Auto conclave highlights India’s strength in small cars (Roundup)

September 4th, 2008 - 10:26 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 4 (IANS) Several industry experts Thursday highlighted India’s strength in the small car segment at an automobile industry conclave here.”India is the strongest player in the small car segment of the global automobile market,” said Steven Veldhoen, chief executive officer, Asia-Pacific, at global consultancy giant Booz and Co.

Veldhoen spoke on “Small cars - India’s chance to take the leadership,” at one of the sessions of the 48th annual convention of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), an Indian automotive industry lobby.

“Indian companies are the best cost innovators,” said Christoph M. Eisenhardt, executive vice president of German automotive components major Continental.

“India will drive innovation in the automotive industry in the BRIC countries,” Eisenhardt said. BRIC stands for Brazil, Russia, India and China - the four chief emerging markets having the highest rates of economic growth in the world today.

In other sessions during the conclave, the president and chief operating officer of General Motors of the US, Fritz Henderson, highlighted the initiatives his company was taking in developing alternate fuels and hybrid cars.

Henderson said the biggest challenge that the automobile industry faced was how to move towards zero carbon emission vehicles.

“In 1908, some 96 percent of all automobiles used fossil fuels, in 2008 there has been no change - even now some 96 percent of all cars use fossil fuels,” he said.

“This is surely going to change over the next few decades and that is the biggest challenge,” he said.

The chief operating officer of German automobile major Mercedes Benz, Rainer Schmueckle, had the same message to share with an audience that was filled with almost all the top names in the Indian automobile industry as well a number of top executives of major foreign players.

Many other speakers such as Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of Italian automobile major Fiat Group, Shohei Kimura, managing director of the Indian arm of Japanese auto giant Nissan Motors, Shen Yang, president of Chinese automobile major SAIC-GM-Wuling Co, and Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Motors emphasised that the future belonged to small cars.

Overall, some of the key points that emerged from the conclave were that the automobile industry would have to develop cars that run on new zero-emission fuels, that all companies will have to target the small car segment for survival, and that innovation held the key to growth and survival.

The discussions highlighted the immense importance of the Nano car project of Tata Motors.

Nano represented the small car of the future as well as cost innovation - the key to driving sales growth in the world’s largest automobile markets of India and China.

The immense industry support that Tata Motors enjoyed regarding the Nano project was also clearly palpable throughout the day-long event.

Even global competitors spoke with admiration about the company and Nano whenever issues such as small car or innovation - the two major themes of the conclave - cropped up.

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