NEW DELHI - Several vehicle projects are under way in India, despite economic uncertainty in neighboring Asian markets.
Fiat India Auto Ltd. plans to launch the Siena mid-sized passenger car in January and the Palio around the middle of next year.
Both cars, part of Fiat's 178 world car program, will be available in diesel and gasoline versions, according to G. Ravina, managing director of Fiat India. Ravina would not reveal the price of either Siena version, but he said the car will be priced competitively with the Maruti Esteem, which leads the mid-sized segment. The Esteem is made by Maruti Udyog, a joint venture of the Indian government and Suzuki Motor Corp.
Well-placed sources expect the price of the diesel-powered Siena to be about 600,000 rupees, or about $14,300 at current exchange rates.
'Our target is to capture 7 to 8 percent of the passenger-car market and a 15 percent share of the mid-sized segment,' Ravina said.
The diesel version of the Siena will be powered by a 1.7-liter four-cylinder turbo engine that makes 64 hp at 4,500 rpm. The gasoline version will sport a 1.2-liter multipoint fuel-injection engine that produces 72 hp at 6,000 rpm.
10,000 cars to start
The Siena and the Palio initially will be assembled from imported components at the Kurla plant near Mumbai, which is operated by Ind Auto Ltd., a joint venture of Fiat and Premier Automobiles Ltd. Ind Auto also produces the Fiat Uno.
Fiat India plans to produce 10,000 Siena and Palio cars in the first year of commercial production, which began last month. It expects to reach 65 percent local content in the first year. Fiat India is building its own plant with an annual capacity of 100,000 cars at Rajnandgaon in Maharashtra.
That plant eventually will produce both the Siena and the Palio. The capacity of the Ind Auto plant at Kurla then will be raised to 50,000 to 60,000 for Uno production.
The Siena/Palio startup is the latest development in Fiat Group's program to invest more than $1 billion in India by 2002. Ind Auto began manufacturing Uno cars in 1996; Magneti Marelli, an associate company, manufactures components at Pune; and Iveco, Fiat's truck-making unit, has a joint venture with Ashok Leyland at Hosur in Tamil Nadu.
Meanwhile, Daewoo Motors India has begun production of the 800cc Matiz.
The Matiz has a three-cylinder in-line German engine, developed by the Daewoo German Technical Center. The car is 139.8 inches long, 59.8 inches wide and 60.2 inches high, and it has a wheel base of 93.6 inches. It generates 52 hp and will be available in three models.
The Matiz is the second passenger car from Daewoo India. The first was the mid-sized Cielo. The company currently is selling fewer than 10,000 Cielos a year, and since the plant has a capacity of 72,000, Daewoo India will use some of the idle capacity to produce the Matiz.
The company's managing director, Shiv Gopal Awasthi, said the target is 12,000 Matiz sales in this fiscal year, which ends in March 1999, 40,000 next year, 60,000 in the third year and 100,000 annually thereafter.
Daewoo India had an equally ambitious program for the Cielo, but that never materialized.
According to Awasthi, Matiz will have 40 percent local content initially and 70 percent local content within six months.
The Matiz is the second Korean car to enter the small-car market, which had been dominated by Maruti Udyog. The Santro from Hyundai Motors India Ltd. was the first.
Small-car competition is increasing. Tata Engineering and Locomotive Co. plans to launch its Indica in December. It will have 100 percent local content.
The Santro was priced to take on Maruti Udyog's Zen car but is more expensive than the most popular model, the Maruti 800. No price has been released for the Matiz, which costs about $1,000 more than the Santro in Korea, but it's likely to be priced between the Maruti 800 and the Maruti Zen.
The Indica, which will be produced in gasoline and diesel versions, is expected to be priced near the Maruti 800, which is the least expensive car sold in India.