Then there’s San Motors in Goa that has been making two-seater sports convertibles since 2000. The two-door car powered by a 1.2 litre engine and priced just under 6 lakh hasn’t been too successful, with sales of just 2-3 units a month. Now the company is working on a more powerful two-seater convertible model.
San Motors, which sources engines from Renault and makes the body and panels in-house at its factory in Bangalore, also plans to set up dealerships countrywide to spur sales.
Shama Bothe sums up the fascination with such hot rods when she points out that crafting such cars is “more of a passion than a mainstream business”. Shama along with her German husband Guido Bothe has founded Chinkara Motors to build sport-based concept cars.
While the company had some initial funding hiccups, it is now working on launching a new roadster this year. Currently it retails a two-seater roadster based on the Lotus Super 7 at Rs 26 lakh. It’s built on order, customised, hand-crafted and has a minimum waiting period of five and a half months, says Bothe.
The company targets the roadsters at sports enthusiast and manages to sell 2-3 units a year. “India is not yet ready for mass-production of sports cars,” says Shama. A more pragmatic approach is the one of Premier, the maker of the iconic Padmini that faded away once new players arrived in the Indian car industry.
A year ago, Premier launched a mini sports utility vehicle (SUV) – the only one of its kind in the country.
“We follow a high outsourcing model and want to be viable at low volumes and a low investment,” says Premier Managing Director Maitreya Doshi. The Pune-based auto maker sources 35% of components from India and the balance from China at competitive prices.
The company has sold 2,000 Rios since launch, which is minuscule when you consider the entire utility vehicle market is around 300,000 units.
One of the most popular SUVs, the Mahindra Scorpio, sold 44,000 units in 2010-11. But then, as for all niche players, high volumes are not the name of the game. “In three years we do not intend to cross 15000-17,000 units,” says Doshi.