2019 in Auto: From launch of Tata Harrier to Fame2 EV subsidy, automotive milestones of the year

As we head into 2020, we can't help but think that everything that happened in 2019 seemed like beginnings of a massive shift in the auto sector.

The excitement and debate that fills the OD office whenever someone brings up EVs, or BSVI cars or anything new we've driven recently, seems to sum up what 2019 was. Easily one of the more momentous years in the auto industry's history, especially for India. As we head into 2020, we can't help but think that everything that happened this year seemed like beginnings of a massive shift in how we think of automobiles and what we expect them to do for us.

Why is that, you ask? We're finally seeing world-class EVs trickling in, with the government putting forth its commitment to this solution. Then there's the shift to BSVI, automakers are still putting in place the tech and strategy to tackle this change, it'll be interesting to see how our preferences change when this goes into force in April 2020. To add to this, the industry is only just recovering from a slump unlike anything seen in the last decade. Then there's MG and Kia, who have entered India in such a time and redefined what good value means in a car.

What is clear is that there is a lot to look back at in 2019 and a lot to look forward to in 2020.


Tata Motors launches the Harrier

The Harrier was the first big car launch of 2019. It was the result of a wider plan by the brand to gain lost buyers, highlighted by the strong design, good value and Land Rover underpinnings. But its biggest contribution has been to set the stage for the growth of the midsize SUV segment.

Tata Harrier.

Tata Harrier.


Groupe PSA announces India return with Citroen

The PSA Group, makers of Peugeot, Citroen, Opel and Vauxhall announced they will return to a market that they left in the mid-90s, the first of a few manufacturer debuts set for 2020. Their first car will be the Citroen C5 Aircross.

Citroen. Reuters

Citroen. Reuters

Tata Motors stops making the Nano

Possibly one of the most ambitious automotive projects ever attempted, Ratan Tata made sure his people's car delivered on its promise of being the world's cheapest car when it debuted in 2008. Sales never really took off but we have a future classic on our hands.

A Tata Motors Nano car is loaded onto a goods train for shipment at Sanand railway station in the western Indian state of Gujarat September 1, 2011. Total car sales in India fell almost 16 percent in July, marking the first drop in two-and-half years, as borrowing costs rose following multiple rate hikes by the central bank. REUTERS/Amit Dave (INDIA - Tags: BUSINESS TRANSPORT) - RTR2QM7S

A Tata Motors Nano car is loaded onto a goods train for shipment at Sanand railway station in the western Indian state of Gujarat 1 September 2011. Image: Reuters


Government announces FAME2 EV subsidy

The second iteration of the government's subsidy program was the biggest aspect of the government's EV push this year. A small step that brought some clarity to buyers and automakers. Now Rs 10,000 crore has been earmarked for electric commercial vehicles and public transport along with two-wheelers, over three years.

The Nissan GoT

Carlos Ghosn was arrested on charges that he transferred his investment losses to Nissan. This is a continuing saga, with Ghosn now out on bail after facing arrests. A fall from grace for one of the world's leading automotive figures, credited for making the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance the world's third-largest carmaker.

Hyundai and Kia invest in Ola

Hyundai Motor Group, makers of Hyundai and Kia, announced a $300 million investment in the Ola cabs ride-hailing venture. The companies will together develop fleet mobility solutions, building infrastructure and India-specific electric vehicles. Another indication that the way we use cars is set to change dramatically in the next few years.

Kia Motors India plant at Andhra Pradesh. Image: Kia Motors

Kia Motors India plant at Andhra Pradesh. Image: Kia Motors

Mercedes-Benz sets new endurance national record

Endurance runs have made for some of Overdrive's most defining moments over the last two decades. But in September 2018, the publication partnered with Mercedes-Benz India to execute our biggest one yet. We covered 2,200 gruelling kilometres at the Buddh International Circuit in 24 hours. A feat that was recognised by the India Book of Records.


Hyundai launches India's first connected car, the Venue

Hyundai finally arrived in the sub-four-metre SUV space with the Venue. But the brand used its late entry to advantage by pricing the Venue very competitively and loading it with features. Most notably, it was the first connected car in India which featured an on-board SIM for remote functions, diagnostics, route mapping, security, and emergency features.

Hyundai Venue

Hyundai Venue

Niki Lauda passes away

A Formula One legend who scripted one of motorsport's greatest comeback stories passed away at age 70. At the 1976 German Grand Prix, his Ferrari crashed and caught fire, burning him severely enough that the doctors thought he had no chance at survival. Six weeks later he was back on the grid, eventually going on to add two more titles to the one that he was defending that year. In recent memory, he played a major role in the current success of the Mercedes-AMG outfit.


Toyota Glanza launches in India

The Glanza, a rebadged Maruti Suzuki Baleno, was the first outcome of the global alliance between two of Japan's automotive giants, Toyota and Suzuki. The firms plan on sharing EV technology globally and develop small cars. In India, Suzuki will have access to Toyota's electric tech and larger cars and Toyota will get Maruti Suzuki's small cars.

MG Motor launches the Hector

SAIC became the first large Chinese carmaker to have a presence in India when it launched the Hector through its MG Motor India brand. The Hector beat the downturn to become a major hit thanks to its competitive pricing, presence, space and features. In a first, MG had to suspend bookings for a few months while it ramped up production to meet demand.

The Hector will be sold via the 50 MG dealerships that are already operational throughout the country. Image: Morris Garages

The MG Hector. Image: Morris Garages

Ian Callum leaves Jaguar

Ian Callum left Jaguar after 20 years as its design director. He joined the brand at a time when it was only a shade of its former self. During his tenure, the brand became synonymous with good design through cars like the XF and F-Type. This was a big factor in its resurgence as a viable competitor to the Mercs, Audis and BMWs of the world.

Renault to not sell diesel cars in India

It will only sell petrol-powered cars in India once BSVI norms come into effect. EVs are part of the plan too but in the medium-term. The company feels that the share of diesel in the small car space will reduce further when the new norms come in, given the higher costs.

Audi e-tron unveiled in India

Audi became the first luxury carmaker to showcase its electric offerings here, even as it promised that the car would be launched by the end of 2019. The e-tron will be the most advanced electric car here with over 400km real-world range and outputs of 407PS and 664Nm. This has added significance given that Audi has decided it will go ahead with a petrol and electrified focussed strategy in India.

Audi E-tron. Image: Audi

Audi E-tron. Image: Audi


Iacocca makes his last pitch

Lee Iacocca passed away on July 2, 2019, aged 94. He was one of the most influencing figures of the US auto industry, where he helped develop cars like the Ford Mustang and saved Chrysler from bankruptcy.

Beetle production ends

The final Volkswagen Beetle has rolled off the production line in Puebla, Mexico, 81 years after the original's debut. This was a third-gen car in a coupe body style, which launched worldwide in 2012, and finished in the Final Edition shade of blue.

Ather energy enters Chennai

Ather Energy, the electric two-wheeler start-up from Bangalore is well on its growth trajectory. The company is now selling its scooters in Chennai and has expanded its Ather Grid charging network to 10 locations in the city. Meanwhile, the company has dropped prices after becoming eligible for FAME2 subsidy.

Hyundai launches the Kona EV

The Korean carmaker took the lead in the EV space by launching the first mainstream electric car in India. It can realistically replace conventionally powered ones, with its certified 452km range and Rs 23 lakh price.

Hyundai Kona EV

Hyundai Kona EV

CFMoto enters India

Chinese motorcycle maker CFMoto entered India with four motorcycles. These are the 300NK, the 650NK street-fighter, 650MT adventure tourer and the 650GT sports tourer. The bikes are made in China and assembled at CFMoto's India partner, AMW's facility near Hyderabad.

MV Agusta ties up with Loncin

Italian bike-maker MV Agusta has tied up with Loncin from China. This association will develop a new generation of 350cc and 500cc bikes. Four models will be designed and developed by MV Agusta and sold under its own and Loncin's high-end Voge brands. The Chinese partner will manufacture these bikes.


Kia launches the Seltos

Hyundai's sister brand's first shot at the Indian market was another massive hit. Kia has over 62,000 bookings for the Seltos (review) since it started accepting orders in July. Along with the Hector, it has made the sub-20-lakh-SUV segment the place to be in India for carmakers.

The Kia Seltos will be available in at least 16 variants.

The Kia Seltos.

Gaurav Gill wins Arjuna Award

A landmark moment for Indian motorsport, Gill became the first sports personality from this discipline to get this award. He also made his way to WRC2 this season and mounted an INRC challenge with Mahindra and JK Tyre.

Ferdinand Piech passes away

Grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, he is credited with making Audi the luxury brand that we know it to be. He also turned around Volkswagen and brought in the work culture and tech that has made it the world's biggest carmaker now.

Motor Vehicle Amendment Act of 2019

Long overdue, the government finally made changes to the country's Motor Vehicles Act. Heavy fines for traffic violations, greater manufacturers liability and better post-trauma care for victims are important aspects, all to improve India's horrific road safety record.

Worst sales month in two decades

The crisis in the Indian auto industry reached its peak this month. Deliveries were 41 per cent less than August last year. This was the tenth consecutive month of decline before heavy discounts and the festive season brought about an uptick.


Porsche unveils its first EV, the Taycan

The world's most revered sportscar maker launched an all-electric model. The Taycan promises all the character of a Porsche in a more eco-conscious package. It is also the first worthy challenger to Tesla from a mainstream automaker with the Taycan S 680PS and 1,050Nm. Tech like a two-speed transmission and an 800V architecture are world-firsts.

A Porsche logo is seen at a customers center next to the the Porsche factory in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, Germany, January 26, 2018. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski - RC1D99EA5210

A Porsche logo. Image: Reuters

Ford ties up with Mahindra

Ford will continue in India in a 49:51 partnership in favour of Mahindra. The two firms will retain separate sales and service channels but will jointly develop products. The first of these will be a C-segment SUV by Mahindra, that will spawn a Ford version later.

Tata Motors reveals Ziptron, its EV platform

The Ziptron technology will form the basis for all Tata EVs soon like the Altroz and Nexon EVs. The tech will allow for 250km range with batteries that are IP67 rated and with an eight-year warranty period. These will power 300-Volt permanent magnet synchronous motors and use a single-speed transmission. The Nexon EV has since debuted.

The Defender comes back

After a long hiatus, Land Rover finally brought its iconic 4x4 back. The new Defender sits on the all-new D7X platform, not shared with any other Land Rover and is now a much more upmarket proposition. It retains its boxy, functional look and now gets loads of off-roading tech. You can still get one with steel wheels though!


Groupe PSA and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to come together

This 50:50 partnership will make this the fourth largest carmaker in the world. The merger will bring in solutions for connectivity, electrification, shared and autonomous mobility. PSA CEO Carlos Tavares will retain his post and FCA head John Elkann will be Chairman.

Chetak returns as an electric scooter

It returned when Bajaj announced that its first EV will be called the Chetak. It also marks a return to the scooter segment for the company. Bajaj Auto will be the first large scale two-wheeler maker in India to launch an electric two-wheeler. The bike itself features many cues harking back to the original.

Bajaj Chetak.

Bajaj Chetak.

Nissan may drop Datsun brand

Nissan could drop the entry-level Datsun brand from its line-up globally as part of a larger plan to recover from the after-effects of the Ghosn crisis and falling profits. Alongside this move, the company could also trim unprofitable models and cut unused production capacity in plants. Will continue in India, South Africa and Pakistan.

Mercedes-Benz India debuts the G-Class

Since 2011, India has only got the more road-focused AMG G 63, but Mercedes-Benz finally introduced the diesel G 350d version here. Ground clearance is 241mm, water wading depth is 700mm, approach and departure angles are 30 and 31 degrees respectively. Looks almost unchanged from the 40-year-old original but has been completely reworked.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC


Audi India to discontinue diesel vehicles

The brand will follow a petrol-first strategy once BSVI regulations come into effect by April 2020. Electrification, through EVs and hybrids, will play a key role in this strategy and the brand will follow a top-down approach in making this shift. The petrol-only A6 and the e-tron reiterate this.

Delhi Odd-Even rule enforcement

The air pollution situation in Delhi reached alarming levels, with AQI values reaching 642 post-Diwali. This led to the implementation of the odd-even scheme for a third time in a week's duration. Its effect was minimal with the AQI however around 500. Anything above 300 is considered very harmful with prolonged exposure.

Great wall and Changan coming to India

Call it the Hector effect. Chinese carmakers have set their sights on India. Great Wall Motors will debut at the Auto Expo and is well on its way to set up a facility here. Another major carmaker, Changan is also looking to start operations by 2022. Both will compete in the C-SUV segment with their first products.

Citroen leaves WRC

Eight-time WRC constructor's championship winner Citroen has said that it is quitting WRC with immediate effect. Sebastien Ogier's decision to move to Toyota was the reason behind this departure. Groupe PSA's motorsport efforts will now be focussed on Peugeot's WEC campaign and DS' entry into Formula E.

VW Motorsport to stop making IC engines

Volkswagen's Motorsport arm will no longer make IC-engined cars for competition. Its point of focus will be EVs through the MEB platform. The I.D. R program will be expanded to cover more disciplines and eventually even customer programs will be electrified.

Volkswagen. Image: Pixabay

Volkswagen. Image: Pixabay


MG ZS EV India unveil

MG Motor India showed its second model for India, the MG ZS EV, this month. The idea is to establish itself as the technological leader in the automotive space, hence the firm's choice in choosing this nascent segment to expand into. The ZS EV is expected to have a range of around 250km range and be priced at Rs 20 lakh.

KTM 390 Adventure

KTM 390 Adventure

KTM 390 Adventure India debut

KTM showcased its hotly anticipated 390 Adventure. Gets a new sub-frame, increased ground clearance to 200mm and a larger 14.5-litre fuel tank. Off-road kit includes 23mm USD adjustable front shock and a preload and rebound adjustable monoshock at the back. Expected price is Rs 3 lakh.

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