MG & Kia make strong debuts in India

| Sales of MG Hector and Kia Seltos are off to a great start |

| Hector bookings cross 21,000 with MG temporarily closing bookings |

| Kia receives over 6,000 bookings for the Seltos in a day |

It's true that the automotive industry in India is going through one of it's toughest phases ever. The mere fact every car-maker out there barring one or two report double-digit drop in sales month-on-month is an indication of the bloodshed that's happening out there. This then is not the right time to enter the market, one would think.

But two brands that most people in India have unheard of are making waves out there, following two different philosophies to penetrate the market. 

Take Morris Garages, for instance. Now owned by SAIC, China's biggest car-maker, MG has been doing everything right ever since they set shop in India. Be it touting their British heritage with nary a hint of their Chinese assocation, be it striking an emotional chord with a small but loyal set of owners of classic MG models, be it their aggressive marketing tactics that kept people talking about the brand or be it the well thought-out maintenance and ownership packages that are designed to alleviate concerns potential customers might have in putting their money on a new brand, MG planned and executed their moves very well.

Backing all these efforts was their product itself, the Hector. Despite being based off a SAIC model, the Hector - endorsed by the popular British actor, Benedict Cumberbatch - never revealed it's Chinese origins which, by the way, isn't a bad thing at all. Indians love bling and MG offered that in dollops with the Hector. Indians crave for features and the vehicle is loaded to the gills and some more with them. With the largest touchscreen ever seen on an automobile in India and next level of connectivity features that's proclaimed with an 'Internet Inside' fender badge, the Hector is tech-savvy, just what the millenials want!

That the Hector's sales crossed 21,000 units within weeks of launch and bookings have been closed until further announcement is a testament to their efforts.

If you're one of those that think MG had an easy way in, thanks to GM's association with SAIC which handed the Halol plant in Gujarat on a platter to MG, what do you have to say about Kia? These folks from South Korea didn't have it easy, despite being closely-knit to Hyundai that has a strong presence and image in India.

From setting up a huge greenfield facility at Anantpur in Andhra Pradesh in record time to counting the days for their first model launch in the country, Indian arm of Kia has put in the 1 Billion Dollars sanctioned by its parent to good use over the last couple of years. The sheer scale shows the commitment and the confidence the brand has in the Indian market. Starting off with an annual capacity to make 100,000 cars, Kia has plans to scale up to 300,000 units a year within two years. Just like Hyundai, Kia has taken along quite a few of it's suppliers and made them set shop close by to solve supply chain constraints.

Though their marketing efforts thus far has been less intense compared to, let's say MG, Kia showed their might at the 2016 Auto Expo. From the Picanto hatchback to the Stinger GT premium sedan, from the Sportage crossover to the Grand Carnival MPV, the Korean brand's 16-strong model lineup brought in for the event left a lasting impression. Taking one of them and adapting it for Indian tastes and requirements would've been the easier option. But Kia didn't do that.

They came up with the Seltos, an all-new model that hits straight at a red-hot segment dominated by Hyundai. Yes, the Creta is what Seltos is aimed at. With it's distinct styling, impressive levels of fit and finish, a gamut of engine and transmission options and bucket-loads of features with many segment-firsts thrown in, the Seltos - based on the SP Signature Concept showcased earlier this year - looks set to usurp it's Hyundai sibling from the throne it currently occupies unchallenged.

Don't believe us? Get this. Bookings for the Seltos opened officially this Tuesday and by the end of the day, Kia had pocketed a whopping 6,000 deposits. And, let's not forget the pricing hasn't been announced yet!

The message then is loud and clear. The sentiments may be down, liquidity might be a problem and lending rates might be on their way up but success is in the offing if car-makers put in earnest efforts and bring in attractive models. 

While it's a great job so far by MG and Kia, the challenge now is to keep the momentum going. It's going to be interesting, let's see how they cope up!


Hyundai launches the Kona Electric in India

| Kona Electric becomes India's first long-range EV |

| Pan-India introductory ex-showroom price of ₹2,530,000 |

We have had a few full-electric cars launched in India already but they have all had a serious limitation or two that prevented them from being serious contenders. The Reva and it's many siblings were too small, unsafe and impractical. With the same technology underneath, Mahindra Electric's eVerito solved the space issue but it was dated and it's range was limited. Tata's Tigor EV, though modern and safe, is crippled by it's limited range too. Both the Mahindra and the Tata offer a range in the thereabouts of 100 km which does nothing to deter the range anxiety these EVs are notorious for!

In short, Hyundai's Kona Electric - launched in the country earlier this week at a pan-India introductory price of ₹2,530,000 ex-showroom - is India's first proper long-range EV!

With a 39.2 kWh battery that powers an electric motor rated for 134 horsepower and 395 Nm of torque, the Kona Electric is quite powerful. And it's fast too, accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h in 9.7 seconds. Four driving modes - Eco, Eco+, Comfort and Sport are on offer as are paddle shifters to adjust regenrative braking. 

Crucially, the Kona Electric has an ARAI-certified range of 452 km on a single charge. In real-world conditions, expect that number to drop down to about 300 km. The claimed time to recharge the battery to 100% with an AC charger is 6 hours and 10 minutes. With a DC quick charger, the battery can be recharged to 80% of its capacity in just 57 minutes. All Kona customers would be provided with a 7.2 kW charger that can top-up the vehicle's battery withan an hour for a range of 50 km.

The Kona Electric is on sale in 11 Indian cities in select Hyundai dealerships. All of them would be equipped with the aforementioned 7.2 kW AC chargers. That apart, Hyundai has joined hands with Indian Oil Corporation Limited to install a charging network in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai. Hyundai is leaving no stone unturned to deter the range anxiety. There will also be a fleet of cars fitted with power converters to provide emergency charging support in these cities. 

The Kona Electric comes with a 3 years / unlimited km warranty with the battery getting a separate 8 years / 160,000 km warranty. That's another concern every EV buyer has ticked off!

With a modern-yet-quirky design language highlighted by the split light clusters at the front and rear, the fake grille-like thing on the fascia, those bulky plastic claddings and the busy profile with multiple cuts and creases, the Kona is an eyeball-grabber. That said, it's a love-it or hate-it affair! Interiors are a typical Hyundai affair with the Kona Electric getting a ton of features and acceptable levels of fit and finish. 

The kit on offer include six airbags, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), Hill Assist Control, Tire Pressure Monitoring Sytem, electric sunroof, automatic climate control, cruise control, rear-view camera, ventilated and heated leather seats at the front and a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Voice Recognition, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity options. 

Measuring the scales at 4,180 mm in length, 1,800 mm in width and 1,570 mm in height with a 2,600 mm wheelbase, the Kona Electric is smaller than a Creta. But then, as a high-riding urban SUV boasting it's EV credentials, it makes perfect sense. 

The Kona Electric is modern, safe, practical and offers a long driving range too. Yes, the price appears higher but you'll know it is not when more EVs with similar driving range enter the country. Let's wait and see if the car-buying public out there are convinced.