This week in Auto: 7-seater SUVs catch people’s fancy; GM India warns workers; Osamu Suzuki announces retirement and more


Here is a complete wrap of all the top stories of the week

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Tata Motors commercially launched the Safari, a seven-seater SUV in the market this week. Not too far away from the noise was Hyundai which unveiled the name of its own seven-seater. More such behemoths are on their way to the Indian market. In today’s wrap of the week, we take a look at this new segment that has caught everybody’s attention. But first here is a complete wrap of all the top stories of the week.

GM India union rejects ultimatum

Employees of the now-defunct General Motors car manufacturing plant near Pune rejected the US carmaker’s ultimatum of giving in to its demand of accepting the severance package offered by it.

General Motors India had told employees in a letter dated February 19 that they have time till February 23 to either accept the voluntary separation package or face a lawsuit.

Hyundai names upcoming Creta-based SUV as Alcazar

Hyundai Motor India Ltd (HMIL) on Wednesday said it will enter the seven-seater premium SUV segment in India with the global debut of its Alcazar model this year.

The Hyundai Alcazar will offer customers upscale mobility, be it for business travel or families travelling together, the company said in a statement.

Suzuki targets 50 percent share in India

Suzuki Motor Corporation (SMC) is planning to launch hybrid and electric vehicles, boost its presence in the SUV segment, and add several mini showrooms in the rural pockets of India to maintain a market share of more than 50 percent.

SMC, which is the parent company of Maruti Suzuki, India’s largest carmaker, announced its mid-term management plan lasting five years beginning April 2021.

Osamu Suzuki set to retire in June

After steering Suzuki Motor Corporation (SMC) for nearly half a century, the company’s 91-year-old chairman Osamu Suzuki announced his intention to retire in June this year.

Suzuki would be best remembered for not just shaping SMC in becoming the largest small carmaker in the world but also for making Maruti Suzuki a household name in India.

SIAM wants government help to set up Semiconductor infra

Weighed down by the severe shortage in availability of semiconductors that have crippled vehicle production, the automotive industry is seeking the government’s support in setting local manufacturing of the critical component.

Speaking at the sixth ACMA Technology Summit & ACMA Awards 2020, Kenichi Ayukawa, president SIAM and managing director, Maruti Suzuki said the government’s support is needed since investments required for localisation of semiconductor is large and the beneficiaries include companies from the non-auto sectors also

Tata Safari launched at Rs 14.69 lakh

Tata Motors has finally launched the much-anticipated Safari in India, bookings for which had already begun earlier this month. Additionally, the company has also launched a Safari Adventure Edition that adds a number of cosmetic features.

The new Safari is priced at Rs 14.69 lakh (ex-showroom) The Tata Safari in its time had amassed a cult following and the name being revived with the Harrier platform has only brought on cheers.

Ashok Leyland to buy Nissan’s stake in Hinduja Tech

Hinduja Group flagship firm Ashok Leyland on Thursday said it has entered an agreement with Nissan International Holding BV to acquire 38 percent stake in Hinduja Tech for Rs 70.20 crore.

The company has entered into a share purchase agreement with Nissan International Holding BV to acquire 58,500,000 shares for a total consideration of Rs 70.20 crore constituting 38 percent in the paid-up share capital of Hinduja Tech.

The sudden love for seven-seater SUVs

Less than two months into 2021 and we have also seen the introduction of two seven-seater SUVs. Both the SUVs – MG Hector and Tata Harrier – were initially launched with five seats. The seven-seater Hector Plus was launched by MG Motor in January while Tata Motors gave their seven-seater a different brand name, Safari and was duly launched in February.

Hyundai does not want to be left behind. The Korean giant unveiled the brand name of its own seven-seater this week. Called as Alcazar, this SUV is essentially the seven-seat version of the Creta, one of Hyundai’s highest-selling vehicles. The Alcazar will be made ready for launch in the next few weeks.

FCA controlled Jeep, the SUV specialist brand from the US, has also promised to launch a seven-seater SUV, which as per street expectation will be based on the five-seater Compass, in a year’s time. Volkswagen will be watching this closely and a product action cannot be ruled out from the German company.

Volkswagen and Skoda would be launching five-seater SUVs, the size of the Creta, this year. The two brands have laid a heavy focus on SUV play for the next few years.

But why is there such a sudden burst in interest for seven-seater SUVs in India?

India has been riding on the SUV wave for the last 4-5 years. Starting with compact, the sub-4-meter SUV, consumers have progressed to mid-size SUV, generally 4.5 meters in length. Such SUVs typically have five seats, a medium-sized boot and comfortable legroom.

Auto companies believe that such a natural progression would have taken the market towards larger SUVs which have an even more aggressive styling, larger seating area and more power under the hood. Though it is an accepted understanding that not all of the seven seats will be occupied every time the vehicle is taken out for a drive, such SUVs nevertheless have an imposing presence on the road.

“When there was a wild craze for sedans companies looked inwards to create something different to keep the brand recall robust and alive. The result was station wagons, which has always been a very western concept. By the very nature of their structure, it is not equally easy to do the same in SUVs but companies have to keep innovating”, said a Bengaluru-based analyst.

Station wagons were cars that offered additional boot space with an extended rear, which was possible by either stretching the wheelbase of the vehicle or by pulling up the tailgate to the level of the roof of the car. Several companies resorted to offering station wagons as a utility offering against the typical sedan or a hatchback.

The result was Opel Corsa Swing, Maruti Suzuki Baleno Altura, Skoda Octavia Combi, Fiat Palio Weekend, Indigo Marina, Datsun Go+ and the latest Honda Mobilio. These vehicles, however, were met with limited numbers at showrooms.