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From sedans to coupes to convertibles, the glitz, the glamour and the frenzy…all these ingredients create an eclectic mix to give the much awaited extravaganza for automobile enthusiasts, the Auto Expo.
The most awaited extravaganza of automobiles –the AUTO EXPO has seen an unprecedented footfall in its 11th edition. The biennial trade fair of automobiles and auto components is held at the plush Pragati Maidan, New Delhi since its inception.
Fortunate enough to lay my hands on special invitees pass, I witnessed the vehicular spectacle on the 6th of January. This was the second time I got to visit the expo and this time around it was definitely bigger, not only in terms of footfall but also in terms of the participating companies. The Expo has always been the biggest platform for the Indian motor giants but since the economy boom in India it has become a hunting ground for foreign exhibitors as well eyeing the capacious Indian market.
The prima facie of the expo was a treat in itself. To see the metallic beauties in all the aplomb, to the media trying to capture each and every moment to the models(not car models!) flaunting their curves to gather more attention than the Ferrari California on display. All this induces euphoria and makes you feel that life is all about cars. The major attractions on this years show (apart from the firangi models) were Maruti Ertiga; keen on changing its image as a small car manufacturer, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. (MSIL) announced the global launch of its compact multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) Ertiga (which means three rows in Indonesian) .Personally, I did not find the car appealing and with cars like Innova and Yeti in the fray, it has some tough nuts to crack.
The second car was Bajaj’s reply to Tata’s path breaking diminutive spectacle: Nano; it was RE60. The Bajaj RE60 as the name states is a (R) Rear (E) Engined vehicle that has an emission of 60g per km of CO2. The RE60 looks tiny and not so cute. The design of RE60 seems what a small kid would draw when asked to design a car. Maybe, the trust that Bajaj has gained over the years with its exhaustive line of 2- wheelers might find some loyal takers for this car. French car-maker, Renault took a step towards small car segment with the launch of Pulse whereas Maruti Suzuki launched their highly anticipated compact SUV, XA Alpha, which is still in its concept phase.
It was not all about the cars, there was substantial halls for the bike enthusiasts, right from Ducati and Yamaha to Harley Davidson and Triumph. Iconic Italian mobike brand Ducati unveiled ‘Monster’ model M795 with a price tag of Rs 6.99 lakh .It was intimidating to see the 2300 cc engine of Harley bikes ready to vroom.For the scooter lovers as well there was something to cheer as there were hybrid concepts unveiled by Hero Motocorp.
There were also kiosks and mini stalls but the auto component manufacturers displaying their exclusive merchandise with uber cool car stereos romping up the atmosphere with the taillights and head lamps giving a dash of light to the grey , wet day.
Seeing some of the cars like Chevrolet’s Stingray and the Maserati, I wonder can these cars ever be driven in Delhi, even by the next century. Maybe not. Hatchbacks are here to stay in India not just because of their affordability but also because of their ubiquity and the lack of space available in the metropolis.
Day 1 of the expo drew huge crowds as Amitabh Bacchan, Ranbir Kapoor, John Abraham and Katrina Kaif made appearances and graced the dais for Dilip Chabria, Nissan, Yamaha and Audi respectively.
If Day1 saw the stars drawing huge crowds, Day 2 saw a deluge of spectators even without star presence. More than the metallic beauties, it were the non- metallic ones pulling the crowds. People showed limits of desperation when they showed their desires to get clicked with the model exhibiting the car, than the car itself. The girls resembled the IPL cheerleaders sans the pom-poms, with plastic smiles and stilettos ,but skin show is indeed a great crowd pulling tactic. Coming back to the point, Day 2 turned out to be a crowd- marred day as it resulted in the malfunctioning of events inside as well as outside Pragati Maidan. Queues of people lined at the Metro station and traffic paralyzing the ring road, albeit creating ruckus and pandemonium. There was pushing and pulling inside the halls as well as every spectator turned into a photographer trying to capture abstract masterpieces with their 2 MP cameras.Some were elated whereas other were exasperated. Crowd management was the biggest failure (apart from the overdose of make-up by the exhibition girls) at the Expo where even the business honchos expressed their dissatisfaction. Hopefully, CII and Pragati Maidan staff can do a better job next time.
Beneath the dazzling lights, pounding music and exhibition girls accompanying the launch of up to 50 new models lies a clear commercial logic.But, stop being cynics, such fairs do give a facelift to the city as well to the economy and one can’t deny that.
An average Indian can only dream of propelling some of these but to touch it and see it in front of your eyes helps to diminish that longing a little bit. Thus, Auto Expo apart from serving as a platform for the auto giants to showcase their vehicular supremacy and innovation also serves as an avenue for the Indian middle class to find the car of their dreams…to each his own.
With dreams of being at the helm of a BMW-7 series one day, this is Udit Bhatia, signing off.