Indian Car Manufacturers with the strongest & weakest line-ups

Over the years we’ve seen the SUV segment get split into different sections and Tata has made sure that they have a product in each category.

The Indian car market is known to be diverse and even unpredictable at times. Many manufacturers struggle to get the right products to the market and end up incurring losses. Some manufacturers always have a hand on the pulse and can predict which product would work well and they reap the rewards. A balanced product lineup is extremely important for the Indian market and that’s what we’ll be discussing. Let's focus on the car manufacturers with the strongest and weakest lineup currently in India. Here’s my choice –

Strongest lineup

My vote goes to Tata Motors. In the past few years, Tata Motors has reinvented itself and brought in exciting new products that have been well-appreciated by the audience. Tata has been in a close battle with Hyundai for the #2 position in the Indian car market. Both these manufacturers are evenly matched and have some good cars in their portfolio. But I still think given the current scenario, Tata Motors has a more balanced and diverse portfolio. Here’s why.

Affordable Electric Vehicles: Tata’s EV portfolio is what sets it apart and, in a way, gives it an edge over its competitors. As of now, Tata has 4 EVs on sale – the Tiago EV, Tigor EV, Punch EV and the Nexon EV. This is more than any other manufacturer in the mass market segment. Moreover, there are a few more EVs that will be launched by next year, namely, Altroz EV, Harrier EV, Curvv EV and Sierra EV. These upcoming launches will further strengthen Tata’s monopoly in the EV market.

Diverse SUV portfolio: Over the years we’ve seen the SUV segment get split into different sections and Tata has made sure that they have a product in each category. The Punch is one of the most affordable SUVs and was also one of the highest-selling cars in India. Then you have the Nexon which is also a strong seller in the sub-4m SUV category. The Harrier and Safari also bring in good numbers and are crowd favourites despite not having a petrol engine or AWD.

Steady performers: The small cars in Tata’s portfolio like the Tiago, Tigor and Altroz may not be leading in the sales charts, but they are steady performers. They are also preferred in the lower segments thanks to their good safety ratings.

Multiple powertrains: The Harrier and Safari are offered with the fiat-sourced 2.0L diesel engine with manual (6MT) and automatic transmission (6AT) options. The Nexon gets a 1.2L turbo petrol engine with 3 transmission options – 6-speed MT, 6-speed AMT and 7-speed DCT. You also have a 1.5L diesel engine that’s offered with a 6-speed MT and a 6-speed AMT. The Altroz gets 3 engine options – a 1.2L naturally aspirated petrol (5-speed MT and 6-speed DCT), 1.2L turbo-charged petrol (5-speed MT) and a 1.5L diesel engine (5-speed MT). The Tiago, Tigor and Punch share the 1.2L naturally aspirated petrol engine which is offered with a 5-speed MT and AMT.

Apart from all these powertrains, Tata has also focused on CNG powertrains that are being appreciated by the customers. A key highlight of Tata CNG models is the twin-cylinder setup that frees up some space in the boot. Then recently, Tata also launched the CNG option with the Tiago and Tigor AMT making it the first of its kind. Of course, there are still some blanks to be filled in the lineup, but overall buyers have a wide range to choose from.

Wide price bracket: Another key aspect of the Tata lineup is the price range that it covers. The most affordable Tata car you can buy is the Tiago which starts at Rs. 5.65 lakh (ex-showroom). The Tata Safari which is the flagship model for Tata for now retails at Rs. 27.34 lakh (ex-showroom). This itself shows you that there’s something for everyone in this wide price range.

Weakest lineup

As much as it hurts, I have to say it’s Honda Cars India. Especially when you know what the company was at one point in time. Honda once had a very strong lineup of cars which were exciting and were bringing in good numbers for the company as well. Cars like the City, Civic, Accord and even the CR-V have a legit fan following.

However, today’s Honda is a shadow of its former self. Average monthly sales of Honda (all cars combined) are ~7,000 units which is half of what the Tata Nexon sells in a month. Look closely and it’s only the Elevate that’s doing decent numbers. The sales graph shows a downward trend for both City & Amaze with year-on-year drops of 58% and 33% respectively (March 2023-24). At this point, Honda has become a one-trick pony and needs to completely rethink their strategy for India to get out of the slump. Here are some of the reasons why I think things aren’t working out for Honda -

Not many SUVs in the portfolio: In today’s day and age, SUVs are everything. Not just in India, but globally as well. Even Ferrari, Lamborghini and Aston Martin have come out with SUVs. And Honda currently has just the one that was launched last year – Elevate. The crossover from Honda is a good product no doubt. But while it’s doing well for itself, the sales numbers have pretty much flatlined.

No global products for India: As of now, Honda doesn’t have a proper premium offering in their lineup. Honda has decent cars globally, but none of those have made it to India. Cars like the Civic, Accord, HR-V, CR-V and ZR-V are part of Honda’s global portfolio and could help the brand’s image in India.

Lack of powertrains: Honda has good hybrid options internationally, but those haven’t made it to India. We only get the City hybrid, but that’s also out of reach for most buyers. Also, most recently, Honda announced that the City Hybrid will be available in only one top-end trim. Apart from this, you have a 1.2-litre petrol engine on the Amaze and a 1.5 L i-VTEC petrol engine on the City and Elevate. The lack of a diesel engine further hampers the sales.

No electric vehicles: Honda's focus globally has been on hybrid cars. However given the wide acceptance of EVs in India, Honda should've brought in an EV from their international portfolio to get some boost in sales. In fact, the Honda e:Ny1 which is essentially a Chinese EV (Dongfeng) would've been a perfect car for India. It's about the same size as an Elevate and would just hit the sweet spot in the Indian EV market.

What do you think? Which manufacturer has the strongest lineup in India and who has the weakest? And why?

Here's what BHPian theAutomaniac had to say on the matter:

As of now I think I'll agree that Tata has a really strong lineup. With Curvv and Sierra coming, the 4.3m SUV segment should also be covered.

Won't agree with Honda though. Yes the portfolio is weak, but at least it is enough to survive! Look at Nissan, Citroen, and Jeep, and you'll realize that the weak portfolio bar is really low.

Coming back to the strongest portfolio, I think Maruti will snatch back the strongest portfolio badge from Tata.

Tata lacks severely in budget cars with only one option. Secondly, the lack of hybrids is a major hindrance with Tata. With the EVX, EWX, and E-MPV coming by 2026, Maruti will have enough options for CNG, Petrol, and Electric cars, and will have 3 different type of hybrid techs in their portfolio! One for every budget.

What Tata also lacks in, is the lack of a lifestyle product like the Jimny, or a no-nonsense product like the Ciaz, and I don't see them filling out these gaps anytime soon.

Maruti surely has a strong future lineup, that is stronger than Tata's lineup. One area where I would like to see Maruti improve though, is in driver-focused cars. Fronx is a great handling car with a turbo engine, but that honestly isn't enough. Hoping for the Fronx to get a higher state of tune in the future, and also hoping that the K14 Boosterjet makes its India debut sometime soon.

Here's what BHPian Noctis had to say on the matter:

While the strongest lineup is debatable (I would put Tata/Hyundai there), surely the weakest one at the moment has to be Nissan.

I mean Nissan's portfolio right now is literally just Magnite! Every now and then they keep showing new models they plan to introduce to India, but at this point it feels more like a marketing ploy than a serious effort.

Honda has at least found a profitable niche here, although it's disappointing how little of the global portfolio we are getting.

Here's what BHPian shresan23 had to say on the matter:

I voted for Maruti after some deliberation.

Think about it. The world has moved on to turbo petrols and sporty cars. Maruti has no proper SUV, no proper Turbo Petrol or Diesel.

Yet, it is standing. It has some of the weakest entrants in the market that unsurpisingly eat up the competition even today.

Maruti is horribly placed in my opinion. Yet, they have market share. Enough and more, to scare the others from entering one segment that is still Maruti's fort.

When was the last time any of the others launched a proper small size family car?

They know they cannot keep up with the strength of Maruti.

These are my ten cents on the subject.

Read BHPian comments for more insights and information.

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