2015 has undoubtedly been an action packed year for the automotive industry. A slew of new cars and bikes have been launched, some brands have made a comeback while others have worked on enhancing their existing product portfolio. Companies have made some major achievements and the government has also had its role to play with a number of new policies – some good, some confusing! Overall, it’s been a blast being a part of all this action in our own way and considering that it’s that time of the year to sit back and reminisce a little, we at MotorScribes decided to draw up our list of what we thought were the 15 biggest headlines (from an automotive perspective) to rock 2015. Just as a disclaimer, these aren’t in any particular order.
- Mercedes-Benz India launches 15 cars in 2015
At the beginning of 2015, Mercedes-Benz India made a bold statement about launching fifteen new cars in 2015. That’s more than one launch every month! What’s great is that they pulled it off! The list includes the CLA, new E-Class, S63 AMG Coupe, G63 AMG, AMG GT, Maybach S600, Maybach S500, C 63 AMG S, new A-Class, AMG GT S, GLE, C220 CDI, CLS 250 CDI, E-Class Cabriolet, new B-Class. 2015 also saw the change of guard at Mercedes-Benz India after a very successful stint from Eberhard Kern to the new MD and CEO Roland Folger.
- Renault and Hyundai set the sales charts on fire with the Kwid and Creta respectively
Two cars that have really made their mark right after they were launched this year were the Renault Kwid and the Hyundai Creta. The Kwid is an innovative take on a small car and ushers in a bold new design and engineering. It obviously paid off with the company garnering over 50,000 bookings within the first five months. The Hyundai Creta came in to redefine the urban SUV segment and garnered over 15,000 bookings even before it was officially launched and sold over 70,000 units in the first six months.
- The Nexa Experience
Maruti Suzuki has dabbled with luxury products in the past, however this year the company decided to change the game by adding an entire luxury experience to a bold new product line. Launched along with the S-Cross, Nexa is a brilliant strategy to segment their product offerings. Currently you can get the S-Cross and the all new Baleno at Nexa showrooms across the country.
- The Government lends a helping hand to hybrid and electric cars
The Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprise introduced the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME India) scheme this year as part of the national electric mobility mission plan. Manufacturers who offer products that fall under this scheme can enjoy big incentives.
- The Delhi Government tries to clean the air
Delhi has been rated as one of the world’s most polluted cities and the Delhi Government has tried to deal with the issue by putting in place some new policies. The resulting outrage in the media as well as on social media platforms obviously shows a disconnect between what the government thinks and what people really want, however the odd-even ruling is going to happen for a limited period of time (a test from 01.01.2016 – 15.01.2016) and the ruling on banning the sales of all diesel vehicles with an engine capacity above 2000cc has been put in place till the 01.03.2016. Interesting times in the capital, however it might not be enough. More needs to be done.
- Diesel Gate spills over to India
Global car manufacturer Volkswagen and its group companies were hit by a massive scandal that was soon known as ‘Diesel Gate’. The point of contention was a cheat device used by the manufacturer in its product range to pass emission tests in the US. Sure enough, it trickled down to India as well, but changes in management at their headquarters and a promise to right the wrong is what VW immediately did. Their New Year resolution has already been made!
- Motorcycles above 125cc have to get ABS
Over 70 percent of all accidents in India involve two-wheelers and the Government has stepped up to address this by announcing that it is mandatory for all two wheeler manufacturers to fit their bikes (above 125cc) with ABS. It is a step in the right direction. Now the Government just needs to issue another strict mandate to make helmets compulsory across the country with no relaxation of the rule in any state.
- The Italian onslaught
2015 witnessed the arrival of a number of Italians. Some of them have been here before, for others it is their first outing! Topping the list is Ferrari. After a slightly damaged reputation thanks to a lousy importer, Ferrari is back and is doing things right this time around. Maserati also made its big debut this year and Fiat ushered in the Abarth. On two wheels we got Ducati making a comeback. Benelli and MV Agusta also made their way to our shores. Happy times!
- Tech Mahindra acquires controlling stake in Pininfarina
Will they? Won’t they? These questions did the rounds for a better part of the year regarding the Mahindra-Pininfarina deal. In the end, the Indian conglomerate acquired controlling stake in the Italian design house (responsible for designing some of the most iconic Ferraris) through their tech wing. That’s right, Tech Mahindra now owns controlling stake in Pininfarina.
- The industry loses a leader – Brijmohan Lall Munjal
Not just the automobile industry, but the nation lost a brilliant leader this year. On November 1, 2015 Brijmohan Lall Munjal passed away. His accomplishments are endless, however he is best known for setting up Hero Cycles along with his three brothers and building the company into the world’s largest cycle manufacturer before moving up into the motorcycle space and setting up Hero Honda (now known as Hero MotoCorp, post the dissolution of the JV with Honda). Hero MotoCorp is the world’s largest manufacturer of two wheelers and the Splendour is the world’s largest selling motorcycle. A compassionate man, who was known to be extremely down to earth, Mr. Munjal will be missed.
- Ratan Tata makes it to the Automotive Hall Of Fame
Being inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame is an honour bestowed upon the greatest of greats in the automotive world. Ratan Tata has joined the list alongside the likes of Carl Benz, Ettore Buggati, Henry Ford and Ferdinand Porsche amongst others for his contribution to the automotive industry and the phenomenal turnaround of Jaguar Land Rover.
- CS Santosh makes history at Dakar
Bangalore based rider CS Santosh became the first Indian to not only compete but also complete the gruelling Dakar Rally. Out of the 168 participants that started the rally, he finished 36th overall among 79 finishers. The Dakar Rally is considered the world’s toughest cross country race and completing it is an achievement in itself. He’s all set to take part in the 2016 edition of the rally that flags off in January.
- India gets its first sportscar courtesy DC Design
Indian design house DC Design announced their plans to offer India’s first Sportscar a few years ago. Some wrote it off as a PR stunt, others questioned DC’s intentions, however the DC Avanti became a production reality this year and has etched its name in Indian automotive history as the first Indian Sportscar (too bad it has an Italian name)!
- Mary Barra makes a big promise
General Motors CEO Mary Barra paid a visit to India this year and hit the headlines right away with her announcement of shutting down GM India’s Halol plant by mid 2016 and upping the capacity at the Talegaon facility to 2,20,000 units annually. She also announced that GM will invest $1 billion over the next few years to make India a global export hub for the company.
- The industry is going digital
2015 witnessed the very nature of business changing for the automotive industry in a big way by going digital. Taxi aggregator companies like Ola and Uber accelerated their growth and gained massive traction in the market this year. Buying a car or a bike has also gone digital with companies like Quickr, Flipkart and Snapdeal kicking off automotive sales. A lot of manufacturers have also started to offer their products online – a prime case being Royal Enfield which offered the limited edition Despatch Rider through their portal and it sold out within an hour! Piaggio Vespa also launched its first online store on Snapdeal. At the other end of the spectrum Audi India conducted a purely digital launch of the A6 Matrix.
Interesting times lie ahead as 2016 holds promise to another stunning year for the automobile industry. A slew of launches in January, the Auto Expo in February and another 10 months of action post that are what we are looking forward to!