European car maker Renault delivered its vote of confidence to the future of the ailing Indian automobile market by using the New Delhi auto show to launch a global concept car for the first time outside Europe.
Renault, which makes the extremely popular "Duster" sports-utility vehicle, or SUV, in India, launched the "KWID" on Wednesday in the nation's capital, at an event touted to be the largest car show in Asia. The KWID, according to the company statement is a compact five-seater SUV with a multimedia dashboard that can serve the tech-savvy and family-oriented Indian consumer.
“This is the first time we have chosen to reveal a concept car outside Europe and this is an eloquent sign of our commitment to India," Gilles Normand, senior vice president and chairman of Renault's operations in the Asia-Pacific region, said in a statement.
The French car maker, whose India operations are based in Chennai in southern India, is riding a wave of popularity for its best-selling Duster, and is also showcasing other models such as the "Koleos," a premium SUV that could retail at a base price of 2.26 million Indian rupees ($36,000), and "Zoe," an electric car.
"Renault is a very young brand in India and in less than 18 months, we have been able to put a 100,000 cars" on Indian roads despite the downturn in the industry, Sumit Sawhney, country CEO for Renault, told International Business Times on the sidelines of the event, calling the Duster a "segment breaker" and a "volume pillar."
"Getting into the right segment at the right price with the right product," has helped Renault carve out a place for itself in the crowded Indian market, according to Sawhney.
The company is the ninth-largest manufacturer in the country and is trying to establish its brand and networks on the ground, Sawhney said, to grow further in India, which is one of the fastest growing automobile countries in the world. However, the industry ran into rough weather in 2013, suffering its first decline in growth in almost a decade, as the country has struggled with a slowing economy and high inflation.
"The Indian consumer has an investment mindset and not an expense mindset" when it comes to buying a car, Sawhney said, adding that the Indian market is primed for vehicles with "cross-over capabilities" as Indian buyers are increasingly using cars for weekend getaways and recreational purposes.
India is an emerging market and it will eventually evolve to adopt electric cars, he told IBTimes, referring to the company's decision to showcase "Zoe," the company's electric car at the event in New Delhi.
"2014 is a testing time for the Indian automobile industry," Sawhney said, "with elections around the corner and a lot of uncertainty on the economic front. So, we look forward to things improving post-election."