India’s Influence on the Automobile Market

Much of the world’s automotive industry development and news has historically been driven (no pun intended!) by the US auto industry. After all, it was the Americans who revolutionised mass production of the car, built their nation and economy on a modern highway system, and made the car a solid character in family and pop culture.

The phrase ‘Go West, young man!’ has its roots in 19th-century American pioneering history. Despite its rather uncomfortable heritage in Manifest Destiny, the phrase could just as easily be re-purposed to suit the Westward economic migration seen in the America of the post-depression era and again, following WWII.

The rapid development of the famous Route 66 and similar trans-national road networks supported a new era of mobility and liberation, as individuals and entire families sought new lives free from difficult back stories or financial pressures. The rise of manufacturing, industry, television and consumerism in the USA of the 1950s led to America pretty well sitting behind the wheel when it came to the future of the car.

Much of this has changed, however. The wave of integration that saw both automakers and parts suppliers around the world acquired by the US ‘Big Three’ (GM, Ford and Chrysler) has largely stopped. Today, industrial groups based in Asia are expanding their global footprints with stakes in car companies around the world.

Recently, India’s Mahindra group, a massive industrial conglomerate with operations in 30 nations, took control of Korea’s Ssanygong, (Ssangyong Rodius being the 7-Seater). A strategy to introduce some of Ssanyong’s vehicles into India has already kicked off, though it remains to be seen when the bigger seven-seat models will make their debut under new ownership.

But acquisitions are not the only trend developing out of India’s increasingly important role in the global economy. Increasingly, we will see automotive trends in the Indian domestic market having an effect on motorists in other parts of the world.

Eventually, we may even see India’s car business driving developments in the world’s social, entertainment and pop cultures. After all, the domestic Indian film business, known as Bollywood, has long been the biggest self-supporting cinema industry in the world, outside Hollywood.

Even the ‘self-supporting’ condition of this statement is likely to change. Bollywood products sell to a rapidly-expanding global audience, so it is not completely unrealistic to ask if the famous ‘H’ in the hills above Los Angeles might one day be swapped for a ‘B’.

Maruti Suziki

** Maruti Suziki **

Meanwhile, back in India, Maruti Suzuki announced recently that it was to start selling a seven-seat family car in the domestic market. The announcement, issued last year, heralds the creation of a new market segment in the Indian automotive industry.

Elsewhere, discussion was kicked off in India by speculation that Ford would build an extended seven-seat model on the Fiesta platform. Indian pundits even developed artists’ impressions of what such a vehicle might look like.

At the moment, such journalistic wonderings remain just that - wonderings. In the future, the needs of Indian drivers, the views of car-crazy India teens and the views of Indian journalists could very well become significant forces in the global world of car design and marketing.

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