Other than something indefinable, Crossovers have an illusionary ‘presence’
I had a quick look at the new Suzuki S-Cross. This is from the ‘crossover’ segment—whatever that means—because the fact remains that most ‘crossover’ cars in India bear more resemblance to the Hindustan Motors’ Landmaster of the 1950s and early 1960s than anything modern. Higher road clearance, some elements of more space inside (especially in the height department), a reasonably sized cargo area and bigger wheels as well as tyres.
Who, then, are these ‘crossovers’ really aimed at and what do they have which standard hatchbacks also in the sub-four-metre range do not have? Other than something indefinable which does not fool anybody, they have an illusionary ‘presence’, aided by rear-ends designed to look bigger than they really are by addition of elements like wider tail lamps (eating into hatch entry dimensions) and, sometimes, a spare wheel dangling from the rear hatch (will do wonders to the hinges very soon). The addition of stronger side-bars and, in some cases, design changes for side impact protection tend to reduce the horizontal space inside some of these ‘crossovers’. So while they are rated for driver+4, they are actually good for driver+3.
Coming back to the Suzuki S-Cross, I think it will do well, but not because of the exclusive dealerships. It will do well because, to all first appearances, the interiors are brilliant, in many areas matching what one sees in cars from Germany of the same sizes, costing three times as much. And the doors make that solid ‘thunk’ sound too. That, to me, is the most important part. The Suzuki S-Cross feels solid—like the Landmaster used to feel.
Ford Is ‘Different’
There is good news for drivers looking for vehicles adapted for differently-abled people. First, on the vehicle: Ford India has been working closely with two people I know, Deepa Malik (in Delhi) and Salil Chaturvedi (in Goa), along with some other people all over the country, for supplying specially modified Ford Ecosport cars in Ecoboost engine version with automatic transmission. This sort of cooperation by a manufacturer has been seen after a gap of almost 15-20 years; the last time this was enabled by Maruti Suzuki; then, in between, there has been a hiatus.
Second, on the registration of a vehicle for differently-abled people as well as getting specific driving licences and the resultant concessions on road tax, excise duty and some other levies, both report good cooperation from the authorities in Delhi as well as in Goa. Here again, the level of cooperation varies from state to state and, often, down to individual Regional Transport Offices (RTOs).
Our differently-abled friends need all the support from the authorities and, towards this, the Delhi RTO has also been running a specific DL-1D series registration number, to remove all confusion for which vehicles are entitled to benefits, including preferential parking. Good work by Ford in India, too, and let’s see some of the other larger manufacturers provide the same level of support too.
Tata first approached the French after World War II for truck technology; but, not making any headway, they settled for Mercedes-Benz which was then recovering from huge War-based losses and damage. Ever since, the French brands appear to have had major problems in establishing themselves in India, despite many efforts.
Even the Duster (of Renault) comes from the Dacia (Romania) stable. Peugeot managed to right royally mess matters up when they allied with Premier Automobiles in the 1980s and never looked as though they could stand up again. Renault is now trying to launch a small car called, of all things, the ‘Kwid’. After the X-Creta and S-Cross jokes doing the rounds, expect a whole new series here, while the car itself will sell only if the price is around Rs3 lakh for a loaded version, from what I hear.
(Veeresh Malik started and sold a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing. He is also involved in helping small and midsize family-run businesses re-invent themselves