Automotive headlines that defined 2023

    A look back at key events, announcements and updates in the Indian car industry this year.

    Published On Dec 22, 2023 08:00:00 AM

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    Automotive headlines that defined 2023

    Auto Expo finally made its comeback, JVs were signed, milestones passed, and at Autocar, we got busy breaking records. Here are key auto industry highlights from 2023, in no specific order.

    Auto Expo 2023  

    After skipping an edition due to Covid-19, the biennial Auto Expo made its comeback, but not with a bang, more a whimper. Still, Expo 2023 had interesting bits in store. Maruti showcased the exterior of its eVX electric concept, but the star of the show was the Jimny 5-door making its global debut. The other star at the Expo was easily the Tata Sierra concept, which at its second showing now, donned a close-to-production 5-door body style. Another big surprise from the Tata Motors’ stable was the Harrier EV concept

    The Ioniq 5 and Ioniq 6 were on display at Hyundai, while Kia showcased the EV9 concept and two purpose-built Carens MPVs – a police car and an ambulance. At its first Expo outing, Lexus had models like the LM350h luxury MPV, the LX500d – its flagship SUV – the LC500h coupe and a few EV concepts. 

    Toyota’s stall had a focus on alternative fuel tech – it showcased vehicles with hydrogen fuel cell, petrol-hybrid, flex-fuel and full EV tech. MG launched the facelift of the Hector and Hector Plus SUVs and showcased a slew of international production models, which were a mix of hybrid and electric powertrains. BYD, meanwhile, had three electric models on its stand. 

    Maruti Suzuki achieves 25 million sales milestone

    In January this year, Maruti Suzuki achieved the cumulative sales milestone of 25 million cars and SUVs, becoming the first manufacturer in India to notch up this record. The milestone comes 40 years after the company rolled out its first car – the Maruti 800 – in December 1983. Maruti Suzuki took 23 years from the start of production to cross the 5 million sales milestone in February 2006, the next 5 million units took six years, while the run from 10 million to 20 million units took seven years. The last 5 million units have taken just four years. 

    Pininfarina Battista top speed record

    At Autocar India, we are no strangers to mega record runs. But this time, the challenge was to outdo ourselves. Piloting a 1,900hp Pininfarina Battista, editor Hormazd Sorabjee clocked a maximum speed of 358.03kph, thereby breaking our own previous record and setting a new top-speed record on Indian soil at the National Automotive Test Tracks (NATRAX) high-speed oval track near Indore. The Autocar Show editor, Renuka Kirpalani, also recorded a top speed of 357.10kph on her own run and became the fastest Indian woman. The 358.03kph top speed is also the highest for any EV in India – the third new record that was achieved in this run. The Battista also added a couple of new production car world records to its already storied set of achievements. The Battista set new production car world records for accelerating from 0-300kph in just 10.49 seconds, with a quarter-mile time of 8.55 seconds.

    Implementation of RDE norms 

    The Real Driving Emission (RDE) norms, also known as BS6 Phase II emission norms, came into the effect in April this year. The RDE norms required all cars to achieve emission targets in real-world conditions, apart from also being tested in a laboratory environment. RDE tests provided a more realistic indication of the emissions likely to be produced as it involved frequent changes in speed, acceleration and deceleration, as opposed to more steady conditions in lab tests. To comply with the stricter norms, carmakers had to upgrade their engines to be cleaner, which involved huge costs, and where that wasn’t economically viable, it either spelled the end of the engine or entire models altogether, especially small-capacity compact diesel vehicles.

    This saw Honda discontinue all its diesel vehicles in India along with the Jazz and City Gen-4, Maruti Suzuki pulled the plug on the venerable Alto 800, thereby discontinuing the iconic F8D engine that served the brand for four decades in India, and Skoda had to pull the plug on the slow-selling Octavia and Superb sedans, among several others.

    Tata EV sales cross 1 lakh mark  

    Electric vehicles are yet to take a significant slice of the overall passenger car market; however, EV sales are rapidly gaining ground. In August, Tata Motors announced that it achieved the incredible feat of selling 1,00,000 EVs in a span of five years. The first 10,000 sales took 44 months, the next 40,000 sales took 15 months and the remaining 50,000 took just nine months. The company also stated that it garnered a market share of over 85 percent, with the Tiago EV becoming the bestselling EV in India within a year of its launch, having sold more than 19,000 units since deliveries began in January 2023.

    Renault India's revival 

    Renault announced plans for a new platform for India. At the presentation of its ‘New International Gameplan 2027’, the company revealed two platforms that will form the basis of its new plan for regions outside Europe. Curiously, Renault refrained from labeling the platform headed to India, with Bruno Vanel, VP of brand and product performance, only describing it as “a fully new Renault group modular platform that will be used in four hubs beyond Europe.” The first market would be Latin America, followed by Turkey, Morocco and India. However, it is understood that the platform will underpin the Duster as well as other models, with Vanel also saying, “The platform is scalable and flexible and capable of accommodating vehicles with a length between 4-5 metres, with four possible wheelbases from 2.6-3.0 metres. The platform is also capable of accepting a wide range of powertrains, including ICE, flex-fuel, LPG, 48V hybrid and full-hybrid too. It would also offer two- and four-wheel-drive capability.” The second platform, dubbed Compact Modular Architecture (CMA), will be localised in South Korea in partnership with Geely and will be used to develop D- and E-segment vehicles.

    SAIC, JSW joint venture 

    SAIC Motor and the JSW Group entered a strategic joint venture, and various agreements were signed by the president of SAIC Wang Xiaoqiu and JSW Group’s Parth Jindal at the MG Office in London. Due to MG’s Chinese ownership, the company was struggling to enable a cash infusion from its parent company, and thus, decided to divest a majority stake in the Indian operation to Indian investors. According to the agreement, JSW Group will hold 35 percent of the Indian JV operations, however, the valuation of the deal was not disclosed by either party. MG is planning to introduce a broader range of vehicles and while it will continue to expand its internal combustion line-up, the firm says the focus will be on ‘New Energy Vehicles’ or green mobility.

    Toyota India expands production

    Toyota signed an MoU with the Karnataka government to set up a third manufacturing plant, which would increase its production capacity by 1 lakh units per annum. The upcoming plant will be situated at Bidadi near Bengaluru – near the existing two – and will have an investment of around Rs 3,300 crore. It will also generate about 2,000 new jobs, says the company. Toyota’s existing plants have a combined output of about 4 lakh units per annum, and this new plant will add about 30 percent to the production capacity. Expected to be operational by 2026, it will be the primary production base for an upcoming three-row SUV, which will be a longer version of the Corolla Cross sold overseas. Codenamed 340D, Toyota is expected to produce 60,000 units annually, with a launch likely by 2026.

    Pollution and BS3 and BS4 diesel ban

    As expected, the year-end saw air pollution raise its ugly head in NCR and yet again, vehicular movement saw stringent clampdowns. The Delhi government banned BS3 and BS4 petrol and diesel cars from plying on city roads, with a fine of Rs 20,000 in case of violation. The government also disallowed the entry of all trucks – barring those for essential commodities or services, and ones running on CNG or electric technology – further a temporary ban was also introduced on all non-BS6-compliant diesel four-wheelers in the National Capital Region. The bans were part of the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) that comprises various levels with different restrictions across sectors, including construction. 

    BIC lap record broken

    As the saying goes, records are meant to be broken, and Porsche and Autocar India did exactly that, setting new lap records for production cars and production EVs, respectively, at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC). The records were set in a Porsche 911 992 GT3 RS and a Taycan Turbo S driven by India’s first Formula 1 driver Narain Karthikeyan. 

    Driving the GT3 RS, Narain Karthikeyan broke the previous record of 2m 00.266 seconds – set by Karthikeyan himself in a 911 GT2 RS in 2019 – and registered a new lap time of 1m 59.584 seconds. The new record makes the Porsche GT3 RS the fastest production car around the Buddh International Circuit and the only one to lap the circuit in under two minutes. 

    Besides the GT3 RS, the Taycan Turbo S also set a new lap record and became the fastest production EV around the BIC. The four-door luxury EV, also driven by Karthikeyan, attacked the BIC and registered an impressive lap time of 2m 10.313 seconds.

    Bharat NCAP implemented

    Global NCAP, along with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), announced the Bharat NCAP crash test ratings, which came into effect on October 1. The programme will conduct three crash tests – frontal, side and side pole impact – and the tested cars will bear the BNCAP logo and a sticker denoting their rating. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari also stated that BNCAP has already received over 30 requests for testing, and also acknowledged that besides car safety, road engineering is being addressed by his ministry. 

    In December, the first crash test results were announced, with both Tata Harrier and Safari securing 30.08/32 points for adult occupant protection (AOP) and 44.54 out of a maximum of 49 for child occupant protection (COP), which helped them achieve a full, 5-star rating.

    Forumla E comes to Hyderabad

    Formula E finally made its India debut with the Hyderabad E-Prix in February 2023. It marked the first time in a decade that the country hosted an FIA world championship race (the last time before this was the F1 Indian GP all the way back in 2013). Looking back, it was a crucial event to prove that India is ready to host motorsport events on a larger scale and in the months since, we’ve also seen MotoGP race here.

    And Formula E has confirmed that it will be returning to India next year, with the next Hyderabad E-Prix scheduled for February 10, 2024.

    Also see: 

    Automotive highlights of 2022

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    The Mahindra XUV 300 facelift will be called the XUV 3XO. Should more brands rename models for facelifts?

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