5 Hot Cars -- in India

MUMBAI ( TheStreet) -- India loves small cars -- very small cars -- and automakers love India.

Small cars account for nearly three-quarter of auto sales in India, where a lot of the competition is provided by two-wheeled vehicles.

What automakers love are the bodacious growth opportunities.

For instance, auto sales in India in 2009 totaled 1.43 million, or about a tenth of the total in China. Another favorite stat: Just 11 out of every 1,000 people in India own a car.

Among the companies poised to grow is Ford ( F), which holds just a 1.4% market share there.

So it's not surprising that Ford recently reported a 237% sales increase in India from April through September, the first half of the current financial year. Ford sales totaled 47,902 vehicles. The company is benefitting from sales of its Figo, launched in March. In September, Ford India sales rose 146% to 8,380 vehicles.

Meanwhile, General Motors, whose Chevrolet brand has been in India for seven years, said its September sales rose 13% to 8,617 units, led by 2,730 Chevrolet Beats. Its Chevrolet Cruze sold 847 units.

Read on for the five best-selling vehicles in India, in terms of sales through August, as compiled by J.D. Power.

No. 5: Tata Indica

Units sold: 77,212

Launched in 1998, the Indica was Tata Motor's entry into the passenger car business. At the time, "it was the only Indian-made model that offered options like air-conditioning and electric windows," said Ammar Master, J.D. Power's senior market analyst for India. "Those options were available only with high-end imported cars at the time."

The Indica has been restyled several times. The latest version, bigger than its predecessors, is the Indica X1, called the Vista, introduced in September 2008. Buyers can choose between three engine options.

No. 4: Maruti-Suzuki Swift

Units sold: 93,890

A product of a joint venture between Indian and Japanese companies, the Swift was introduced in 2005, but was quickly replaced by a new generation vehicle in December 2006.

The diesel version was followed by the 1.2L petrol in January 2010. It sported the new K12M engine. The third generation Swift is expected to arrive in India later this year.

No 3: Maruti-Suzuki Wagon R

Units sold: 95,152

The Wagon R was also launched in 2000; it received a facelift in 2004.

The next generation Wagon R (Wagon R Plus in other markets) came out in April 2010, powered by the 1.0L K Series engine. This model could also get the 1.3L diesel engine, which is made by Maruti Suzuki in India and is essentially the Fiat Multijet engine.

No. 2: Hyundai i10

Units sold: 104,210

The Hyundai i10 made its international debut in India in November 2007. Manufactured in India, it is exported to about 100 countries. "Hyundai plans to upgrade the model in late 2010, which should help it face increased competition from new models like the Ford Figo, Volkswagen Polo and Nissan Micra," Master said.

The i10 is powered by a 1.1L petrol engine. Hyundai India rolled out a new variant powered by the new 1.2L Kappa engine in July 2008. The model is made along with the Santro SA, which is produced at Hyundai's second plant in Sriperambudur, Chennai.

No. 1: Maruti-Suzuki Alto

Units sold: 178,877

India's market share leader, Maruti Suzuki, manufactures India's best-selling car, the Alto, at its Manesar plant in northern India. The model was first launched in 2000.

Maruti Suzuki launched a new version of the Alto with the more modern 1.0L K Series petrol engine along with a CNG version in August 2010. "We expect the next generation model to come out by next year," said Master.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

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