Five car types we need in India NOW!

There is plenty of choice available to the Indian car buyer these days, whether it’s a hatchback, sedan or SUV. But even among these choices there are some gaping holes that represent cars that carmakers still have not brought into the Indian market. And these are not niche cars we are talking about. These are mainstream car variants we need right now in the Indian market.

CarToq puts together five cars that Indian car buyers need as soon as possible, and the first carmaker to plug this gap, will reap the benefits.

Small diesel hatchback – not here!

There is a gaping hole when it comes to diesel cars below the Rs. 4 lakh price band. The cheapest diesel hatchbacks that you can get in the Indian market right now include the Chevrolet Beat diesel and the Tata Indica diesel. But the cheapest diesel Chevrolet Beat is at Rs. 4.5 lakh and the cheapest Tata Indica costs Rs. 4.21 lakh.

There were plans to launch a Tata Nano diesel, but those plans have been going slowly because of vendor issues. A Nano diesel would make great sense as an entry-level, cheap-to-run city commuter. Ideally it should come in at a price point of about Rs. 2.5 lakh.

The other car that the Indian market is waiting for is a diesel Wagon R, with a three-cylinder, 1-litre engine. Such a car is being planned, but we would love to see it launch as soon as possible. Priced at a starting price of about Rs. 4.1 lakh, this car will gather a large following.

Diesel automatic premium hatchback – not here!

With increasing traffic congestion in cities, automatics are now slowly gaining demand in the Indian market. There are a bunch of petrol automatics to choose from. Among hatchbacks, you’ve got the Maruti A-Star and the Hyundai i10 automatic, as well as a Hyundai i20 automatic. At present the cheapest diesel automatic car you can get in India is the Hyundai Verna CRDi SX AT that’s priced at Rs. 11.27 lakh!

But what’s missing in this scheme of things is a diesel automatic hatchback. Buyers who have to battle the daily bumper-to-bumper traffic in cities and also drive great distances during the day, would love to drive a diesel automatic hatchback. Will Hyundai bite the bullet first and bring in a Hyundai i20 diesel automatic? Or will Maruti manage to squeeze an automatic transmission into the Swift diesel?

A diesel automatic premium hatchback at a price point of Rs. 6 lakh would entice plenty of buyers, particularly women and those who live in crowded cities. While we are making a wish list, how about a Wagon-R diesel automatic at a later date?

Diesel automatic mid-size sedan – not here!

Almost every carmaker who makes a petrol mid-size sedan now offers an automatic variant of the vehicle. Some even offer two automatic variants of their cars. Ford for instance has the Fiesta dual-clutch automatic in its Style variant and Titanium Plus variant. Honda City offers an automatic on the S and V models. Skoda Rapid has an automatic on the Ambition and Elegance trims. All the others also have at least one automatic model to offer. But they are all PETROL powered! Except for the Hyundai Verna CRDi AT, which is priced at Rs. 11.27 lakh – right at the top of the Verna variant list.

How about offering a mid-size diesel sedan with an automatic gearbox and basic features at a price point of about Rs. 8 lakh – Rs. 9 lakh? I’m sure there will be takers for good automatic sedans as many buyers in crowded cities would likely prefer such cars. Diesel cars are inherently more fuel efficient and a buyer wouldn’t mind spending about Rs. 80,000 more for an automatic transmission option over a manual variant. Which carmaker will grab this opportunity first? Hyundai can easily do it, as it already has a diesel automatic to offer.

Premium sedans with LPG/CNG – not here!

Alternate fuels are fast gaining popularity as petrol costs rise. Many cars in metro cities are being converted to run on alternate fuels such as LPG and CNG as they have lower running cost. However, there are still not enough factory-fitted LPG or CNG cars available in the market, especially when it comes to sedans and premium sedans. The Hyundai Accent CNG and Maruti SX4 Green are the only two alternate fuel sedans available off the shelf at the moment.

For the others, many dealers offer kits at the dealer level – such as for the Toyota Etios and Maruti Dzire. Nissan was exploring options of a CNG fitted Sunny, but the car hasn’t been launched yet. Carmakers would do well to offer a “green” variant of their petrol sedans in metro cities at least. These cars would be only about Rs. 60,000 or so more expensive than their equivalent petrol variants, but will find favor with those who can’t really stretch their budgets to a diesel car.

Small hybrids (petrol-electric / diesel-electric) – not here!

Hybrid cars that run on both petrol and battery power or diesel and battery power have not yet made a mark in the Indian market. The only hybrid car under Rs. 30 lakh on sale right now is the Toyota Prius, which is a petrol-electric hybrid. Honda did experiment with a hybrid a few years ago when it launched the Civic hybrid at an astronomical Rs. 23 lakh, and then had to quickly clear stocks by selling it at nearly half that price. It found a few happy customers.

Hybrid cars run on a small capacity petrol engine coupled with an electric motor that runs off a battery pack. The car can run on any one of the motors at a time, or both motors, depending on the kind of hybrid vehicle it is.

There are also “Range extenders” such as the Chevrolet Volt – which is essentially a pure electric car with an on-board small capacity petrol engine that acts as a generator to produce electricity. The Tata MegaPixel concept is one such car, and we hope to see this car in the Indian market in the near future – priced under Rs. 7 lakh.

Share your thoughts on future cars you would want in the Indian market? What kind of car do you think would really be a hit among buyers?