The Indian automobile industry is booming with many multinational auto giants setting up their plants in India. Presently, Maruti Suzuki holds the top slot in this industry with sales figure topping the chart every month followed by Hyundai, a South Korean Company and Honda, as we all know, a seasoned Japanese company. Renault from France is also coping up fast with the launch of Kwid, a low cost entry level compact SUV after the mediocre sales of their SUV Duster.
The competition in the automobile domain in India is quite ferocious. Ford, Toyota, Fiat, Chevrolet, Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Datsun, Isuzu etc., are also vying among themselves for a strong foothold in Indian automobile industry. The indigenous automobile manufacturers like Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra are also putting in their best efforts to occupy a big dominionin the Indian automobile industry by coming up with newer models in various segments. Tata Motors is pursuing vigorously to make its mark in the Indian automobile market by coming up with innovative ideas, futuristic designs and refurbished higher quality interiors of their cars and SUVs after its once popular Indica series died a slow death due to redundancy and their One Lac People’s Car the Nano turned out into a fiasco with production being halted. India being a mammoth automobile market ranging from bikes, cars, SUVs and commercial vehicles, many new manfacturers from abroad particularly those producing high-end luxury cars such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Maserati, KIA, Lexus, Rolls Royce are treading their feet in India. It is a pride for India that Ratan Tata had bought all the stakes of UK based Land Rover which has in its lineup great cars and SUVs like Jaguar Land Rover, Range Rover Discovery, Range Rover Evogue and Range Rover Freelander.
Most of the luxury cars oriented towards the sports segment like Ferrari 812, Lamborghini Avantador, Porsche Carrera, McLaren 675 LT, Mercedes Maybach 6 Chabriolet, Chevrolet Corvette, Aston Martin Virage etc are a class apart which are meant for a selected few such as big hotshots, industrialists, high profile politicians, celebrities etc. Albeit gas guzzling, the build material of both engine and body parts of such cars are never compromised. That’s the reason why they cost the moon. They are not meant for ordinary or middle class people like us. Besides, they have low ground clearance of 4 inches or less for lower centre of gravity which results in better handling of the car, minimises air flow under the car, decrease chances of rollover and far more stability at higher speed. However, such cars are not meant for Indian roads except for some nicely paved stretches of national highways. If you drive a Lamborghini Avantador on the roads of Manipur, you won’t proceed further than 100 metres before you get stuck at a bump or a pothole. Lets keep aside the luxury and super luxury cars segments for the time being. Say, with my income, it will take me 102 years to buy a Bugatti Veyron, a German based luxury sports car with a V8 (8000 c.c.) quad-turbocharged beast under its hood delivering an adrenaline milking acceleration of 100 km in less than 3 seconds.
The Indian automobile scenario is quite different from other countries. The Indians want vehicles in the guise of cars and SUVs with high mileage, reliable engine which give them good value for their money. To reduce the cost of the vehicles, the multinational car manufacturers have to ponder manifold and carry out major changes especially in the body parts before manufacturing a vehicle which will meet the expectation of the Indian car buyers especially in the facet of cost. This is where the durability of body parts of cars manufactured in India scores abysmally low compared to the same brands made in other countries. Most of the cars manufactured in India in collaboration with famous car manufacturers are highly localised to enable them to prune the price. Say, Renault Kwid is 97 per cent localised in order to make it an entry-level compact SUV at a very low cost which is targeted towards the first time Indian car buyers, particularly those who want to upgrade from a two wheeler to a four wheeler. Likewise, body of many other cars and SUVs manufactured in India from entry level to C-segment are localised to a high extent. With prices of steel climbing up rapidly, the bodies are wafer thin with 40 per cent plastic parts especially the front and rear bumpers.The manufacturers give their comment that the plastic bumpers are meant for pedestrian safety, to make the vehicle lighter for greater acceleration and higher mileage. It is in this aspect that disappointment sets in.
Whenever there is a ‘crash test’ conducted by NCAP(Global) the cars and SUVs manufactured in India have the lowest ratings in terms of built quality compared to the same brands manufactured outside India. In most of the Indian manufactured cars, a very minor scratch leads to the paint coming out thereby exposing the rusted internal body as if there is no primer layer. In fact, the layer of paint is drastically thin. The build quality is so poor that simply giving a forceful slap or light knock over the outer body makes you feel as if you are toying with a cold drink can tin. Anyone can easily smash a punch hardly over the body and a dent will get there. So, reducing vehicle weight by making the body sheet metal thinner doesn’t make the product durable.
About two months back I attended a wedding ceremony of my brother-in-law. There I saw five cars of different made and different segments clearly visible with nuts and bolts fastening the front bumper to the body. I thought I was the only one to do that as the front bumper of my car was already giving way by jumping out from the body whenever I encountered any big bump or deep pothole and a few nuts and bolts are the only means to attach it to the body as all the inner locks are non-functional. Purchasing a new bumper alongwith inner locks will leave you with a deep hole in your pocket. Even though I am totally satisfied with the iVTEC engine of my car which is very peppy and fun to drive, every time I look at the front bumper, the sight drives me nuts. The contemporary cars boast of ACE (Advanced Compatibility Engineering), HLBS (Hybrid Light Body Structure), crumple zones and the likes but only half of the mudguards of the front wheels are covered with metal, the other halves are covered with plastic. The disappointing thing about this is that the plastic mudguards are not durable and outlive their lives very fast. As a result it falls off from the body within 2 years resulting in mud, slush and water being splashed from the wheels on the engine parts whenever you drive during rain or on wet roads.
Even though the build quality of the body is very poor to reduce the cost, the various Indian car manufacturers need to make the bumper and its inner locks a little bit durable or they can come up with newer mechanisms by manufacturing ultra flexible bumpers, flexible to the extent that it retains its previous shape again even after being twisted and folded which in turn can be clipped to the body whenever it falls out from the body just like the clipping buttons of a shirt. The pathetic build quality of the bumpers of cars from entry level to C-segment has really robbed the owners of their peace of mind.
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)