This week in Auto: MG Hector to be launched in June; Internet cars are the future

MG Hector SUV

Imagine starting the car and setting the temperature at the desired level despite being nowhere near the vehicle or giving the vehicle a wireless software update just like cell phones. Just about five years ago these features might have seemed like a scene for a sci-fi movie but they are closer to reality than expected. For an enriching and effortless experience of owning a car, auto companies are making them simpler and hassle-free by using technology. More on this later in the wrap of today. Here is a list of all the major automotive stories that made headlines during the week.

Bajaj Auto lines up 6 launches, profit rises 20 percent in Q4

Bajaj Auto the country’s third largest two-wheeler manufacturer will be launching around six models before November this year including models under the Swedish brand Husqvarna.

The Pune-based company also reported a net profit at Rs  1,408.49 crore in March 2019 up 19.82 percent from Rs 1,175.47 crore in March 2018.

BMW India set for 7 more launches in 2019

In 2018, BMW cut the lead of rival and market leader Mercedes. And in Q1 FY19, it continued to outpace the struggling German luxury behemoth, further narrowing the gap.

Hans-Christian Baertels, President (acting) and CFO, BMW India, said the carmaker has six more launches lined up for 2019.

BMW launches X5 priced at Rs 72.9 lakh

BMW, India’s second largest luxury car maker, launched the fourth generation X5 sports utility vehicle on May 16, with prices starting at Rs 72.9 lakh for the Sport variant and Rs 82.4 lakh for the xLine (ex-showroom).

Loaded with new features, the new X5 is slightly longer and wider than the outgoing model thanks to the new platform which it shares with the 5 Series and 7 Series sedans.

MG unveils Hector SUV, bookings and launch in June

Morris Garages (MG Motor) on May 15 unveiled the Hector sports utility vehicle (SUV),  which the SAIC-owned company said will make its India debut in June.

The mid-sized SUV will mark the global entry of the MG brand that has been revived by the Chinese heavyweight SAIC targeting the Indian market. Though actual prices will be revealed next month, the street is expecting the Hector to be priced starting at Rs 13 lakh.

Ceat, Apollo and MRF to invest Rs 5400 crore in FY20

The broader slowdown in automotive demand notwithstanding, tyre companies are making fresh investments in adding new manufacturing capacities and launching new products.

Though SIAM has predicted a muted growth for FY20 for most segments, tyre-making companies are still upbeat on volume outlook. This is because more than half of their production is routed to the after-market (replacement) section.

Suzuki, Toyota to extend partnership to sales, service learnings

Maruti Suzuki’s parent company Suzuki Motor Corporation and heavyweight Toyota could be looking to learn sales, marketing and service methods from each other to bolster their front-end set up as rivals gear up to challenge the duo.

Maruti’s ranking in 2018 in the same study slipped to the eighth position from the second position in 2017 and from the top position in 2016. In 2018, Toyota fared better than Maruti Suzuki with 827 points.

Internet cars of the future

Over the air updates, like the ones available for smartphones, for updating the software are not too many years into the future anymore. That revolutionary feature will become a reality next month when a defunct auto British brand with a Chinese heritage will make its way to a showroom near you.

But beating the Chinese will be a Korean which is due to launch an SUV on May 21 with almost similar features. Many more such companies have given such machines the power to be driven by computers, minimising the need for human interference.

The first step of experimentation towards having a ‘connected car’ is to have basic features such as real-time traffic intel, seamless streaming of audio/video content, vehicle diagnosis and report, remote engine start and climate control, emergency roadside assistance, immobilize vehicle just through a call to a call center in case of theft.

There are no less than 50 such features that a connected car can have which a normal day-to-day car of today misses out. And this is just the Phase 1 of the experiment that deals in ‘Vehicle to Infrastructure’.

In the next phase, when the technology is more widespread, there will be communication between two or more vehicles. To avoid accidents or ease traffic congestions vehicles may be able to talk to each other in the future. A connected car, for instance, may discourage the driver from overtaking a car in the front if it finds a speeding car is about to overtake them both in the next few seconds.

Perhaps even further into the world of connectivity will be with the pedestrian. Pedestrian accidents are one of the highest causes of road death in the world, especially in developing countries. With connected car technologies the vehicle can connect with the pedestrian’s smartphone automatically and put to alerts, perhaps both to the driver and the pedestrian.

The last leg of connectivity would be the connection of the vehicle with everything else. All internet-enabled systems and devices will be able to connect with the car for customized experience and needs. Scheduling an appointment with the service center, a visit to the dentist, booking an airline ticket or paying toll at the booth that is 5 km ahead, for a connected car this could become a reality not very far into the future.

But such en masse use of technology gives rise to cyber security exposing the chinks in the armour. There have been several cases of ethical hackers giving live demonstration of how a connected car which is only into its first phase can be manipulated. The controls of a hacked vehicle are no longer with the driver but with someone sitting thousands of kilometers away.


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