Prospective Indian Car Manufacturers

India has just one passenger car manufacturer now with dying Hindustan Motors that manufactured Ambassadors for many decades and at one time monopolized Indian market and almost extinct Premier Automobiles that produced Padmini that were the only public taxis in Mumbai.

It is unfortunate that the third generation of the family owned Hindustan Motors that pioneered car manufacturing and helped building the infrastructure of auto components manufacturing messed it up. It still manufactures some Ambassadors in its parent plant near Kolkata. The management of Hindustan Motors never wanted its name associated with its manufacturing Mitsubishi cars at its Chennai plant. Hardly few in the country know that Mitsubishi Lancers are Hindustan Motors built cars. Many who were associated with the projects and the plants may feel bad about it but can hardly do anything. This is the way a family company runs and meets the end.

Tata Motors came from behind in car manufacturing but today it is at the third place behind Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai. It has a place of pride in the Indian manufacturing sector and is almost set to be a really global auto manufacturer with its range of products from Nano, Indica, Indigo and Sumo besides being the largest commercial vehicle manufacture of the country. Nano has all the potentials to be the world’s only ‘people car’ in real sense. Its forthcoming launches with higher end technologies, as well as the diesel and electric/hybrid version in the markets world over will be worth watching with increasing consciousness about the effect of passenger cars on climate.

In country as big as India, there would have been some more domestic players in car manufacturing, but somehow very few dare to enter this business because of its competition. India has few potential manufacturers who can enter the sector.

Mahindra is trying for many years to be a significant player. It started with Ford, and today manufactures just one model of Renault, Logan. It has all potential, but its intention to focus on car manufacturing is not very clear. It will have to decide about its collaborator and its own role in that collaboration.

Bajaj Auto has already gone ahead with its promised launch of an ultra low cost car that may compete with Tata’s Nano with some real differentiating technology. I don’t know if the Gen Next CEO will really get into it seriously and soon, though he still keeps a date in 2011. The project has the blessings of legendary Auto Czar Carlos Goshn who is very much sold about India’s superior frugal engineering.

But there are two more players whose names keep on coming for starting a project for car manufacturing: Hinduja’s Ashok Leyland and Munjal’s Hero Honda. Nissan recently showed interest in building its cars with Ashok Leyland. I don’t find the two players showing a real zeal to enter car manufacturing. But both have money power and potential to get into it, but as car manufacturing requires much more than money power, perhaps it is too early to make any guess.

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