Suzuki R3 MPV conceptEnlarge Photo
While TCC's American team prepares for next week's North American International Auto Show in Detroit, there's also a good bit of news coming from the Delhi Auto Expo in India. Earlier today, Viknesh Vijayenthiran mentioned the unveiling of Honda's "New Small Concept" vehicle, which is set to go on sale in late 2011; now comes word that Toyota and Suzuki are also launching new small cars at the expo in an effort to score bigger slices of India's surging auto market.
Of the two vehicles, the Toyota Etios concept appears closer to full production. Like the Honda, it's slated to debut in India in late 2011, with launches in Russia and Latin America shortly thereafter. The Etios will arrive in hatchback and sedan form, and both models are expected to feature lower-end materials and a skimpy feature set (e.g. the vehicles will have only one windshield wiper). But minimal features doesn't necessarily mean minimal style: the interior of the Etios seems sporty and upmarket, which ought to make the model very desirable among India's growing population of drivers. The Etios' price won't hurt either: it's expected to clock in around 500,000 Indian rupees, or just over $10,800. (The Honda model should be similarly priced.)
The Suzuki R3 MPV concept is only slightly further off, scheduled to appear in late 2011 or early 2012. It, too, will come as a functional five-door hatch, but there's no firm word on price or equipment just yet. Just as a reminder: Volkswagen recently purchased a sizable chunk of Suzuki, which could affect the R3's performance (in a good way).
In these three launches, Honda, Suzuki, and Toyota are making major plays for the Indian auto market, which is generally discussed as one of the top spots for growth in coming years. (Many consider it the second most promising market, just behind China.) Interestingly, none of these three vehicles are likely to price as low as the $2,500-ish bargain-basement Tata Nano, which has been wildly popular in India. However, these present an aspirational alternative for lower-income consumers and a way for mid-level consumers to set themselves apart from the Nano-driving masses -- without breaking the bank.
We're not sure that any of these would ever make it to North America -- at least, not in their current forms -- but if the Etios proves popular enough, we wouldn't be surprised to see it join the Scion lineup, alongside the incoming iQ.