Not just Indians, but youngsters all around the world are heavily engrossed in their smartphones. And why won't they be? Practically, almost anything and everything can now be bought or sold or controlled or operated via an app on a smartphone. People are even making a living out of these apps. Naturally, car manufacturers also had to cash-in on this app-ortunity to get the millennial interested in their cars which, although cant be driven via the app (not yet) but one can control and operate several features.
The first one to do so, and that to with many tricks up its sleeve, is a newbie on the Indian shores. Namaste, Morris Garages! Also more famously known as MG, the British firm came prepared. How I say? First of all, the product. Its an SUV! The world is seeing a sudden spike in an interest over SUVs. This particular car type is selling like hot cupcakes and what better way to enter a new market than to bring a product that people already like and prefer over anything else.
Enter the Hector. MG recently unveiled their first product for the Indian consumers, which would be going on sale in a couple of months. With the expected price range to be around the Rs15-20 lac mark, it would be competing against the likes of Tata Harrier and the Jeep Compass. At launch, the Hector would be available in two power states - a 1.5L turbo-petrol engine delivering 143PS (about 141HP) along with 250 Nm of torque and a 2.0L diesel mill putting out 170 PS (around 167HP) at a peak torque of 350 Nm. MG claims the latter of featuring the best-in-class mileage as well. Both automatic and manual transmissions would be available, albeit only in select variants.
All that is fine. However, the places where the Hector does set itself apart, and rather in a more technological direction, are: a 48V Hybrid inclusion and the concept of a 'Smart'/connected car. Touting itself as 'The Internet car', the Hector brings the convenience of operating about 50 features of the car via a smartphone app. Operations like, turning the car's AC on/off from a distance, opening or closing the sunroof, (the obvious) locking/unlocking the doors can be performed remotely. In case you forgot where you parked your car, the app is capable of providing you with walking directions to it, along with making the car honk or flash its lights to make itself visible in a crowd. Convenient!
In case, you live in a colony where cars gets stolen more frequently than a powercut, not to worry - you can track your vehicle on the app while the thief is driving it away and pin the location with the help of the police and recover it. Further emphasis on car security via the app includes, Vehicle Status Check (check if doors/sunroof is open), Tyre Pressure Check, Vehicle Security Alarm (app throws an alarm/notification in case of any abnormal door opening or ignition on). You can even set a Geofence Limit (upto 100 kms) along with a Vehicle Speed Alert which would trigger an alarm in case the car travels beyond it.
Basic information like total distance run, fuel range, current fuel level as well as driver analytics like harsh braking, idle running time, drive time or routes taken by the driver can all be recorded and seen on the 'iSmart' app. A more interesting feature which millennials would use much often and rather enjoy is the ability to plan a trip on your phone and then, send the same to the car's infotainment screen. Now thats smart!
While on the subject on infotainment screen, the Hector carries a huge and Volvo-esque 10.4-inch touchscreen, sitting bang in the middle of the dashboard. Collaborations with companies like TomTom, Gaana and Airtel means the touchscreen carries the capability of real-time navigation, a nearby search function, route planning and traffic overviews. Saying "Hello MG" activates the voice commands which allows you to operate features like Air-con or Sunroof.
In terms of tech, there's a lot to look forward to but where the MG will have to stand out, is the after sales reliability. To impress the Indian customers, especially when its a new brand, not only the product should be nice, but the after sales services should also be, well above par. We'll have to wait and see how rapidly MG ramps up its dealerships and service station networks across the country, to gain a profitable market share in the subcontinent.