New LHD Tata LCV seen testing in Pune

Of late, Tata Motors is on a roll with many recent launches and quite a lot of new models waiting to hit the market. It’s not surprising though when you consider the fact that the product portfolio of Tata Motors has everything from the Nano mini car to the Prima heavy-duty truck. Though Tata is extremely strong in India, the same cannot be said about them in the international markets and that is where the next phase of growth lies for Tata. The company knows this only too well and models like Xenon, Aria and Prima were all designed to compete globally.

Now, with these shots captured in Pune, it is clear that the next target of Tata is the LCV segment. This particular test vehicle had a huge ‘Tata’ branding at the rear and a partly camouflaged front end. The rear end has nothing remarkable about it but the front end is where all the efforts have gone into. The cabin is pretty modern with upward sloping windows and there is a new triangular frame for the lights. Though the test vehicle had separate round headlights and indicators, we can safely assume the final product to come with a triangular lens cover thus further improving the looks.

Having said that, the front end of the test vehicle was hardly complete with the panel beneath the windshield and the bumper protector missing exposing the internal mechanicals to the elements. The ‘Left Hand Drive’ configuration makes it pretty clear that Tata is planning to export this LCV to other markets as well. Also apparent are the improvements in overall fit and finish and paint quality of the vehicle. The powertrain, the transmission options, the tonnage, the price range and pretty much everything else of this vehicle are yet unknown.

Whatever it may be, it’s once again proved beyond doubt that Tata is not a company to rest on its laurels but is rather a company waiting to grow its wings further. Good luck Tata!


Travelogue #6 - Chennai to Coorg

The Western Ghats has this rare ability of hypnotizing people with its mythical beauty every time you go there. After being there and experiencing it in Munnar, Wayanad and Ooty, it was time again for relishing in the lap of nature that the Western Ghats has in abundance. Only this time, the destination was Coorg, a hilly district in interior Karnataka, known for its sprawling coffee plantations and also the birthplace of Cauvery river. Coorg District essentially consists of three major towns Madikeri, Kushalnagar and Siddapur with the former two being quite popular tourist destinations.

Madikeri Fort with its rich heritage and Raja’s seat with its fantastic view of the plains below are good places to spend an evening. Kushalnagar will need a whole day with its fair share of popular tourist spots nearby like the Dubare Elephant Camp and Nisargadhama, which is essentially a mini forest developed as a tourist spot on the banks of river Cauvery. A must-visit place in your Coorg itinerary has to be the Namdroling Monastery and the Golden Temple near Kushalnagar, which is the largest settlement of Buddhist monks in the world outside Tibet. The beautiful architecture there is a real feast for the eyes.

What is so good about Coorg is that it still retains an old-world charm. Long forgotten sounds of nature like the continuous chirping of birds and the shrill of crickets can all be heard with amazing clarity. The eyes are also treated to lush greenery all around with unending paddy fields in the plains and acres and acres of coffee plantations in the hills. For us city-dwellers, Coorg is a feast for the senses with the kind of stuff that we have seen only in wallpapers and screensavers. Just like all the other wonderful destinations in the Western Ghats, Coorg refuses to get out of your heart and mind for a long time.

Coming to the roads, Chennai to Bangalore is a breeze while Bangalore to Mysore is a pain with butter smooth roads spoilt by those numerous unmarked speedbreakers. NICE Road in Bangalore and Outer Ring Road in Mysore helps us save time bypassing both the cities. After Mysore, the roads are four-laned till Hunsur beyond which it turns into a scenic two-laned country road. This is by far the best stretch for the driving enthusiast in you with those long sweeping curves perfectly complimenting the smoothly paved surface making it a pleasurable drive. But, the roads in and around Coorg are quite bad and ridden with bumps and potholes.



* Total No of Days: 4 (12.08.2011 - 15.08.2011)
* Vehicle Make & Model: Honda Civic

* Odometer Start Reading: 32051 km
* Odometer End Reading: 33392 km
* Total Distance Traveled: 1341 km
* Total Quantity of Fuel filled: 101.09 l
* Average Fuel Consumption: 13.27 km/l

* Destinations Covered: Coorg
* Route Followed: Chennai-Hosur-Mysore-Hunsur-Kushalnagar-Madikeri

* No of Toll Booths: 16
* Money spent on Toll: Rs. 630
* Money spent on Fuel: Rs. 8020



No wonder that the UNESCO is on the verge of declaring the Western Ghats as a World Heritage Site.


BharatBenz Trucks seen testing in NH4 yet again

“When it rains, it pours” goes a saying. And that is exactly what is happening with BharatBenz, the Indian arm of global commercial-vehicle major Daimler Trucks. Every other month, a group of trucks from this company are seen testing on Indian roads. If you remember correctly, there were already a couple of posts on these trucks over the past two months in which a pair of heavy commercial vehicles and a light commercial vehicle that was remarkably similar to Mitsubishi Fuso were spotted testing separately.

Now, as if to confirm their identity as BharatBenz as was being speculated in the previous two posts, all of them were seen testing in close succession last week in the busy Chennai-Bangalore Highway (NH4). One of the trucks even had the much-worshiped three-pointed star logo at the front as the camouflage has started to tear off. But, as we all know, it would mostly be replaced by the BharatBenz logo at launch. No other details of these trucks like the power-train and transmission options, the payload capacity or the prices have been released by the company yet.

But, one thing is very clear for all of us to sit and take note. This is one company that is planning for a serious assault in the Indian market, going by the extensive testing that the vehicles are being subjected to. If the alarm bells have not started ringing yet at Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland, it’s better it starts at least now. If priced right, the combination of good looks, tough build, supreme reliability and the brand value of Benz will surely make life tough for the Indian duo who are currently dominating the market.


Maruti-Suzuki launches new Swift in India

At last, the most awaited and the most important automotive event of the year 2011 happened yesterday when Maruti-Suzuki took the wraps off the all-new second generation Swift. It's no secret that the previous Swift achieved an iconic status in India and was a perennial best-seller until the very last month of its existence. So, it’s quite obvious that the all-new Swift is going to have its task cut out as it has to match and beat the legacy of the model it replaces.

At first sight, the new Swift looks remarkably similar to the previous model. Only on close inspection do we realize the subtle yet effective changes like the stretched headlamps and taillamps and the bigger profile of the new model. The front end of the new Swift now bears more than a passing resemblance to the bigger Kizashi sedan. With the design of the previous Swift being liked and appreciated by customers across the globe, its quite obvious why Suzuki has decided to play safe and not mess around with the design of the new model. It’s more of an evolution rather than a revolution as far as the looks are concerned.

Interior quality and rear passenger space, two of the major grouses of the old Swift has been rectified, with the new Swift apparently much better in these two critical factors. Other positive aspects of the old model like the peppy yet fuel-efficient petrol and diesel engines, sporty handling and good high-speed stability are said to be carried over to the new Swift with minor tweaks to make the car even better. Also, much to the relief of the customers who repented the lack of a top-end diesel variant in the old model, a new feature-loaded ZDi variant is now part of the line-up. In short, if you liked the old Swift for what it was, you will love the new Swift for what it is.

With a marginal price hike over the old model, Maruti-Suzuki has repeated what it always does best – offer terrific value-for-money. With a staggering 50,000 pre-launch bookings, there is already a long queue outside the company's dealerships for the new Swift. Go, stand in one right now to get your new Swift delivered atleast before the end of this year. With the company planning to increase production of the model to around 18,000 units per month shortly, I expect the new Swift to become the second largest selling car in India, next to only the top-selling Alto. Wow, what a way to start!


New Swift all set for a swift debut

There is just one week to go for what would perhaps be the most important and the most awaited automotive event of the year 2011. If you don’t think so, you are probably getting it wrong. History speaks for itself, isn’t it? Then, I am talking about a car that rewrote record books and scripted history in India in a relatively short span of time. If you are still wondering which model I am referring to here, then read on.

* Its launch in 2005 marked the beginning of a new era for Maruti-Suzuki and changed the image of the company forever. Until then, Maruti-Suzuki, though extremely popular, were known only for reliable but outdated models.

* Launched in India soon after its international debut, it came as a breath of fresh air from Maruti-Suzuki and found favor with both critics and public alike.

* It not only won almost all the major automotive awards and titles in India that year, but also kept the cash registers ringing for the company. Within a year of its launch, waiting list for the model extended for months together.

* Even five years after its launch, even when the entire world knew that its replacement is about to come, the popularity and sales never came down. As a matter of fact, its sales were at an all-time high in the last few months it was produced.

* Discounts were unheard of throughout its lifecycle, especially in the diesel variants which were much in demand not only in brand-new segment but also in the pre-owned segment.

As most of you would have guessed, the car in question is the ‘Swift’ and the event that is eagerly awaited is the scheduled launch of the all-new second generation Swift on Aug-17-2011. With a record 40,000 plus pre-launch bookings, the company is already looking at a three month waiting list for the new Swift. The demand and waiting time is only going to explode post-launch after the prices are out.

For all its credentials, the new Swift is just going to start its journey where its predecessor left – right at the top of the premium compact car segment. Companies like Hyundai, Ford, Tata, Toyota, Volkswagen, Nissan, Honda, Fiat and Skoda would be burning the midnight oil to try and find an answer for the seemingly invincible Swift. The fact that Maruti-Suzuki has the widest reach and is by far the most favorite automaker in India only helps.


Spotted #4: Lamborghini Gallardo

For us automobile enthusiasts, spotting an exotic car on our roads will always remain something special. That happened to me yesterday evening when I was driving in Anna Salai, an arterial road in Chennai. All of a sudden, people around started behaving abnormally. Gentlemen and ladies from MTC buses peeped out of their windows and pillion riders in two-wheelers stood up and looked at something.

Since all eyes converged on some damn thing in front of my car, I thought there was an accident a few feet ahead. Only when the auto-rickshaw that was obstructing my view cleared the way, I noticed that those reactions were all for this stunning Lamborghini Gallardo that was standing in all its pristine glory. As this was the first time I saw a Lamborghini so close on public roads, I didn't take my eyes off it for some time.

It was truly a sight to behold seeing the Lambo and the Bajaj RE auto-rickshaw, the two things automotive that comes to our mind immediately when we think of the color yellow, standing adjacent to each other. I have to admit that it was painful to see the owner of the Lambo carefully negotiating the messy peak-hour traffic. Imagine how painful it would have been for him doing that instead of ripping across open freeways.


Ford celebrates 35th Year and 15 Million units of Fiesta

In the ever changing global automotive scenario, there are very few models that stand the test of time earning plaudits critically and financially. And when they do so, it is obviously a reason to cheer and celebrate for the corresponding stakeholders. Very recently, we witnessed Honda celebrating a similar occasion with its Civic and now, we have this. Ford, the 108 year old American company recently celebrated two historic milestones of its sub-compact car Fiesta, whose global production has touched its 35th year and 15 million units.

When the Mk I Fiesta was launched in 1976, even the top honchos at Ford would not have envisaged the phenomenal success story that this new small car was going to script. Over the next 35 years, the Fiesta has gone through six generation changes before reaching the landmark figure of 15 million units in the last week of July 2011. Remarkably, the Fiesta has not grown in size over the years and has stayed true to its origins as a sub-compact car primarily destined for Europe. But, true to the famous ‘One Ford’ policy, the Fiesta is now spreading its reach in other continents as well.

The latest Mk VI Fiesta that was launched in 2008 has boosted the popularity of the brand multifold and has gone on to become Europe’s best-selling car in 2009, 2010 and possibly 2011 too. It may look familiar to us Indians as Ford recently launched the sedan variant of the Mk VI Fiesta amidst huge expectations in India. The Indian connection with the ‘Fiesta’ started way back in 1999 with the launch of Ikon which was based on Mk IV Fiesta. After that, all the other successful models of Ford India including the Fiesta Classic and Figo were all based on various generations of the European Fiesta.

Roelant de Waard, VP, Marketing, Sales and Service, Ford of Europe had this to say on the occasion to celebrate Fiesta’s twin milestones, “The Fiesta is a special car that has a special place in the hearts of European customers and car lovers around the world. Times and technologies have changed, but as long as the Fiesta continues to deliver the style, economy and performance elements that have been present from the very beginning, it will remain an enduring success”. To mark the occasion, Ford also launched a series of subtle revisions in the existing Fiesta.