Maruti Suzuki certainly has changed its approach to making cars in India, and it's all started with the Baleno. Giving buyers what they want has been a speciality of Maruti Suzuki and with the Baleno it did exactly that. It then followed that up with the Vitara Brezza as well as the Ignis. The trend will continue with the new-generation of the Swift, but lower down the order, Maruti does not want to lose the stranglehold it has on the entry hatchback segment. That is where it derives huge volumes and profits from, and so yes, there is a big change coming for the Alto brand too.
Maruti Suzuki is working on a concept car that will showcase the direction the Alto family will take post 2018. The concept car will be teased at the 2018 Auto Expo in Delhi and sources say that there's a lot to look forward to in this car.
The Maruti Suzuki Alto has been facing tough competition recently, from the Renault Kwid and some of the others like the Datsun redi-Go. In the first eight months of FY 2016-17 Alto sales have taken a hit. Sales have declined by 7.4 per cent to 1,62,894 units, while the Renault Kwid has shot up to 73,676 units from 11,044 units sold in the same period the year before. No doubt the Alto is still the segment leader when it comes to number of units sold. But its share in the entry-car segment has dropped to 42 per cent between April and November 2016 compared to 50.9 per cent in the same period a year earlier. The Kwid has been looking good and has already garnered 20 per cent market share in this segment. Having already sold 1,30,000 units since its launch in 2015, the Kwid has been successful in creating a benchmark for the segment.
Considering this, Maruti Suzuki will need to up its game and yes, the next-gen Alto will hold the answer to it all. Maruti Suzuki will use the top to bottom approach when it comes to new-gen Alto, so we expect a whole bunch of changes in the field of advanced connectivity and a better user interface. expect it to get a good infotainment system and expecting Android Auto and Apple Carplay also won't be a far fetched idea. But considering the segment, we don't expect the fit and finish of the system like that on both the Ignis and Baleno. In fact it will be a segment first if it does come. The Alto will have to have these options considering the Kwid already comes with a touchscreen infotainment system with navigation.
The company's Rohtak facility is the epicentre for all this development and it's where the company will ensure that the new car is ready to be compliant with the safety and emission norms that will come into effect starting October 2017. The concept will also show us the new design direction that the Alto will take as well. And this will be especially significant since even the car's design is being led out of India and not Japan. Having said that, we are told it is a joint project since the Alto will have other-market requirements and potential too, and will not b exclusively for India.
The new-gen Alto will use the company's new global A-platform, which is a derivative of the same platform on which the new Wagon R and the Ignis sit. From what our sources tell us, there could even be a diesel variant on offer considering that provision for the same has been built into that platform. The company's hybrid system, SHVS, will be standard too, and this means even better fuel efficiency. This is crucial, since regulations will mean the car will likely be heavier than the current model - to manage better crashworthiness, and add in the safety equipment it doesn't currently have. Expect the car to be roomier too and there may be a MPV variant in the offing.
With production beginning at the company's Gujarat plant and the company's plans to sell 20 lakh cars per annum by 2020, the new-gen Alto will play a significant role in achieving this target. And of course when we say Alto, we are including multiple variants - smaller and larger displacement engines, AMT and manual gearboxes, and also likely additional body styles or fuel types being added to the portfolio.