NEW DELHI - Maruti Udyog Ltd., India's biggest automaker, will add the Suzuki Baleno to its lineup in a bid to counter foreign competition in what is the luxury segment in India.
Maruti, a 50-50 joint venture between Suzuki Motor Corp. and the Indian government, said the Baleno would provide a logical step-up model and range-topper for existing Maruti owners.
The company's lineup ranges from the 800cc 800 model, which accounts for 45 percent of all new-car sales in India, to the 1.3-liter Esteem, the volume leader in the luxury segment. The 1.6-liter Baleno, which will be locally assembled from complete knockdown kits, is powered by Suzuki's 98-hp, 16-valve inline four-cylinder engine.
'The Baleno will allow Maruti to cover the entire spectrum, from entry level to super luxury,' said Maruti Managing Director Jagdish Khattar. 'It will also enable existing Zen and Esteem owners to upgrade within the Maruti family itself.'
The company had not priced the Baleno, but sources said it would come in above 700,000 rupees (U.S. $16,125). That would price it at the top of a field crowded with the Ford Ikon, Opel Astra, Honda City, Fiat Siena, Daewoo Cielo Executive and Nexia, Hyundai Accent and Mitsubishi Lancer.
Ford Motor Co. jolted competitors in October when it priced the base model of the all-new Ikon under 500,000 rupees (U.S. $11,620).