A host of new small cars jostled for attention Tuesday at the start of the Indian auto show, a showpiece event for compact vehicles in one of the world's fastest growing markets.
AutoExpo 2010, which began Tuesday and runs till Monday, is expected to be the biggest ever, featuring global releases of new models from the most famous names in the industry.
This year's show is the 10th, but it first caught the world's attention in 2008 when Indian manufacturer Tata Motors unveiled its Nano, the world's cheapest car that has since hit the road.
The 115,000-rupee ($2,500) Nano kick-started the race to produce cheap, small vehicles, which account for 80 percent of all car sales in India.
In a sign of India's attraction for foreign manufacturers, Japan's Toyota took the wraps off its first compact model designed especially for India.
Toyota Kirloskar Motor – the Indian unit of Japan's Toyota Motor – unveiled Tuesday the concept of its small car, Etios.
"With the introduction of the Etios we will enter the mass volume segment. We are looking at a sales volume of 70,000 (cars) in the first year," the Wall Street Journal quoted Hiroshi Nakagawa, managing director of Toyota Kirloskar, as saying.
"If you want to be a major player in India in the mass market, small cars are the way to go," said Jochem Heizmann, a member of Volkswagen Group's management board.
Recent months have seen foreign giants Ford, General Motors, Hyundai and Renault join a stampede to India, where each has promised a small, cheap model designed for what Ford boss Alan Mulally termed the "sweet spot" of the market.
India is Asia's third-largest car market after China and Japan, but what has excited manufacturers is the potential explosive growth in a country with a billion-plus population.