1-STOP APPROVALS, OTHER CONCESSIONS AIMED AT LURING AUTOMAKERS TO INDIA

1-STOP APPROVALS, OTHER CONCESSIONS AIMED AT LURING AUTOMAKERS TO INDIA

Foreign-backed auto manufacturers in India should get out of the driveway faster with one-stop clearance of proposals, now being promised by the government.

The government will also give financial and other concessions to automakers if they export cars from India, said Industry Minister K. Karunakaran, just back from a visit to Germany and Italy.European car manufacturers, including Fiat SpA, Mercedes-Benz AG, Volkswagen AG, BMW and the Opel division of General Motors Corp., as well as parts producers said they were interested in setting up in India, Mr. Karunakaran said.

The unit cost of production here would be lower than in Europe, and this would make Indian-produced cars more competitive in the international market.

India's automobile industry was dominated until 1983 by Hindustan Motors Ltd., which makes a 40-year-old derivative of Britain's Morris Minor, and Premier Automobiles Ltd., with a 30-year-old Fiat model.

The entry of Suzuki Motor Co. of Japan changed the scene dramatically, bringing new technology to the country.

Suzuki, through its state-owned associate Maruti Udyog Ltd., introduced a minicar with engine of 800 cubic centimeters. It quickly became popular and was followed by bigger models.

Suzuki cars dominate the market with a 75 percent share, but that could change soon.

In 1991, the government liberalized car manufacturing as part of its economic reforms and opened the sector to overseas companies. Britain's Rover, now part of BMW, was first through the door.

A new model from Daewoo Motor Co. of South Korea is now cruising Indian roads. The Peugeot 309 from France and Mercedes 220E will soon hit the market.

American carmakers are not far behind.

The Opel Astra will shortly be manufactured here. Ford Motor Co. and its Indian partner, Mahindra & Mahindra, are studying which model to introduce.

Fiat and Volkswagen also have tied up with Indian companies. Other interested manufacturers include Honda Motor Co., Chrysler Corp., Volvo AB of Sweden and France's Renault.

India's car market is still small compared with other countries', but growing incomes in its middle class - estimated at 200 million people, or nearly a quarter of the population - could change that.

In 1981, there were only about 1 million cars on Indian roads. The Association of Indian Automobile Manufacturers has projected demand of 850,000 cars a year by 2000.