Maruti begins trial runs of new 800-cc car touted to replace Alto

Tuesday 26 June 2012, 00:45 AM by

Maruti Suzuki India is working at a rapid pace at its Gurgaon plant to develop a light-on-fuel and technically advanced 800-cc car before the festive season. The car maker aims to regain its market share in the segment, where its best selling Alto hatchback has been failing. The car maker has already commenced the trial runs of the new models and will quicken the pace of rest of the work on it once the maintenance shutdown at the Gurgaon factory comes to an end on July 1, 2012. According to a senior official of Maruti Suzuki, “The new car has been designed very carefully, keeping in mind the competition and requirements of customers in that segment.”

The gap between the commencement of the trial runs and launch usually ranges from 3-4 months, according to Hormazd Sorabjee, Editor, Autocar India, the largest selling automobile magazine in the country.

From the looks of it, the new 800 cc car appears to be a cross between the A-Star and the Alto models. At the front end, it borrows its looks from A-Star while its rear appears similar to Alto. Maruti is developing the new car on the current Alto platform and is expected to be fitted with a modified variant of the 800-cc petrol powertrain which serves on the Alto.

Alto’s entry-level 800 and 1,000-cc variants have witnessed a slow-down in sales volumes as customers now prefer diesel-run cars, being a cheaper fuel option than petrol. Hyundai has been giving stiff competition to the company after the launch of its economical hatchback Eon. Leaving aside Alto 1,000-cc, Alto K10 launched in 2012, the best-selling model of 800-cc Alto has not received any upgrade from the company since 2000.

It is expected that the new 800-cc car from Maruti's stables will be pitched against Eon. Hinting that the car will not come with a price tag as low as Alto, an official stated, “Of course, it will be a fuel-efficient car, and with newer technologies, cost involved in the project goes up.” However, the manufacturer is cautious about the positioning of its new launch after the petrol debacle which flung the market trends in favour of the diesel.

According to Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), Maruti faced a dip of 11 per cent in sales with just 1.01 million units sold in the year ending on March 31, 2012. The sales of Alto went down by 11 per cent as well, with a sale volume of 3,08,288 in the last fiscal year. This was mainly due to the low demand for petrol cars following the record hike in the price of petrol.

Commenting on the fact that diesel cars are more expensive, Sorabjee said, “At the bottom end, you can only have petrol cars. To attract consumers, the company will make sure that it is fuel-efficient.” The upcoming model, which claims to make smart usage of fuel is expected to come with a price tag of Rs. 1.9-2.5lacs.

Another official from Maruti Suzuki hinted that company is also contemplating to discontinue the Alto in order to eliminate all threats for its new car. He said, “This move is being debated in the company.” He added, “A section of people in the company still thinks that the Alto can still bring in decent volumes for the company. They are of the view that the new car should be placed between the Alto 800 and the Alto K10. A final decision is yet to be taken.”

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