How India could play a key role in the future of cars in Australia | Opinion – Automotive News

When General Motors closed Holden in 2020, it was clear that one of the major factors was the cost and complexity of building right-hand drive vehicles for a relatively small market.

This remains, arguably, the most important reason why we miss out on cars that would otherwise seem fine locally – Ford Bronco, Toyota Tundra, Cadillac CT5-V and Chevrolet Tahoe, to name a few.

It should come as no surprise though, the vast majority of the world drives on the other side of the road. About 70%, including the largest markets of the United States and China, drive on the right side of the road.

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Above all, this list also includes other major car producers, such as Europe and South Korea. Which means the priority for brands based in these markets is, and always will be, left-hand drive vehicles.

The saving grace for Australia has always been the Japanese and British car industries, which are right-hand drive markets and have therefore always provided a steady stream of cars. But these are also major markets that have forced other brands to invest by putting the steering wheel on the other side of the car.

But Holden’s demise, coupled with GM’s decision to sell its entire European operations, including Britain’s Vauxhall, suggested that in times of economic peril, right-hand drive cars could be the first sacrifices granted to other brands.

What a small market like Australia needs are allies in right-hand drive vehicles – and preferably a new emerging market with huge growth potential.

Which brings us to India.

The country is still dominated by two-wheeled transport, with only about 15% of new vehicles purchased each year being private vehicles. However, car sales are picking up again after a pandemic-induced slowdown, continuing a trend that economists and auto industry management have been expecting for years.

India has had a growing middle class for more than a decade, which has led to increased demand for cars and SUVs for private use. Since India is the second most populous country on the planet, behind China, there is huge potential for India to become a major player in the automotive world in general, but for right-hand drive vehicles especially.

Currently, the market is concentrated around small affordable vehicles which put Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai and Tata at the top of sales. But as the middle class grows and the market matures, expect to see this evolve and potentially influence the types of cars we get in Australia.

If more brands think they can succeed in the Indian market, this will inevitably lead to more right-hand drive vehicles. We’ve seen it in Australia before, with the Ford EcoSport designed primarily for the Indian market – and manufactured there – but arriving in time for the compact SUV craze to start here.

Although not a commercial success in either market, it demonstrates the potential of the Indian market to take the lead in products that would likely land here in Australia.

And this is just one example. India has also become a major player in the automotive industry in other ways, including the purchase of Jaguar Land Rover by Tata Motors in 2008. This was seen by many industry insiders as a watershed moment. , with a classic brand coming under the control of a highly successful Indian brand – a country that until then had limited interests in the global market.

These days, several Indian brands have a growing global footprint, including Mahindra & Mahindra which sells its range of utility and SUVs in Australia – albeit in limited numbers at the moment.

A major problem to overcome is the different standards that cars in the Indian market are held to compared to the rest of the world. Because this is a developing automotive market and many buyers are switching from a motorcycle to a car for the first time, safety standards and expectations are not at the same level for markets more established like Australia.

So there is potential here for both parties to help each other. As India’s new car industry grows over the next decade, we can hope that demands from other right-hand drive markets such as Australia will compel automakers to not only produce more models to right-hand drive, but also safer models.

Although they are obviously very different countries, there is no reason to think that India cannot benefit from the same type of growth – both economic and automotive – that China has enjoyed over the past of the last decades.

And if that happens, right-hand drive cars could go from being “too hard on the basket” for brands like General Motors to just being too big to ignore…

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