20210710

Citroen's upcoming compact crossover spotted testing

Citroen might have just started it's Indian innings with the C5 Aircross but the French brand is already gearing up to mix it with the big boys in the coming years.

Leading the charge would be the car you see here. Spotted testing on two separate occasions several weeks apart - once inside Chennai city and the next time on the busy Chennai-Bengaluru highway - these test mules are likely to evolve into Citroen's entry-level offering for the Indian market. Codenamed CC21, Citroen has based this compact crossover on Stellantis' Common Modular Platform (CMP) that's shared with Peugeot and an army of other brands the group has in it's umbrella.

Likely to be badged the C3, Citroen's smallest and most-affordable crossover will feature the same quirky styling elements like the C5 Aircross that the French brand is synonymous with in Europe. Despite the camouflage, the split light clusters at the front, the stubby rear end and the distinct C-pillar can clearly be seen. Also visible are old-school flap-type door handles, signaling Citroen's intent to get the pricing right in the cut-throat sub-4m crossover segment the C3 would be in. One of the spy shots capture the C3 next to the Hyundai Creta which gives a fair indication of the Citroen's size.

Though not much of the interiors can be seen, the floating touchscreen in the center console is making its presence felt in a couple of shots. Expect good quality and intelligent features to be thrown in to go with Citroen's premium aspirations. 

PSA is said to be working on a 1.2-liter turbocharged petrol engine to power the C3 while a 1.5-liter diesel engine might also join in due course. A 5-speed manual transmission is likely to be the mainstay with an automatic option also being planned. While the powertrain would be manufactured at PSA's joint-venture plant with Avtec near Hosur, the car will be assembled at a facility in Thiruvallur near Chennai that PSA bought from Hindustan Motors.

With Citroen India's plans to launch a new crossover every year from 2021 until 2023 out in the open, the C3 is likely to play an integral role in establishing the brand amongst the masses. When launched, the C3 will be pitted against a bunch of successful and competent crossovers like the Maruti-Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Hyundai Venue, Kia Sonet, Tata Nexon, Ford EcoSport, Renault Kiger, Nissan Magnite and Mahindra XUV3OO. 

Will typical 'French' quirkiness prevail and make an impact? Let's wait and watch.

20210407

All-new Royal Enfield 350cc motorcycle caught testing

Royal Enfield has been doing everything right over the last few years. Be it the launch of their 650 cc twins in 2018 without teething problems, the subsequent carefully-planned expansion to many global markets and the perfectly-executed Meteor 350 debut last year, the Chennai-based brand nailed every one of them.

With Jawa, Benelli and Honda joining the fray, Royal Enfield's unrivalled supremacy in the 350-500 cc retro cruiser space is now a thing of the past. To protect it's turf, Royal Enfield is busy augmenting it's line-up.

One of the many models under development is an all-new 350 cc motorcycle that would complement the Meteor and the upcoming new Classic range. Based on trademarks filed by Royal Enfield way back in 2019, this could be called the Hunter.

Caught testing in the busy NH45 off Chennai, these spy shots give a fair indication of what to expect from this upcoming Honda CB350 and Jawa Forty Two rival.

Although the styling looks familiar at first glance, look closely and you'll be able to make out the subtle differences. For starters, the seating position is set lower than the Classic but not as relaxed as the Meteor. The single-piece seat is flatter and the taillights and rear indicators are placed higher. The exhaust pipe is stubby and more upswept too. These changes make this more of a retro scrambler.

The rest of the underpinnings - including the new J-platform with dual cradle frame, the refined 350 cc mill and front and rear disc brakes with dual-channel ABS - are expected to be shared with the Meteor and Classic. The new instrument cluster with Tripper navigation is likely to be offered too as will a plethora of accessories and customization options.

Once this hits the market, Royal Enfield will have three different 350 cc motorcycles catering to different tastes in a similar price band. These are exciting times, not just for Royal Enfield fans but also for potential customers out there with around INR 2 Lakhs to spare. Watch this space!

Picture Credits: N. Swami

20210406

Mahindra Thar caught testing; Is a more powerful variant getting ready for export markets?

After years of testing across the vast Indian landscape, Mahindra launched the all-new second-generation Thar last October. Since then, the order book has been overflowing with Mahindra struggling to produce enough to meet demand.

Despite being a lifestyle vehicle, the Thar hit the right chords for thousands of Indians out there who are raring to go out and explore the impossible.

With the choice of a powerful petrol or a torquey diesel engine mated to manual or automatic transmissions and specced in either adventure (AX) or lifestyle (LX) series, there is a Thar for just about everyone. The iconic Jeep-inspired looks and the go-anywhere 4x4 credentials add to its appeal.

Just a few months after launch, it appears Mahindra is back to it's testing routine with the all-new Thar. Caught in the outskirts of Chennai on the highway that houses the Mahindra Research Valley, it begs to be asked what's new in here.

In terms of looks, there's hardly anything new apart from a couple of barely-noticeable changes. The tailgate now houses a rather large 4x4 badge which is currently seen on the right rear fender. Though it can't be seen in these pictures, the radiator grille has changed too from the tacky one the Thar on sale now has.

If reports circulating in the web are to be believed, Mahindra is said to be working on a more powerful tune for the 2.0-liter 'mStallion' petrol engine that powers the Thar. The car spotted testing here is the petrol automatic variant, which adds further ammunition to those reports. It is not hard to believe as the 150 horsepower the 4-cylinder mill generates right now isn't much for markets like Australia, South Africa and the Middle East where Mahindra intends to export the Thar. An addition of 20 to 30 horses would do the Thar a world of good and make it a strong contender against established rivals like the Suzuki Jimny and the more expensive Jeep Wrangler.

While nothing can be confirmed at the moment, just about anything related to the Thar is good news, given the car's popularity. So, let's keep guessing until Mahindra spills the beans!

20210403

Genesis unveils the striking X Concept

As a standalone brand, Genesis might only be a few years old but it has to be said they're doing a lot of things right already. One of them - and I'm sure a lot of you would agree with this - is the design and styling of their cars. This is especially true with the concept cars that the young Korean brand treats us with every now and then.

Remember the stunning Essentia Concept from the 2018 New York Auto Show? Joining it as yet another eye candy from Genesis is the X Concept.

Unveiled earlier this week at a private roof top in Los Angeles, the X Concept is Genesis' vision of a high-performance, electric GT (Gran Turismo) Coupe. As has been the case with the brand's earlier concepts, the X is gorgeous and wears a compelling design that just goes to show the fine form the Korean brand's designers are in.

The fascia has a forward-leaning Crest Grille with an unique mesh pattern inside. Flanking it on either side are the brand's signature quad headlamps that cut across the wheel wells and extend into the fenders. The sculpted hood is integrated with the fenders as a single Clamshell panel. Prominent Parabolic Lines originate from the tip of the hood and arches all the way to the rear, giving the X Concept a muscular and powerful stance. The taillights mimic the "Two Lines" theme just like the headlights, creating an unique lighting signature.

Despite its EV credentials, Genesis has stuck to the classic GT formula of a long hood, expansive wheelbase and a short boot. 

The couple of interior shots Genesis released show a cabin that cocoons the person behind the wheel with a cockpit-like place housing all the controls and displays. This being a design study, Genesis has played around quite a bit with different coloured seats for the driver and passenger and exposed metal seat frames. The Crystal Sphere electronic shift lever with integrated drive mode selector looks classy and would be a nice addition to Genesis' existing lineup.

Genesis hasn't released any details on the concept's power-train. That's a shame but it's safe to assume Genesis would stuff the X with more than enough go to match its show.

Whatever, if this is the kind of stuff Hyundai's luxury arm is cooking, I just can't wait to see what's being served. Bring it on, I say!

20210126

Renault Kiger spotted testing days before unveiling

After tasting success with their 'made-for-India' models like the Kwid and Triber, the folks at Renault are at it again. This time, they have set their eyes on the booming compact crossover segment. After taking the wraps off the Kiger Concept virtually last November, Renault announced earlier this month that the production model would be unveiled on 28th January, 2021.

With just a couple of days to go for the official unveiling, the Kiger was caught testing on the busy Chennai-Bengaluru highway.

Despite it's evidently compact dimensions, the Kiger enjoys a good stance thanks to the wide shoulders and the wheels being pushed off to the corners. With Renault confirming that the production model would resemble the concept closely, expect Kwid-like split lighting clusters up front and C-shaped LED taillights at the back with a sharp cut in between. The latter, together with the sculpted tailgate seen in the concept, would give the Kiger a sharp-looking derriere. Those crazy wheels and bright green accents are not likely to make it to production.

Built on the CMF-A platform that already underpins Renault's own Kwid and Triber, Datsun's redi-Go and Nissan's latest hit Magnite, the Kiger is likely to carryover the 1.0-liter, 3-cylinder petrol engine that powers all of them. While it generates a modest 72 horsepower in naturally aspirated form, turbocharging bumps the power up to 100 horsepower. Transmission options would include a 5-speed manual and a CVT automatic.

If Magnite's pricing is any indication, expect the Renault Kiger to be priced aggressively, giving the established brands a lot to think about. Let's see how things pan out for the Kiger-Magnite duo!

20210115

Get excited, folks. The Tata Safari is coming back!

It wasn't India's first-ever SUV as many believe it to be but was definitely ahead of it's time when launched. It was never a big-seller bringing in the volumes but topped the charts when it came to desirability and appeal. It's reliability was always questionable but in terms of capability - both on and off the road - there was no question. The Safari is an enigma - a legend that thousands of fans swear by, a nameplate that many more aspire to be associated with and an icon the folks at Tata are proud of, quite rightly so!

That's why when Tata broke the news all of a sudden that the Safari is coming back, there was excitement in the air and the whole fraternity was thrilled. In just a matter of minutes, automotive websites, forums and social media handles were buzzing with activity. Almost none, by the looks of it, had forgotten the 'Safari' or the brilliant "Reclaim your life" ad campaign. How can we, really?

I would be lying if I tell I wasn't apprehensive about the prospects of the Gravitas (that's how the Safari was going to be called!). One of the few things Tata did not get right over the last few years was the launch of the Harrier. Though they ironed out the niggles and gave it a new lease of life coinciding with the changes done for BS6 emission norms, the Harrier isn't a runaway success like the Tiago, Nexon and Altroz are. The Gravitas was just going to be a bigger Harrier with similar looks, similar interiors, an additional row of seats and a few incremental features.

Will these small changes be enough to give the Gravitas an identity of its own and let Tata charge a premium? Will the upcoming new Mahindra XUV5OO steal the thunder from the Gravitas, given the latter has no brand recall to speak of? Will Tata's soon-to-be flagship live up to its title?

In one fell swoop, Tata answered all these questions. Whether this was the plan from the very beginning or some smart bloke within Tata had similar concerns and proposed a change of name, we might never know. What we know is Tata pulled off a masterstroke by deciding to launch this as the new Safari.

They made everyone talk. They made the legions of followers feel restless with excitement and anticipation. They made the new Safari get into a lot of people's consideration lists that the Gravitas could've only dreamt of. They've given the car a chance to fight existing and upcoming rivals hard.

While we have to wait to see the results, production of the new Safari has started at Tata's plant in Pune with the first car rolling out yesterday. From the images released, the Safari has clearly come of age in this bold, stylish and modern new avatar. The car is all set for launch on the Republic Day which is when the prices and specifications would be out. An AWD option, sadly, might not be on offer at launch!

20210112

India's "Top 20" Best-selling Cars in 2020

From my previous post, it was clear the CoVID-19 pandemic had a lasting impact on automobile sales for more than a quarter last year with the industry hitting the rock-bottom in April with zero units sold. With Maruti-Suzuki and Hyundai holding their positions, the rest of the car-makers fought hard for the one-third of the market that was left out.

Of course, India's best-selling car in 2020 was a Maruti-Suzuki. But which of the many cars wearing the 'S' badge finished on top? Where did the Hyundais end up in the pecking order? Did cars from any other brand apart from these two manage to break into the top ten? 

Here's the answer for all those questions:

  • The top six best-selling cars are from Maruti-Suzuki
  • Seven of the top ten and ten of the top twenty best-selling cars are from Maruti-Suzuki too
  • Two cars from Hyundai and a Kia are the only other brands to feature in the "Top 10"
  • Mahindra's Bolero, a trio of Tatas and Renault's Triber round out the "Top 20"
  • With the exception of new launches, none of the models reported growth over 2019; Creta, Wagon-R and Nexon did a brilliant job of minimizing the fall compared to the previous year


Swift was India's best-selling car in 2020

  • At India's largest car-maker, the fight for supremacy is not with cars from rival brands. Cars within the brand slug it out and trade positions. In 2020, the Swift came out on top trumping the smaller Alto and bigger Baleno by a few thousand units. 
  • As a first car for a young couple or the daily runabout for urban dwellers, the Swift is just perfect. That the car is capable of doing it keeping the person behind the wheel 'smiling' makes this little Suzuki a big winner.
  • While the Alto came runner-up in the race, Baleno and Wagon-R aren't far behind. Remarkably, the Wagon-R lost just 5% of its sales compared to 2019. 
  • Dzire bore the brunt of Maruti-Suzuki moving to a petrol-only line-up post BS6 implementation with a steep fall of 37%. Vitara Brezza suffered a similar fate for the same reason.


Hyundai and Kia SUVs take the market by storm

  • From being a fringe player in the segment in 2014 to India's leading seller of SUVs/Crossovers, Hyundai (and now Kia!) has come a long way.
  • Creta continues its dream run in its second generation, reporting just a 3% drop over 2019.
  • Sibling Kia Seltos finished close behind more than doubling its 2019 sales tally.
  • Add the numbers of Venue and Sonet (launched in the second half of 2020) and the two Korean brands have decimated competition in this 'hot and happening' segment.
  • All's not well with Hyundai though with the i20's 40% drop despite the launch of a new generation model sure to ruffle feathers internally.


Tata makes quite an impression

  • Despite it's age and boxy nature, Mahindra's Bolero continues its incredible run outselling all other newer models in the brand's line-up.
  • Tata Motors had a stellar year with the Tiago, Nexon and Altroz bringing in consistent numbers through the year. With eye-catching styling and an impeccable safety record across the line-up, Tata's success is very satisfying to watch.
  • Renault Triber sneaked in at number twenty, becoming yet another success story for the French brand in the country.

Just outside the "Top 20", Kia's Sonet is waiting to break into the list while the Kwid was a casualty of the success of Renault's own Triber.

Watch this space. 2021 is going to be very interesting!

20210110

India's "Top 10" Best-selling Car Brands in 2020

Any which way you look at it, the Indian automotive landscape is one of a kind. There's no other market in the world I'm aware of that sells more than a couple of million cars every year but still dominated by one brand.

Did the COViD-19 pandemic that gripped the country (and the whole world!) in 2020 change any of that? Apparently not, looking at the sales figures. One thing that did change though is the industry reported 'zero' sales in April 2020 when the whole country went into a lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. This had never happened before and hopefully, never happens again.

As we look forward for a better year, here's the list of "Top 10" best-selling car brands that survived 2020 in India:


There's no stopping the Maruti-Suzuki juggernaut

  • 2020 threw everything at India's largest car-maker. From shutting down their plants during the lockdown to bringing them back upto scale within a few weeks, from having to discontinue their strong-selling diesel line-up when BS6 emission norms were implemented to multiple attempts by rivals to snatch their lead in many lucrative segments, the Japanese brand prevailed and came out stronger.
  • As a result, Maruti-Suzuki still sells one in every two cars sold in India, the 18% drop from 2019's numbers notwithstanding.
  • Add the cars sold to Toyota to retail through their outlets and the number goes even higher!
  • If the 'S' badge can pull in so many customers with a petrol-only line-up, imagine what would happen if the 1.5-liter diesel engine makes a comeback as widely reported. Competitors should be a worried bunch.
  • Despite the love we Indians shower on them, Suzuki's desirable models like the Swift Sport and Jimmy aren't in India. Sad! They're also lagging behind in the EV race. Hyundai, Mahindra, Tata and even MG have electric cars on sale in India.


Tata storms to third behind Hyundai

  • Hyundai continues to be all alone in the race, having reported sales of 423,642 units. That's a 17% drop over 2019. While the Creta and Venue are big-sellers raking in the profits, hatchbacks like the Grand i10 and i20 continue their strong run.
  • Tata has been the shining star in the Indian market over the last 12 months, managing a growth of 11% in what was an extremely tough year. Their product-led transformation has been amazing to witness. From nailing the design to acing the safety tests, the Indian car-maker has focused on all the right aspects so far. Altroz has now joined the Nexon and Tiago in bringing in the volumes while the Harrier is playing the role of a flagship to perfection. Tata, on its part, isn't resting on the laurels and is having its kitty full. Next up is the Safari debuting later this month.


Kia and MG make inroads

  • Kia's entry - and subsequent rise - in India has been almost flawless. Seltos and Sonet have been smash hits and the Carnival is doing pretty well as an image-builder. I was right in predicting Kia's rise in our market after all! Is there no chink in the brand's armour then? Oh no, there's one and that's a big one. I'm referring to Seltos' modest showing in the Global NCAP tests. A 3-star rating is unacceptable for a model that retails for 20 million rupees in its top spec.
  • Mahindra had a tough year. It's domestic sales slid 38% pulling the brand down to fifth. With the XUV5OO's magic starting to fizzle out, Mahindra is now dependent on its old workhorses Bolero and Scorpio for volumes. The rest of the line-up, barring the XUV3OO, have fallen flat. After the stupendous success of the new Thar, Mahindra would be pinning its hopes on the all-new XUV5OO and Scorpio to turn the tide around. Elsewhere, Mahindra has other problems to contend with. SsangYong is a bit of a headache now and discussions with Ford on the proposed joint-venture has come to a screeching halt as well. 
  • Renault, in sixth position, did a good job of arresting the fall, helped by the launch of the Triber and the timely facelift of its bread-and-butter Kwid. The French car-maker learnt pretty early that it needed market-specific models to survive in India and the Kiger is the next in line.
  • Next up is Toyota, the world's largest car-maker. That they deemed it fit to tie up with Suzuki to bolster their 'affordable' model range in India shows how tough our market is for global brands to figure. Innova Crysta and upwards, Toyota is doing just fine.
  • Honda is on a free fall right now. With sales almost half of what it was in 2019, the Japanese brand has clearly seen better days. The City, with all it's might, is doing what it can but needs help from a high-riding sibling that's nowhere to be seen. Come on Honda, get your damn SUVs and crossovers here!
  • With the proposed joint-venture with Mahindra that was going to bring in new models not happening now, Ford has hit a roadblock. What the American car-maker has in store for India remains to be seen. Seven years after launch, EcoSport is still the model that keeps Ford going.
  • MG, the erstwhile British brand now owned by China's SAIC, makes an entry into the Top 10 pushing Volkswagen out. From bringing in three new models in just 18 months, equipping and positioning them well to putting in a lot of efforts towards brand building, MG has done a lot of things right.

Outside the top ten, Volkswagen, Skoda and Nissan are trying to get their respective houses in order. While the two European brands are lining up new launches in a renewed bid to make it big here, Nissan has just struck gold with its Magnite. Let's see if these brands manage to shake things up in the top ten list this year.


BMW pips Mercedes-Benz in the luxury race *

  • While Mercedes-Benz has not announced its 2020 sales figures yet, BMW was leading the luxury race by a healthy margin until the end of November.
  • Assuming December threw no major surprises, BMW should have easily finished ahead with a total of 6,092 units sold last year.
  • That's a massive drop from the 9,000 and 13,786 cars BMW and Mercedes-Benz managed to sell in 2019. Clearly, India's rich tightened their wallets to let the pandemic pass.
  • The rest of the luxury brigade are too far off to threaten this duo.
Source: Official manufacturer press releases and monthly sales charts published in Team-BHP & Auto Punditz

* Mercedes-Benz hasn't released its 2020 sales figures

20210108

America's "Top 20" Best-selling Cars in 2020

It was clear from the previous post that Ford was the most popular brand in the United States last year. Toyota and Chevrolet, placed next in the pecking order, were not far off though. Is the same trend observed in sales of individual models too? Let's find out.

Before we get into the details, here's the list of America's 'Top 20' best-selling cars in 2020:


F-Series tops the charts

Alright, this has become an annual affair, pandemic or not. 

  • Ford's F-Series ended 2020 as the most popular vehicle in the United States of America. 
  • This marks an incredible 39th year at the top of the sales chart for this behemoth.
  • This is also the 44th year in a row the F-Series has finished as America's favourite pick-up truck.
  • Remarkably, the F-Series managed this feat despite being in the last year of its life cycle and the disruptions caused by the pandemic.

With the next-generation F-Series - including the electrified 'PowerBoost' variants - already in the dealerships, the stars are aligned for Ford to mark four decades of leadership with this truck by the end of 2021. Watch this space.


Chevrolet and Ram trade places

  • Finishing runner-up to the F-Series was its arch-rival from Chevrolet, the Silverado.
  • After losing out to Ram's stylish new Pick-Up in 2019, the Silverado was back on top in its own little duel.
  • That the Silverado managed to improve its numbers by 3% over 2019 despite the pandemic goes to show how good an outing the Chevy had in 2020.
  • Ram was relegated to its usual third spot in the list and would be itching to get back ahead.   


SUVs, Crossovers and Trucks gain at the expense of sedans

  • With over 430,000 units sold, Toyota's RAV4 was America's best-selling vehicle that wasn't a pick-up truck. Honda's CR-V came in next but the gap between the two is too big to make Toyota worry. In fact, with three models in the Top 10 and five in the Top 15, Toyota is sitting pretty. It's the competition that has to worry. 
  • Toyota Camry - America's erstwhile favourite - is holding its own so far, managing to keep the Chevrolet Equinox and the other fast-rising SUVs and trucks behind. It's buddies from Japan - the Civic, Corolla and Accord - have all lost positions with each reporting declines of over 20%.
  • GMC Sierra and Ford Explorer had an amazing run, growing their sales by 9% and an astonishing 21% respectively last year. Add the Sierra's numbers to the Silverado's and GM wins the great American pick-up war. Explorer's lead in the mid-size SUV segment gave Ford reasons to cheer though.
  • Anything that wasn't a SUV, crossover or truck lost positions and reported a bigger drop in sales compared to those high-riding body-styles. Notable exceptions were Nissan's Rogue and Ford's Escape which should be a great cause of concern for the two brands.
  • Two models each from Jeep and Subaru complete the Top 20 line-up with the latter's Forester ousting the former's Cherokee off the list.

While the trends are clearly visible, we shouldn't be reading much into 2020's sales figures as stated in the previous post. After all, it was an abnormal year. Let's wait and watch how the American market unfolds this year!

20210107

America's "Top 10" Best-selling Car Brands in 2020

None of us have to be reminded of the absolute havoc caused by the COViD-19 pandemic in 2020, taking millions of lives away and collapsing hordes of businesses. Now that the automotive industry has survived the trough and the car-makers are looking forward with cautious optimism, it's time to reconcile the numbers and see who shed the least blood in the year gone by.

As always, it’s the United States of America we’re going to start our analysis with. After a phenomenal run of five consecutive years when the number of new cars and trucks sold topped 17 million units, 2020 was quite a blow. Cumulative sales of 14.5 million units represented a drop of close to 15% compared to 2019. Given the circumstances though, there's not much to read into it. 2020, by all means, was an abnormal year and it would be prudent to wait and watch how the industry fares this year.

Based on the numbers reported, here's America's ‘Top 10’ best-selling brands:


Ford remains America’s favourite brand

  • For a 11th consecutive year, Ford was America’s most popular brand. 
  • With total sales of 1.94 million units, Ford was helped massively by the continuing popularity of the F-Series that’s now been America’s best-selling pick-up for 44 straight years. 
  • Also boosting its numbers were the Explorer and Escape with the former ending 2020 as America’s best-selling midsize SUV. That should be a massive relief for the folks at the helm, given the much-publicized launch troubles the model went through in 2019. 
  • With the Bronco Sport starting off well, the Mustang Mach-E garnering praise from everyone and the Bronco sitting on a pile of orders, 2021 should be a good year for the ‘Blue Oval’. It better be as Toyota and Chevrolet aren't very far away! 
  • Spare a thought for the Fusion and Fiesta that are fading into the sunset as part of the brand’s strategy to exit cars and focus on SUVs and crossovers. The former, especially, will be missed in the United States.


Toyota and Chevrolet close in

  • With 1.84 million cars and trucks sold in 2020, Toyota came in second with just 100,000 units separating it from the top spot. That’s a number that can easily be overhauled with just one very successful new model. With the RAV-4 going all guns blazing, the Camry holding fort amidst an onslaught of crossovers, SUVs and trucks and the Tacoma, Corolla and Highlander pitching in with significant sales of their own, Toyota is sitting pretty. That they are the runaway leaders when it comes to 'hybrids' also helps. 
  • Going into 2021, the folks at Chevrolet would be a happy bunch. Though the 1.74 million units sold in 2020 and the 11% drop over 2019 might indicate otherwise, the new-generation Silverado family - in their first full year in the market - had a successful run and was one of the few nameplates that grew vis-à-vis 2019. Yes, the Silverado (and it’s sibling, the GMC Sierra) posted growth over 2019! Equinox and Traverse did well too with the former leapfrogging popular Japanese sedans like the Civic, Corolla and Accord. 


Nissan falters, Kia put up a strong fight

  • Honda, in fourth is all alone, with Chevrolet far ahead and Nissan dropping off quite significantly behind. CR-V is the brand’s best-seller but unable to mount a challenge to the ever-popular RAV-4. Civic and Accord are the other big-sellers with both experiencing sharp drops as SUVs and crossovers continue to run rings around sedans. 
  • Clinging onto fifth position behind Honda is Nissan. The Japanese brand has been grappling with a myriad of issues and this 33% drop in one of its biggest markets would’ve already set the alarm bells ringing in Japan. Something has to be done, soon. The recent redesign of the Rogue, Nissan’s best-seller, is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately for them, their once-strong sedans are in freefall mode right now! 
  • Not far behind is Jeep, FCA’s crown jewel. After a few years of unprecedented growth when the brand could do no wrong, Jeep saw its sales drop 14% to under 800,000 units. With the exception of Gladiator, the drop was seen across the line-up with everything from the Renegade all the way up to the Grand Cherokee ending up in red. 
  • Ram came in seventh with almost the entire sales coming from the brilliant new Pick-up. While the flagship 1500 TRX has mesmerized truck-lovers with its insane power and torque in a bid to woo the Raptor-loving crowd, the fact that the Ram Pick-up fell behind its arch-rival Chevrolet Silverado within a year of getting ahead would be of great concern to the brand.
  • Hyundai had a better year compared to the other brands in this list, with sales dropping just a shade under 10% compared to the prior year. The Korean brand’s efforts on getting one crossover after another to the market seems to be paying off with the Tucson, Santa Fe, Palisade, Kona and Venue more than making up for the fall in sales of the Elantra, Sonata and Accent sedans. 
  • Subaru’s dream run came to a screeching halt in 2020 with the Japanese brand reporting a 13% decline in sales compared to their all-time high figures achieved in 2019. As always, the Forester and Outback led the charge for Subaru in what has now become the Japanese car-maker’s most important and possibly most profitable market. 
  • Rounding off the Top 10 is Kia, capping a remarkable year in which it saw its sales slip in just lower single digits. Of course, it’s still worse than brands that grew in 2020 – like Mazda, for instance – but those brands don’t sell as much as Kia. Shining bright in Kia’s line-up was the Telluride. The last I heard, the Korean car-maker wasn’t able to produce as many as they could sell. Also helping matters are their stylish new launches like the Sorento and K5.


Mercedes-Benz pips BMW in the luxury race

  • From the very beginning of 2020, Mercedes-Benz has been leading the luxury race from BMW. While the former is yet to report its full year sales, only a very poor showing in the fourth quarter would be able to dislodge Mercedes-Benz from the top. The GLC, GLA and GLE raked in good numbers apparently while the E-Class continue to be a popular choice amongst sedans. 
  • With sales of 278,732 units in 2020, BMW reported a 18% decline compared to the previous year. That resulted in the brand losing its lead from 2019. Within the lineup, the X series of SUVs have been very popular and fast displacing sedans as the mainstay of the brand. 
  • Lexus proved its resilience and reported 275,041 units sold last year, placing it just a few thousand units behind BMW. The RX was the undisputed best-seller for the Japanese brand with the NX and ES sedan also adding considerable numbers.

Now that we've seen the Top 10 best-selling brands in the United States, the list of Top 20 best-selling cars would follow in the next post. 

20210103

All-new Mahindra XUV5OO spotted testing

The joint-venture with Ford might not be happening any more but the folks at Mahindra are going to have a busy year.

With the new Thar firing on all cylinders forcing the car-maker to ramp up capacity, two of their best-selling models are also getting ready for launch later this year. One of them, the all new XUV5OO, was caught testing on the outskirts of Chennai, not far off Mahindra's R&D Center.

Despite the heavy camouflage, it is clear Mahindra is looking to tone down the design and styling of the second-generation XUV5OO. The elimination of paw-shaped door handles and the reduced heft on the rear fenders are proof of that. Still, there are enough cues to not mistake it for anything but an XUV like the tipped-forward stance and the kinked-up window line. This restrained aggression bodes well for the new XUV5OO as it's likely to lock horns directly with the upcoming Tata Gravitas that wears sleek and contemporary clothes.

The interiors are likely to be significantly better than the current model with a plethora of features and improved build quality, fit and finish. Earlier test mules were seen with loads of kit including a flat-bottomed steering wheel and a two-tone dashboard with a long, continuous screen incorporating the instruments and infotainment.

Powertrain options are likely to be carried over from the Thar. The 2.0-liter 'mStallion' petrol and the 2.2-liter 'mHawk' diesel would be on duty, albeit in higher states of tunes. Both would have a choice of 6-speed manual and automatic transmissions with All Wheel Drive likely to be on offer in select trim levels as well.

Mahindra, together with Tata, have been flag-bearers of safer cars in the Indian market with the XUV3OO currently holding the distinction of the safest mass market car on sale. Expect that to continue with the XUV5OO.

So, if you're in the market for a three-row SUV, please wait. All pointers indicate the all-new XUV5OO should be worth it!

Picture Credits: Karthik Chandrasekar