India auto news

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Smart driving shoes provide Bluetooth-connected haptic feedback [w/video]

08/05/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Tech, Videos, India

Lechal shoes by Ducere Technologies

A purist driver's car is all about the feedback it provides: what the front wheels are doing through the steering wheel, how the gears are meshing through the shift lever, how the brakes are gripping through the middle pedal, how much traction you have through the seat.... Generally electronic intervention (in the form of the latest drive-by-wire systems) only serve to numb that feedback, but here's a technology that could actually use vibrations to tell us more without having to take our eyes off the road.

The innovation is a vibrating shoe - or more specifically, a vibrating insole. Interfacing with the smartphone via Bluetooth, these smart insoles could have any number of applications - for runners, for the visually or audibly impaired, the elderly... but also the driver, racer and motorbike rider. A buzz on the left could prompt you to turn left, a buzz on the right to turn right. A pulse could prompt you to change gears, extended vibration to warn you of imminent danger.

The only limit would be how you'd interpret the different vibrations, but the possibilities are virtually endless, especially when combined with the vibrating seats being produced by the likes of General Motors and Mercedes-Benz that warn you if you're veering out of your lane and such. They could, in theory, even extend navigational guidance to show you how to get from your car to your specific destination, and guide you back to where you parked again, just like Google Glass.

Designed by Ducere Technologies in India, the Lechal rechargeable, water-resistant, washable smart-soles are set to go on sale (either on their own or in their custom-designed shoes pictured above) in the fall with prices running between $100 and $150.

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Tata to get Jaguar and Land Rover tech, platforms too?

07/22/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Tech, Jaguar, Land Rover, India, Tata

Tata Nano

Since buying Jaguar Land Rover, Indian automaker Tata has generally left its luxury arm's platforms and technology alone. However, those days might be gone. The two of them are gradually growing closer with coordinated development and rumors of shared platforms. And it looks like all of that work and money is finally going to pay off with an actual vehicle in the near future.

According to Australian website Drive, Tata wants to make its cars more attractive to buyers outside of India, and to do that the company knows it must improve quality. The Indian company is being careful, though, because it doesn't want to dilute the Jaguar or Land Rover brands with cheap models. "You're going to see in the future a lot of sharing of technologies and platforms over time, but you won't see a JLR with a Tata badge on it," said Darren Bowler, managing director of Tata's Australian distributor, to Drive.

According to Bowler, these future vehicles are already on the way. Tata and JLR have a global platform in the works for 2017 that both companies could use for cars or crossovers. He also hinted that Jaguar's new Ingenium engines could be shared among the brands in the future, too.

The latest pronouncements align rather closely with previous rumors. Earlier this year, reports emerged that Land Rover and Tata were considering a shared platform for the next-generation Freelander. The Landie would be aimed at its normal luxury, off-road market, and the other would be cheaper and more mainstream.

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Watch this Indian man carry a motorcycle up a ladder on his head

07/18/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Etc., Videos, Motorcycles, India

Indian Man carries motorcycle on his head

Sometimes the Internet provides a video so jaw-droppingly weird that it has to be shared. Just watch in stunned silence at the feats of strength and balance on display by this man in India as he hefts a motorcycle up a ladder while balancing the bike on his head. Yes, really.

It takes four men just to haul the bike onto his noggin, and the only thing between his head and the cycle's frame appears to be a small piece of wicker. Granted, it looks like a fairly low-displacement motorcycle, but it still has to weigh well over 100 pounds, and it'd be an uneven load at that. This guy must've had a mean headache or a throbbing back by the end of the day. Scroll down to watch the (grainy) video and see the guy as he makes this unusual labor look easy.

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Mahindra eying stake in Saab owner NEVS?

06/18/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Euro, Plants/Manufacturing, Saab, Earnings/Financials, India

2014 Saab 9-3

It's ironic that Saab's current vehicle architecture is called the Phoenix platform, because like the mythological bird, the company keeps returning from the ashes. That's right, the embattled Swedish automaker isn't completely dead yet. Again. Actually, it may be facing yet another buyout, and this time, the buyer may be from India.

Less than a month ago, the situation looked ominous for Saab. National Electric Vehicle Sweden, the carmaker's current owner, temporarily shut down 9-3 production at its Trollhättan factory not long after restarting it in the first place. According to Just Auto, it laid off about 100 consultants allegedly linked to problems making June payroll, as well. At the time, Saab claimed that the measures were temporary, and it was negotiating selling part ownership to another automaker.

Those assertions might have some truth behind them, it seems. Indian newspaper The Economic Times reports that Mahindra & Mahindra and an unnamed Asian automaker are negotiating with NEVS to purchase part of the company. It claims that the Indian automaker sees Saab as an opportunity to add a premium brand to its business.

Based on the past, the rumor certainly has an air of likelihood around it. Mahindra was rumored to be one of the bidders to buy Saab outright when it was previously for sale. Even after the purchase by NEVS, the Indian company was still mooted to be trying to develop cars with them. Clearly, it has had an interest in owning the Swedish carmaker for some time, but for the moment, it has refused to comment on the possibility of the deal to The Economic Times and Just Auto.

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Hindustan Ambassador production ceases after 56 years

06/02/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sedans/Saloons, Plants/Manufacturing, India

Hindustan Ambassador

The automotive industry moves at a pretty brisk pace. Old models are replaced by new ones, and new ones are replaced by even newer ones. But things don't always move so quickly in developing countries. In Brazil, for example, Volkswagen continued to produce the old Kombi van for 56 years with little modification until recently. And in India, the 1948 Morris Oxford has been in production as the Hindustan Ambassador since 1958. But that now looks to be drawing to a close as well.

The Ambassador is built in Kolkata by Hindustan Motors, the four-wheeled equivalent of Royal Enfield: an Indian company making old British vehicles pretty much the way they were designed decades ago. As its name suggests, it became a favorite of senior diplomats and government ministers, and also sees widespread use as a taxi cab. But though the Ambassador may have become an icon in India, sales have dropped dramatically over the years.

In the 1980s, Hindustan was reportedly selling around 24,000 Ambassadors each year, but last year it only sold 2,214 of them as state officials switched to more secure vehicles and private customers opted for more maneuverable, fuel-efficient and altogether more modern options - particularly as the government opened up the market to imports and foreign-supported joint ventures. Couple that with dropping discipline on part of Hindustan factory workers and growing debt, and it's little wonder that the company has shut down production.

For its part, Hindustan Motors hopes to get a handle on its debt and restart production at the factory in West Bengal, but as India modernizes and mobilizes at a rapid rate, it could be looking at the end of the long-lived Ambassador once and for all.

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Land Rover, Tata working on entry-level SUV for India?

04/09/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: SUVs, Land Rover, India, Tata, Rumormill

2013 Land Rover Freelander

Since Tata Motors bought Jaguar Land Rover in 2008, the companies have slowly begun working more closely together on development and production. However, they might be taking another big step because a recent report indicates that Land Rover and Tata may be working together on an SUV project for the Indian market.

According to the Economic Times, the two companies are working to create a five- to seven-passenger SUV based on a modified version of the platform from the Land Rover Freelander, known as the LR2 in other parts of the world. Mechanical development hasn't begun yet, but the project study is about to be concluded. The SUV could be on the road by 2016 or 2017 and would be targeted at a price of 2 to 2.5 million rupees ($33,209 to $41,511).

"The SUV is likely to be 50 to 85 percent different from the existing Freelander, but it will have the genes of a Land Rover with JLR quality," said an unnamed Jaguar Land Rover executive to the Economic Times.

It's even possible that the project could spawn two vehicles. The Tata SUV would be aimed at the mass market in India, while the Land Rover version would be a more premium vehicle. The team behind it claims that sharing large portion of the parts would keep the price of both vehicles down.

This might only be the first step in more joint projects among the automakers. According to a Tata executive speaking to the Times, it and Land Rover may also collaborate on a common engine in the future. With the Indian brand working to elevate its brand's stature in Asia, leaning on JLR for its experience may pay off. We've contacted Land Rover for more details, and we'll update this story when we hear back.

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Mumbai to combat excess honking with horns that notify police? [w/video]

03/30/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Government/Legal, India

Mumbai traffic

Mumbai, India is crowded and noisy. It should be, after all. It's the wealthiest and most populous city in India and the fifth largest city by population on the planet. This cocktail of demographics results in one big problem - traffic. While simply getting around can be tough enough, Indian drivers have developed the unfortunate habit of honking their horns. Often. At all hours of the day. And then at night. All the time.

The problem is so prevalent that manufacturers have started making louder, more durable horns for their cars. The result is, as you can hear in the video below, constant, incessant noise. To counteract this, teams across the city are working on systems that will curb the incessant honking. You can see Mayur Tekchandaney's Project Bleep, which uses a simple beeping, flashing light in the car to chide its honk-wild driver, in the video below. Another system comes from a group of engineers. Called the Oren Horn Usage Meter, it gives drivers a limited number of honks before the taillights start flashing. Police would then be able to ticket the offending drivers. Refilling the "honk allowance" would be as simple as refilling a pre-paid phone card, according to The Hindustan Times.

Both systems are being considered by the Mumbai government. Which would you prefer? How would you go about curbing the city's noise problem? Scroll down and watch the video from AFP, and then hop into Comments and let us know what you think.

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Toyota temporarily idles pair of Indian plants due to labor unrest

03/21/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Economy, Plants/Manufacturing, Toyota, UAW/Unions, India


The Detroit News reported today that Toyota will restart production at two Indian plants, following a shutdown on Monday.

Factory labor, management and police in Asia engage in the kind of violent altercations that we're not used to, having almost entirely walked away from the overtly brutal relations epitomized by the Pinkerton Detective Agency and the Flint Sit-Down Strike. In India, a plant owned by a Ford transmission supplier plant was shut down in 2009 after incidents between workers and armed men around the same time as Ssangyong workers occupied a factory in South Korea, in 2012 Suzuki Maruti workers rioted over wages around the same time upset employees beat a ceramics factory president to death in retaliation for a labor leader's killing.

Toyota is the latest to company trying to avoid that road. The Detroit Free Press reported earlier this week that it shut down two plants in India after 11 months of acrimonious wage negotiations and arbitration have gone nowhere. Toyota said the plant workers in Bidadi, near Bangalore, had deliberately stopped production at times over the past 45 days and threatened management. The workers said they wanted their wages raised by an amount already agreed to by management, but that management had reneged; news reports weren't clear on the amount, some saying nearly 10,000 rupees ($165 US) more per month, another saying 4,000 rupees ($65 US), but reports agree that Toyota has said it will only go as high as 3,050 rupees ($50 US).

Terms of today's resolution have not been released, but we do know that production will begin again on Monday, March 24.

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Reva unveils Halo EV, Formula E racer at New Delhi Auto Show

02/12/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: EV/Plug-in, India, Racing

Mahindra Reva Halo EV

Mahindra is being busy at the New Delhi Auto Show, unveiling two electric cars: the Mahindra Reva Halo EV concept sports car and the Mahindra Racing Formula E electric race car. If reports are to be believed, the Indian company wants to build the Halo as, well, a halo electric car for the brand. Reva could use it, since long-time electric vehicle fans will most likely associate the Reva name with the unloved G-Wiz.

The Halo looks light years ahead of the company's previous offerings (which also includes the E2O). Powered by an all-electric powertrain that can move the two-door "everyday sports car" to 62 miles per hour in under eight seconds and has a top speed of over 100 mph and a range of 124 miles, the Halo is compact and clean, with nice design touches like the bright red by the front wheels. A production version, which could come in early 2016, could also take the shape of a four-door sports car. Mahindra is promoting the Halo on social media using the HaloSelfie hashtag on Twitter and we've got two videos available below.

The Formula E racer, on the other hand, is the same all-electric Spark-Renault SRT_01E vehicle that we've seen before, but now it's gussied up in Mahindra livery. The 10-city global EV race series starts in September.

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Official: Renault Kwid concept eyes India's youth market [w/videos]

02/06/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Concept Cars, Economy, Hybrids/Alternative, Crossovers/CUVs, Misc. Auto Shows, Renault, India

Renault Kwid Concept

The 2014 New Dehli Auto Expo is turning into a big show for tiny crossovers. Chevrolet showed off its Adra Concept, and here is Renault's quirky little Kwid Concept. In a great example of how important the Indian market is becoming, this is the first concept the French company has ever debuted outside of Europe.

Despite its awkward name, the Kwid is aimed at young, Indian buyers who want to a cheap, fun car tailored for India's roads. It has a chunky, compact design with short overhangs to make it look ready to go off-road. However, you would not want to go too far off road - for this concept, Renault installed a front-wheel drive, 1.2-liter turbocharged engine with a dual-clutch transmission and a plug-in charging port behind the Renault logo in the front.

The interior is inspired by a bird's nest with overlapping straps to form the bench seat in the front. The driver sits in the center with a passenger on either side, and two can sit in the rear. The gauges are replaced by a TFT touchscreen.

The concept does have one major gimmick - a drone hidden in the roof that can be piloted from inside the car. It is controlled on the tablet to the left of the steering wheel, and while the feature would likely never make it into the production car, it is a neat way of keeping an eye on traffic jams.

Renault is not even hinting about whether the Kwid will go into production, but it shows that emerging markets are becoming a major focus. Scroll down to check out three videos of the Kwid and the full press release.

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