The German premium car maker Mercedes-Benz is planning to introduce the compact car smart in the Indian auto market soon, it was announced at the end of March.
The company recently conducted a feasibility study as to the acceptability of smarts in India and the results were encouraging. “India is one of the countries where there’s a very logical strategy to be made on the smart brand, with a good percentage of cars sold here are small cars. It is a logical thought. I assume in the foreseeable future, we will come to that part of the world and discuss the possibility of rolling out smart,” said Dr. Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Daimler AG, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz.
Both versions of the car, the four-door smart for four and the two-door smart for two could be a reality on Indian streets by 2014. However, it is too premature to talk about specific details, said a Mercedes-Benz India spokesperson. There was no announcement as to plans to launch any new cars or the electric versions of the microcar, move which could be expected as the market already counts with a number of locally produced models by the likes of Mahindra & Mahindra, and Tata Motors. “India is a growing market and we are studying several models to bring to the Indian market”, the spokesperson added.
In order to offer smart cars for sale in India, Mercedes-Benz is looking to team up with the Renault-Nissan Alliance. The engine could be jointly developed with the French and Japanese automotive maker. This will make it more economical for all parties as Renault-Nissan is contemplating to introduce a compact car of their own to the Indian market.
The engines could be developed at Renault-Nissan’s plant in Chennai, India. “We have to see the logistics – where are they located, do they already have plants, what would be the incremental investments – to facilitate a Mercedes-Benz platform. And if it offers any benefits, it can be explored,” said an official at Renault-Nissan in India.
The introduction of the smart car will help Mercedes-Benz to regain its number one position while doubling its sales to over 15,000 units in India over the next couple of years, said Matthias Luhrs, Mercedes-Benz India’s chairman and vice-president of sales.
The German car maker grew by 22.7 % in India in 2011. The company expects the overall Indian car market to grow by 18 to 19% in 2012. The premium and luxury segment will account for 66% of the growth.
Mercedes-Benz intends to launch three to five compact brands in India over the next five years. But it’s not the only premium automotive manufacturer which sees growing potential in the emerging South-Asian country. In 2011, BMW launched its compact models X1 and X3 and in 2012 it will introduce its iconic brand MINI. Audi will also introduce more compact cars such as its Q3 and A3 to create new entry levels for its luxury and premium segments.
How the luxury small vehicles will perform in the emerging Indian market will be interesting to see, with the country being home to the Tata Nano a diminutive car with a price tag of under £2000 ($US 3,180).
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