Auto Expo 2012—the show begins

The coverage on public transport and goods vehicles used to be much bigger and better in the past!! Now it appears to be all about personal transport of the big and expensive kind
 
A thumb rule many of us followed in the old days on long-haul cross-country sales calls, when saving money by travelling on night trains was the done thing, was to convert the notes taken during the day into a sales report and then post or fax it to the office from the next town. It was an accepted and known fact that if you didn’t do this, then the real nuances that spelt the difference between success and failure were simply lost.
 
It is about the same thing with writing about events. Modern electronic aids help. But the first day at Auto Expo 2012 in Delhi is the exception that breaks the rule. Unforgettable, and that’s being extremely polite. This is what Punjabi weddings usually are all about, lot of people in their best clothes, great fun if you like that sort of thing. People come from far and wide to criticise, but they come again and again, like this writer.
 
Background:
The Auto Expo is held at New Delhi’s Pragati Maidan. For the uninitiated, the main entries are from Mathura Road, and extremely well regulated to the point of being obtrusive, the security guards and others are also interested in the bags full of freebies—vigorously. However, this does not deter access for everything from stray dogs upwards, from the Bhairon Road/Old Fort side, through the administrative block/Gate 3&4 entries, and most of all, from the open land along the railway line which runs along the boundary. There is also a suspicion that entry passes for a variety of support roles are happily being duplicated and utilised. In addition, of course, the minor functionaries who belong to the reigning deity here, known as the ITPO (Indian Trade Promotion Organisation) and the other minor deities (Armed Forces Recruitment Office, public sector banks, and more) add to the fun and games—with exponential growth. Further, this is a city where most people know this mythical creature called ‘Somebody’, and that entitles them to entry—preferably with the maid, security commando, and family car.
 
As a result, maximum safe permissible numbers are the first casualties, followed closely by all elements of safety, resulting in a situation which reminds one of a lesser agricultural fair in some redneck part of the US—only the hucksters have a different language. The crowds at Auto Expo, to put it briefly, are a major deterrent—and the concept of using leggy models as automobile accessories appears to add to the rowdy behaviour that has become part of the horizon there.
 
But that’s how it is—if you are headed for Auto Expo 2012 at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, then be prepared for the whole range of push, shove, prod and grope experiences, especially in the more ‘popular’ stalls.
 
So, briefly, what does Auto Expo 2012 have in store, given that the theme was ‘green’?
 
Well, for one thing—by evening, the atmospheric pollution levels are even worse than what things are like on the road, mainly due to the huge usage of old fashioned smoke spewing generators all over the place, so that’s with the “green part”.
 
Here is a quick review from the general visitor’s point of view. Today, the cars:
 
# The two best stalls to circulate in are from General Motors and Tata Motors. At GM they have their range of cars and SUVs, some muscle cars and in one corner—the Volt as well as an electric version of the Beat. At Tata Motors, apart from the normal range, some very interesting concept cars from small Nano to huge Range Rovers and Jaguars.
 
# The most crowded stalls with circulation patterns gone haywire are the Volkswagen/Skoda/Audi and BMW—they also happen to have some of the most interesting cars on display—the one that caught my eye was the A3- ETron from Audi. However, you can’t get near it. Maybe that's why the ‘new’ Mini is on the wall. Tearing its hair out?
 
# The stall which has managed to garner all the attention by showing a mock-up of a car, has to be Ford, hats off to their PR team. People are going ecstatic about something which has not even moved on the roads as yet! Not much else to see there, except lots of people from Ford talking to each other.
 
# Toyota & Honda—their stalls do appear to be very low-key and conservative. Again, nothing stands out.
 
# By contrast, Nissan and Renault, next to each other, appear to have taken a lot of trouble to show something fresh. That’s also because they are fresh into India. For those who like really fast cars, which have proven pedigrees on real roads, check these stalls out. Something for everyone, from Formula to street racers.
 
# Bajaj Auto’s famous small car RE60, appears to be a token presence at the Auto Expo, again, garnering all the news and coverage. If the price and running costs are well below that of the Tata Nano, then, sure—a great motorised quadricycle.
 
# Mercedes Benz has a very interactive stall, with plenty of activities for all ages, but the AMG cars on display appear to be like part of a disposal sale—everybody knows the sub-brand is being withdrawn. That apart, they also have a fuel cell car cut-out—interesting.
 
# Prominent absentees— the range of vintage and antique cars, Hindustan Motors/Mitsubishi, Fiat and Volvo cars. Sensible.
 
# The Maruti stall, done in a surreal white tunnel into and tunnel out of style, is interesting—but again, the ‘oomph’ is missing. Some new launches on display, but they get lost in the clutter. Shall have to visit again to understand, thing is, the place looks like a Maruti showroom.
 
# And finally—the Mahindra stall, also branding as Rise, showing a variety of cars from their foreign acquisitions—Ssangyong, unknown in India, but with the range probably most likely to succeed. This is the one stall I would like to visit in peace and quiet, it has the most mind-boggling variety of new technology cars, and presumably the prices will be Korean smart too.
 
Today, the second day of the “special invitees” and “media preview”, I will cover other aspects of the Auto Expo. For now, put it this way—if you can brave the crowds inside, and what appears to be cold and windy weather outside, then Auto Expo will appeal to you. But if you thought it was about really going green, then there is another one coming. Frankly, the coverage on public transport and goods vehicles used to be much bigger and better in the past!! Now it appears to be all about personal transport of the big and expensive kind.
 
For those who are keen to get a candid camera kind of look-see, my photos are up and running at http://www.flickr.com/photos/vm2827/
 
Having said that, if that is what you want to see, then head for Auto Expo. Check out if you will get tickets in advance, though—the online resources show ‘sold out’ at http://www.bookmyshow.com in most cases already. Or try to find a ‘Somebody’ who will get you in. Good luck.

(Veeresh Malik started and sold a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing. He is also involved actively in helping small and midsize family-run businesses re-invent themselves. Mr Malik had a career in the Merchant Navy which he left in 1983, qualifications in ship-broking and chartering, a love for travel, and an active participation in print and electronic media as an alternate core competency, all these and more.)

Comments
Jerry
1 decade ago
Hi Mr. Malik, I had the good fortune of visiting Auto Expo 2010 and unfortunately I missed this edition.

Then, Tata had just launched their World Truck and seeing it there strongly influenced my decision to buy one for our business' hauling needs. I felt Tata had the most accessible stall that year, and one could actually walk up to the Jaguars and Landies, and the Aria and Venture.

Renault was next in my list for allowing visitors to sit in a fully functional Left Hand Drive Fluence, and I have to say I was completely sold on that car. Great build quality, design.
The Audi, Merc, Beemer and Skoda stalls were buried in the rush. Couldnt get close to the Yeti.

I felt that the real action was outside the halls where the tuners, aftermarket accessory sellers and auto magazines had set up shop.

The venue is utterly vast and it is impossible to cover it all in even half a day without feeling like you want to chop your legs off.

The whole point of this mini review is that Auto Expo is like a peek into our near term motoring future and so it is unmissable for anyone interested in cars. The industrialists now crib that the crowd is too much, but there was a time when the Expo was almost cancelled for lack of interest if I remember right.

Thanks for your excellent report!
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