely) may not be what the Indian consumer wants.
   The Europeans have come up with the Loremo, which could be an alternative, though it will be expensive; however, it appears more revolutionary than the Smart. Perhaps this is more what India needs—something that is world-beating and does not rely on the conventional thinking of the west.  
This post is getting particularly longer, Jack as our exchange of views in this particular matter jus' refuses to die down ! You really have a very impressive knowledge on the Indian automobile industry. Yeah, I remember the Sipani Dolphin [an incomplete look-alike of Maruti-Suzuki 800] - perhaps it was the first ever FRP built passenger vehicle in India [I've even seen quite a few of them in the late eighties to early nineties]. Their key problem was fit & finish [engine apart]. They looked much like unfinished protos doing the road tests and I remember to have laughed at their
sight. Naturally, they didn't sell. After this failed venture Sipani Automobiles tried to make the Rover Montegos in India. They even invested a lot of money to build up a new facility for this. And this time things looked hopeful for them. But they priced the vehicle way too high which was one of the reasons for their yet another failure apart from Rover's plight [Rover stopped production of Montegos]. Sipani is history now.
I also remember the Standard 2000 [I even remember to have seen a few of them]. It was being manufactured by The Standard Motor Products of India Ltd in around mid eighties. Standard is one of the few of India's early-days
automakers. It would actually make commercial-vans in around the seventies and 2000 was based again on a Rover. I remember 2000 as a very long estate-type vehicle with a very high price tag [around US$ 9000 in today's value] and a 1994 cc engine. And the look was impressive. However, the company is shut now and its assets are up for sale.
Tata 207 was introduced in 1988, a very good looking vehicle but it was an early concept for the Indian market at that time and no wonder they tried to sell it in relatively matured markets like New Zealand [I didn't know it, thank you for the information] and eventually lost to Toyota and Ford whose mainstay was pick-up trucks like this at that time in Asia and the Pacific regions.
Indian automobile market has really evolved with time and what I belive the domestic automakers seem to have simply ignored this while others like Suzuki and Hyundai and Daewoo [now defunct] took the opportunity. And we have now IVECO [with Ashoke Layland], VOLVO, TATRA, MAAN [with Force Motors] and URAL as truck makers in India in the high-end and niche segmnets apart from GM, Ford, Suzuki, Hyundai, Mercedes Benz, Nissan [with Maruti-Suzuki], Skoda, BMW [no manufacturing facility - NMF], Porsche [NMF], Audi [NMF], Bently [NMF], Fiat, Honda, Toyota, Land Rover [NMF], Mitsubishi [with HM] and Rolls [NMF] in the passenger vehicle segment while VW and VOLVO are trying to make an entry. Renault is all prepared to make its [Dacia] Logan with Mahindra in late2007. Peugeot alreday had a
failed venture in around 1997 and eyeing India for yet another time.
I would have believed Tata to make the $2500 vehicle to happen but with almost no in-house R&D facility [even the MAHINDRA has better in-house R&D, who has now made quite a craze with its Scorpio - a vey good SUV of almost
international standard] and a passenger vehicle making experience of barely a decade [originally a truck maker since
the 1950s] it does not instill enough faith in me for such effort. It's a project which needs more than average expertise in design & engineering [particularly in designing monocoques] to make microcars like this. Tata has a proto which was built way back in 1997/98, it will obviously be dated when [if] produced in 2010 and no minor changes would do.

Finally I'd like to add that the average Indians are very price-conscious. I mean to say they understand the price-value equation better than any else. And also not very knowledgeable as far as the history of an automobile goes. They typically see three things - price, fuel-efficiency and service [apart from room] when making decision to buy a vehicle. When Hyundai introduced its Santro in 1997, it was assumed that it won't sell because of its looks and pedigree. But it sold like no other brands. It turned out to be a good one, however. Perhaps GM would be able to sell the Chevrolet brand in good numbers because Daewoo was not that bad indeed and people hardly know if the current days Chevys are actually Deawoos [with GM at the good effort to tell people that Aveo is designed by Giugiaro !].

You'll get to see a microcar REVA in India these days [particularly in the south] - a laughable, FRP built, ELECTRIC MOTOR, two-door, two-seat manufactured and sold in very small numbers by Maini Automobiles [a reminiscent of Sipani] with an imminent bleak future ! Actually Indian automakers still believe that they can sell a crude thing in the name of automobile. They're yet to appreciate that design and safety is the two key elements to make an automobile sell !  
It is indeed a fascinating thread, Rohan, and you’ve confirmed many of the things I thought. I believe there is a future for microcars, but they need to be stylish like that Loremo I mentioned—otherwise, there is no point. What you’ve highlighted to me is the sophistication of the Indian consumer—something I already knew, but I had not expected that there would be a preference, as there was in Europe, for a “proper” automobile. Smart did not work because you could pick up a Volkswagen Lupo or Seat Arosa for a lot less—a pattern that could be repeated in India. In addition, a consumer acceptance for sedans seems to be strong.
   The Sipani Dolphin, from memory, was a rehash of the British Reliant Kitten. Reliant developed several cars for developing countries, including, I believe, the Otosan for Turkey and the stillborn Anziel Nova for New Zealand.
   I will Google the Reva, but do you recall the Badal?  
Rohan, interestingly, the Reva would be quite compelling in the west, if the company could get the quality right. I am not sure of the electric motor’s range, and the styling is no better than some of the older French microcars, but the fact this company is experimenting with hydrogen as well would ensure it some custom beyond Indian borders. A very fascinating and ironic situation: India wants the types of cars that the west has, and we want to follow India with its electric cars …  
Jack, you've meticulous knowledge on Indian automobiles. ! I'm sorry, I cannot remember Badal. Yeah, there're microcars from as you say Reliant Kitten [I have checked their website] to the Nissan Pivo [an amazing concept from Nissan which can rotate 360 degrees on its four wheels thus eleminating the need of a back gear] but no one is that successful. Is there any ? The reason as I find is not that they are not technically comparable with their bigger counterpart... I think it remained a marketing failure, at least in India. India is now more matured than it ever was but you cannot still find a two-door coupe at the entry level. Maruti-Suzuki perhaps once tried with their Zen [there was no publicity of it however] but the idea didn't catch on. But, if you look at our social structure and the psychological transition, you'd find that there are more nucleus families now than ever. Two adult and a child. They don't need, as it seems, a regular four door to their offices or to shopping or movies but even if there was a two door, they would not buy it. Why ? You can even find most of the second automobile in a family is often a notchback, if not a hatchback. What could be the reason ? That's because people want a more proper form of automobile for their money. The price difference between a two door coupe and a four door hatchback of, say, Palio [had there been any in India] would not be much. Then why settle for less ? Personally I like two doors [I don't have any] because it's more personal in its character, but 'more personal' could not be reason enough for an automobile to sell [that's why Tata Sierra failed] at least in India, as of now. But if the merketing guys had more insight they would have realized that if properly priced, a two door could generate a great volume and craze among even the two-wheeler population [what Mr. Tata has envisaged, but unfortunately he doesn't have the required technology]. Rather, they tried to create a niche segment and priced them even higher than a regular four door one. Worldwide, if I'm not wrong, average people want value for their money. So when you make things for the average people, you have got to keep value in your mind.
Mr. Tata's move is very ambitious, he deserves thanks for that. But a proper monocoque with a proper engine [no matter, how small... you don't need a 100 bhp to go buying medicine from a shop round the next corner] - a water cooled 600cc would make sense. And he can still sell it at $2500 if economies of scale is achieved.
REVA does 60 km at one charge but you have to drive like grandmas to achieve that. That too at a price of $10000. Definitely not a recommended buy, considering the pre-historic looks, cramped seats and an inadequate motor that all it has. They could indeed do a little more with its looks. Perhaps the guys from Ghia or Italdesign could help.

Finally, I strongly believe that if Renault brings its second generation Clio [now out of production in Europe] in the two door form with a 600 cc engine [if they can manage to source it from Daihatsu] in India, it would definitely sell. Because the design is still relevant [at least I'll buy one !]... and along with Logan, Renault will surely be in the stead to get the required EOS.

One thing Jack, you would not definitely want to be laughed at on the road... would you ?  
Once more, Jack. Microcars are, as I believe, less cars. You cannot go for aluminum space frame technology with hydrogen fuel cell for a car which is meant to be mass produced, reasonably priced and will be used mostly for driving to the nearby medicine shop and the likes. While the ones you suggest as examples are really noteworthy, I believe when a microcar is designed, it should be designed with only one thought in mind that it's a microcar and nothing else. No modification of a bigger car would make sense. I remember one, Ethos 3 [FRP panels on aluminum frame], by Pininfarina which was quite potential but there was unfortunately no taker. Give me an assignmnent I'll make one, on drawingsheet of course :)  
There was talk years ago about an Indian-made Renault Twingo, but I think it was all a rumour. A Clio with a small engine could work, though I feel it could be too underpowered. Size-wise, it would cut the Logan too closely. But the theory is an excellent one, as anyone wishing to compete in India should offer a reasonably sized car with a small engine as an entry-level vehicle.
   A “sub-car” would not really get laughed at today, I must say, because Smart has paved the way. Sure, it was a flop, but something that petite would not be thought of negatively. The only one I would like to be seen in, however, is that Loremo I cited before, though it would be pricey—however, the projected price isn’t too bad when compared with the Smart. The French microcars usually look ridiculous, and as I said, the limited range of the Reva would kill it in most places.
   I remember Pininfarina’s Ethos 3, and I agree the concept was very worthy. However, it was bigger than the microcars that we have discussed. Maybe Pininfarina was a bit too far ahead of its time.
   As to successful microcars, would you consider the Fiat 500 (both Topolino and Bambina)? While not conceived as microcars, with the size of modern cars, they could qualify by today’s standards; and the Bambina, or nuova 500, retains a huge following today.
   The 198 cm³, rear-engined Badal was a sub-car: it looked more like a boat than a car to me! Apparently it was from Sipani, or rather its forerunner, Sunrise Automotive, which I discovered after Googling it. It was based loosely on the British Reliant Robin, the three-wheel version of the Kitten (or, more accurately, the Kitten was a four-wheel version of the Robin).  
Oh ! I'm absolutely sorry Jack, it's the Twingo and not CLIO which I wanted to talk about.
Twingo was indeed a possibility as long as I remember... actually around 1993 - 95 there were several possibilities of tie-ups with a lot of global brands [aftermath of WTO] for the Indian automakers and Tata was the frontrunner. They had options like Honda, Peugeot and Renault but none of them worked. Ultimately they decided to go ahead with their most ambitious plan ever - the Indica. But I believe Twingo is still a possibility for Renault India with the two-door Clio an option [two-door Clio is not as much bigger as a Logan notchback, is it ?]
I don' say that sub-cars are laughable, particularly when you are seen around in a Smart but people do laugh in India at the sight of a Reva or as I myself did at Dolphin. I'm not against microcars, I rather favor them but they should not, at least, be like unfinished protos which look any way very awkward and clumsy. Loremo is good indeed, it could even be seen as a successful replacement of Smart but in Europe, definitely not in the emerging markets like India's. Mercedes Benz India, I remember, once thought of bringing the Smart here, but later backed out. They even weighed the option of introducing the A class, only to back out again.
Pininfarina's Ethos 3 had four forms - a cabriolet, a two-door coupe, a four door hatchback and a four door notchback as I remember to have read [in 1993], but as a microcar, yeah, it was rather bigger [I mean, wide], it could accomodate six people.
Fiat Topolino is, yeah, a good example of the olden day microcars [and also the VW Beetle - albeit a little bigger] but you can expect more roomier four doors now in that dimension.
Thank you for the information on Badal - I now faintly remember it but only that much.
Finally, my brief of a microcar - not more than 2000/2500 mm long, 1250/1500 mm wide, a steel monocoque with two door, two seat with a bench at the rear, at least 600 cc three valve /three cylinder water cooled petrol mill [front mounted - you can easily accomodate it in a raked front profile like the Matiz] and priced about $ 2500 to 3500. Expect a mileage of around 50 kpl [with 64 bit MPFI], a top speed of 120 kph and all McPherson struts around. Climate control is standard but music is optional... as are front airbags, but please, stopping power should be adequate - front disks and rear drums instead of all drums. Too much ?  
Your microcar brief sounds perfect, Rohan, and I agree with the reasoning you put forward in your other paragraphs. As to the Clio, I believe the third-generation model could be wider than the Logan—this is just off photographs and not any stats at the moment. But Clio II could be similar in size.
   I would rather see a five-door model in India than the three-door Twingo now, so maybe Clio II could work there. I still worry that selling Indians hand-me-downs is a bad idea, now that Ford has upped the ante with the Fiesta (so far unique to your part of the world; the Brazilian Fiesta Sedan has different sheetmetal).
   I do remember the Ethos more clearly now, as it may have inspired the seating of the Fiat Multipla.
   I believe your microcar is possible. If the Logan can be developed to sell for €5,000, then it stands to reason that something smaller and more basic could be had for, I would say, €3,500, based on some old technology. Chevrolet do Brasil did the Celta, which is an Opel Corsa B with Corsa C-type styling, for relatively little money—and while this is a larger car, it shows what can be done on a limited budget.
   I wonder how much a five-door Twingo with some of these ideas incorporated will cost to develop.  
You've dragged me into another area, Jack. Now this blog will get even longer :)
It's true, to an extent, that we do get hand-me-down products, but it has reasons too. You have to also keep in mind that India as an automobile market has evolved only recently, after WTO, in the past one-and-a-half decade. We get dated products from the Americans and the Europeans only, not from the Koreans or Japanese.

If we devide the global automobile makers in geographical zones, we'll get four - American, European, Japanese and now Korean.
Beginning with GM, though they are not straight from the Mars in India, Chevrolets were assembled way back in 1928 in Bombay [now Mumbai], but officially they've been in India from April 15, 1994. While in Brazil GM has been doing business for quite a long time now where Chevy is, I reckon, still the best selling brand after VW and Fiat. GM first mis-understood India considering it to be a value-driven one [forgetting the Chevy connection] and introduced Opel Astra as a premium product which never sold in good numbers [people perceived it to be overpriced]. Then they brought in the Brazilian Chevy Corsa as Opel Corsa [again positioned in the premium segment but at a relatively lower price]. It also didn't sell in good numbers despite being avilable in three forms - a five-door hatch, a four-door notch and an estate. Only then GM found their insight back and introduced the Chevrolet brand in India doing away with the Opel and brought in the Optra and now Aveo [settlement with Daewoo also coincided at that time]. GM's problems were first, the Astra positioning & pricing [also Corsa] and second, competition from the Koreans - particularly Hyundai. GM also tried to sell its Vectra in India [importing as completely bulit units] but got lukewarm response from the market and withdrew it later.
Ford was more meticulous about India. They introduced the Escort first in 1996. It was considered a good move because Ford didn't know the Indian market at all and the Escort was a good automobile as far as sturdiness and built-quality went. But they did a mistake by underpowering it with a 55 bhp petrol and a 60 bhp diesel engine [actually in a way they underestimated the Indian people's expectation from them... Indians expect Ford to be Ford, GM to be GM, not jus' another automaker] with the diesel version priced too high. The mistake was soon realized and Ford introduced a 85 bhp [1600 cc] four valve per cylinder engine [branding and widely publicizing it 'Zetec'] as a replacement but the damage was alreday done to its image. By then Ford was in the process to make an India-specific automobile and introduced Ikon in 1999 [again with a dated engine, but not underpowered] and it remained a success so far. Ford sold the same automobile as Fiesta in Europe and now have brought in the original Fiesta in India. Like GM, Ford has also tried to sell [still trying] several of its US specific products [again like GM, importing them as completely built units] like the Mondeo and now the Endeavor but with not much success. Even the Fusion is not all manufactured in India.
Fiat, a brand known in India from the early fifties, decided to bring its Uno when they gradually bought the shareholding and all the facilities of Premier Automobiles [makers of the Padminis - originally Fiat 1100] in 1994. Fiat was very aggressive about it's Indian plan and infused a lot of money in a phased manner. First they formed Ind Auto Ltd with Premier Automobiles to introduce the Uno, later bought the entire stake of PAL in it and even the Premier Automobiles Limited itself [from the original owner & founder - the Doshi family] driving the Doshis out of their decades-old family business. The Uno was, although good and sturdy, but a dated automobile. It initially did good volume but trouble with the labourers in its Kurla facility [a reason why Fiat ousted the Doshis] and later competition from Hunydai [Santro] and Daewoo [Matiz] - slowly caused its withdrawal. But by then, Fiat had it Ranjangaon facility reday and the project 178 [which was a runaway success in Brazil] took off. Fiat is now in a great difficulty as far as service and spare part availability are concerned and in red consecutively since 2002. Now they are tying up with the Tatas to sell and service their Palios available in four door hatch, four door notch - the Petra and an estate - the Palio Adventure]
Before Fiat, Premier Automobiles had another failed venture with the Peugeot introducing the 309 in 1994 but It did barely sell. You'll still get to see a few of them around.

Thus, we had the Americans and Europeans mis-understanding, underestimating us but it was not their objective. They barely knew us, tried to gain experience in an unknown market while all their knowledge and learnings from the South America were not of use. They have realized that India has a completely different psyche after burning their fingers and only then we are getting the Aveos and Fiestas [although in stripped down versions - but that's alright, India has a totally different and diverse economy and climate also and you have got to make changes for that].

Perhaps the Japanese and the Koreans seem to know us better. Maruti is Suzuki in India and they have all along been doing quite good [never was in red]. Suzuki has never thrust any dated automobile into India, actually you can say, Suzuki is resposible for the automobile revolution of all time in India. When everyone turned down the Indian government's proposal in 1981 [including VW, Peugeot, Renault, Citroen and others] Suzuki took the challenge. So, we're, in a way, indebted to them.
Honda makes it's City and has Accord and CR-V in India, and all have been accordingly withdrawn and re-introduced whenever their new versions were introduced to the international markets.
Toyota first introduced a UV - Venture from its South African facility as Qualis in India - although dated, but specifically re-tooled for India. Not a great looker but amazingly good automobile as far as engineering and handling were concerned. Toyota begun their Indian venture with a UV because it gave them the most important understanding and feel of the Indian market while being at the far less risky segment - almost nothing is considered about a UV other than reliability while making a buy. No look, no build-quality, nothing. But Qualis was also a good looker while compared to others in the similar segment. Toyota later discontinued it - the only automobile in the Indian history which was withdrawn while being at the three shift production schedule] and introduced the Innova - a little bigger, but a great automobile. Toyota also has its Corola and Camry for India and they're all are in their newest form. Toyota is doing impressive business in India now.
After Suzuki, we are once again indebted to Hyundai. The most successful automaker in India after Maruti-Suzuki. Since the Santro [originally Atos, retooled as Santro for the international market], Hyundai has coincided its every international introduction with India so far. They have Getz at the upper end small car and we're expecting a replacement of Santro [alreday undergone significant design changes] very soon. Hyundai has brought it's products into India whenever there was a segment created.

Now all eyes on Renault [they have tied up with the Mahindra]. Renault engines are being used in India for a long time [in San, a niche segment automobile in coupe and cabrio form and in Mahindra Scorpio and Tata Safari]. I was referring the Clio II actually. Twingo five door may get tough competetion from the others, if not resaonably priced. Both Clio II and Twingo, as I told, were a possibility for microcars [in their two door version] otherwise going will be tough now for both of them. The current Clios could be a good match for the likes of Hyudai Getz, Suzuki Swift and the yet-to-be-introduced all new Santro.
Fiat was expected to introduced their Multipla and Punto in India, if the palio had not failed miserably.  
Sorry for being kind of late to the party but this is a really fascinating exchange of comments. As someone who drove a Reliant Kitten (became the Sipani Dolphin/Montana) for four years (60 mpg, 23ft turning circle, no rust!) and being an enthusiast for unusual cars (and branding generally) I'm very interested in the Indian car market, how it will develop in the future, and what Indian cars will be exported to the rest of the world.

The Indica, sold in Britain as the CityRover with very minor changes to 'Roverise' it, was ridiculed by much of the motoring press* but when a few testers re-appraised it (after MG Rover dealers made massive price cuts), the general opinion was much more positive. I think it was the Independent who said that it provided pretty much everything a Mercedes A-class did, for a third of the price.

(*This led to a vicious circle with MG Rover allegedly refusing to supply CityRover demonstrators to some journalists, such as the BBC's Top Gear TV show, because they assumed it would be heavily criticised; that just led to it being criticised even more!)

There are rumours in the UK that LDV, the independent van maker that's a descendent of BMC/Leyland/Freight-Rover, will sell the tooling for the Convoy/Pilot range to Tata in the near future. This is pretty much an updated version of the Sherpa from the 1960s, but remained very popular in the UK due to its simplicity (rear wheel drive), general toughness and low price: if the sale to Tata does happen, it will be interesting to see how well it does in India and whether Tata exports them to Britain.

Rohan, if you don't mind, I'd like to ask you, as a car-savvy Indian, a bit about the general perception of the Dolphin (+ Montana 5-door version) in India by motorists. Were these seen as more home-grown efforts than the more obvious western-origin vehicles such as the Ambassador, Standard 2000, etc? Was this any advantage to them, or was the build quality so poor that it put off buyers immediately? I like your impression that it was a poor quality look-alike/copy of the Maruti!

In Britain the Kitten was seen as pretty low-end motoring by most buyers, despite not actually being especially cheap (due to being hand-made). There was a small but significant subset of Kitten buyers who were motorsport or classic car enthusiasts wanting a lightweight, economical, rear-wheel drive shopping car to accompany their more expensive machinery and the Kitten got very good write-ups in magazines such as Autosport and Motor Sport which usually ignore most cheaper modern cars. Indeed, the Kitten was planned to be built in Haifa, Israel from 1981 onwards by Itzhak Shubinsky, who had previously built the Autocars/Sabra vehicles with assistance from Reliant (and later, Triumph), and a commercial derivative, the Fox, was also built in Greece from the late 70s onwards.

The reason I ask about the Dolphin is that at present I'm researching for the 2nd volume of a book on Reliant and its many ventures around the world (the 1st volume, Rebel Without Applause, covers Reliant up to the 70s and also covers the Otosan Anadol and Anziel Nova project that Jack mentions), and hope to cover the Dolphin in reasonable detail, since so little has been written about it. If you ever see any Dolphins, Montanas or Sipani Montegos (or even a Badal!) on the streets, even if in very poor condition, I would be extremely grateful for an "in context" photo.

Jack: Despite the oft-asserted "Badal loosely based on the Reliant Robin" claim, I very much doubt this. The Badal has a rear-mounted bike engine compared with the Robin's all-alloy Reliant engine up front, and as far as I know Reliant and Sunrise/the Sipani brothers didn't start negotiations until 1979-80 by which time the Badal had already been on sale for a few years. But I might be wrong.

The points you both make about the Reva are also interesting. I didn't realise it was so badly regarded in India! In London a company called GoinGreen are importing them and selling them as the 'G-Wiz' - so far I think up to 100 have been sold in the UK and there have been some reviews in the more environmentally aware newspapers which suggest it is a very suitable second car for city use, but one detects a certain "we'd better say it's good because it's electric and a lot cheaper than a Toyota Prius" bias. There is even an Owners' Club run by a contact of mine who has yet to receive his Reva/G-Wiz, but will certainly be posting his experiences with the car when he does get it.

Keep up the great discussion guys!  
Great to hear from you, Dan, and to read of even more intelligent insights into India. You may be right about the Badal. It certainly looks different enough from the Robin, and since you actually owned a Reliant and are researching a book on it, I think you’d be far more likely to come across any Reliant influences in the Indian car.
   Rohan’s insight surprised me, too, about the Reva, but I can understand why. It’s why I said that we would rather copy India with our sometimes stated desire to move to smaller cars—while India is copying the west in wanting more sophisticated vehicles.
   I remember when the E-Klasse Mercedes failed in India because consumers actually wanted the larger S—an example of companies underestimating the sophistication and knowledge of Indian buyers.
   I remember the Otosan Anadol, and how it was replaced by the Ford Taunus. Reliant actually did some amazing stuff for developing markets, and I will be interested to learn how your book develops.  
That's an interesting note about the E-class/S-class Mercedes in India: taking the point back to the original post, it would seem to be a similar underestimation of buyers' tastes, aspirations and intelligence as the Holden/Daewoo débâcle. As you say, companies need "to learn that consumers call the shots."

My comment about an LDV/Tata tie-up may be irrelevant as LDV now seems set to be bought by Oleg Deripaska, the owner of GAZ (London Times article), but it's still likely that the Pilot/Convoy line will be sold on somewhere.

P.S. The first volume of my Reliant history came out in 2003 (Amazon UK link) and does include the Anadol, Anziel Nova and the Israeli vehicles, though there is only about a page on the Nova. It's a rather expensive limited edition hardback - I'm hopeful that a more 'popular' edition may one day be published. The second volume will cover Reliant's later history and ventures, including Sipani, but it's a very part time project at present!  
Dan, it has occasionally puzzled me why publishers begin with hardcover editions. Softcovers would get the sales, and for those who wish for an edition to covet, they could then opt for the hardback. I’ll check out your link now, as your book intrigues me greatly.
   Given the New Zealand climate and the four years in which the Anziel Nova was buried in the type approval process, the car would have had, at best, a limited life span. A pity, though. Kiwis are rather creative and it would be interesting to see what innovations a 2006 successor would have had.  
hi everybody..i want to know everything about the new version of the fiat 500..i have just visited the official website www.fiat500.com, very funny..caoul u tell me something more? thank you  
hi...have u seen in the official website www.fiat500.com that the competition to win a 500-the sticker art contest-is going to end?!  
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