MG Motor India on Wednesday marked its entry into the highly competitive mid-sized SUV segment in the country, with the unveiling of its all-new model -- MG Astor.
The model, which comes with a personal AI assistant and first-in-segment Autonomous (Level 2) technology, would compete with the likes of Hyundai Creta, Kia Seltos and Skoda Kushaq.
Astor is based on the MG's successful global platform, ZS and comes with two engine options - the Brit Dynamic 220 TURBO petrol engine with a six-speed AT (automatic) delivering a 140ps of power and VTi Tech petrol engine with a manual transmission and an eight-speed CVT, delivering 110ps of power.
The five-seater mid-size model would be on display at MG showrooms from September 19, and bookings will start soon thereafter.
"The segment is highly competitive and that is why we needed to differentiate; and from that perspective, we have tried to come out with a very very compelling offering where we have many industry-first, segment-first features. The car is loaded, the car is powerful, the design is expressive," MG Motor India President and Managing Director Rajeev Chaba told PTI.
With its elegant exteriors, luxurious interiors and futuristic technology, the company believes that Astor is a desirable package that will strike a chord with the customers, he added.
MG Astor's personal AI assistant depicts human-like emotions and voice.
The Paralympic athlete Deepa Malik has lent her voice to the personal AI assistant, thereby humanising the experience.
The AI technology in Astor is developed around MG's vision of car-as-a-platform (CAAP) of possibilities, which will enable the users to personalise the services as per their requirements.
The SUV has a personal AI assistant robot on its dashboard which can give detailed information on every topic through Wikipedia.
The automaker has partnered with Bosch for ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems) in Astor.
AI technology, six radars and five cameras equip the SUV to manage 14 advanced Autonomous Level 2 features.
It also has 27 standard safety features like ESP (electronic stability program), TCS (traction control system) and HDC (hill descent control).
Other features include six airbags, six-way power-adjustable driver seats, electric parking brake, heated ORVM, rain-sensing wiper, PM 2.5 filter, panoramic sky roof, rear AC vent and front and rear armrest,10.1-inch HD infotainment system and full digital cluster with 7-inch embedded LCD screen.
Chaba said the prices of the model and delivery date would be announced in the next two-three weeks.
He noted that the model has around 60 per cent of local content and the company is targeting to take it up to 80 per cent in the next two years.
When asked about sales expectations from the new model, he noted, "In the remaining months of this year, it is the question of really how much we can supply because of chip shortage and due to shipping issues. Post normalisation period, when chip shortage is not there then in that case it would be guided by our plant capacity." He added that the company's facility in Halol, Gujarat, can do 7,000-8,000 units per month all models put together. "That would decide our volumes for Astor." Chaba said the company is already in the process of investing capital to enhance the production capacity at the Halol plant.
"We will take the production capacity there to one lakh units by the end of this year from around 60,000 or 70,000 units currently. After reaching that level, we would review how much more we need," he stated.
When asked about the reason for not having diesel trims in Astor range, Chaba noted that the decision is influenced by strict regulation norms coming into play with effect from 2023.
"Diesel we need to see from a long term perspective. In 2023 RDE (real driving emission) norms are coming. Diesel vehicle sales are going down substantially every year. After RDE prices of diesel cars would go up further thus reducing the sales in the segment further," he stated.
On the sales network, Chaba said the company plans to have 300 touch points across the top-100 cities in the country by the end of this year.