II SAT 16 HOURS ON A plane this month to attend my first motor show in North America and I can report that there is nothing much to report, except that the runners-up in the World Car of the Year awards presented at the show (A4 and GLC) are India bound. Unlike Europe or Japan there’s very, very little connect between India and the USA, after all, the best-selling vehicle in America for the past 34 years is the Ford F-Series pickup. That’s like us switching over from Altos to Xenons! Last year alone, Ford shifted over 7,80,000 of these F-Series trucks, despite a slowdown as they struggled with aluminum construction and down-sized turbocharged engines. Meanwhile the likes of Chevy, GMC, Dodge, even Toyota and Nissan continue with massive V8 motors, and they’re housed in trucks and sport-utes that are both incredibly large and incredibly cool looking (while being rather average to drive, I tried them out). Heck only in America will you see eco tags on 5-litre V8s; and only in America is the Corolla a compact and the Camry carries a mid-size tag!
No connect then, and we’re not missing out on anything – except for those all-American muscle cars. Big, gurgly, low-tech V8s lighting up the rear tyres and wrapped up in insanely desirable bodywork. Stick them against a German sports car – a TT, Z4 or Boxster – and they won’t stand a chance but that’d be missing the point entirely. In their own way – the noise, the way the nose lifts when you accelerate hard, the devotion to quarter mile times and that overwhelming muscle-car feel – these cars are damn good fun, and when they start at under the equivalent of 20 lakh rupees you will forgive the plasticky interior and lack of polish. At least we will be getting the Mustang later this year (though sadly, not the cheapest but the most expensive and lavishly equipped pony car) but why doesn’t Chevrolet, who tease us at every Auto Expo, seriously look at the Camaro and Corvette to revive their brand name and image? Homologate Bumblebee, price it under 50 lakh rupees and everybody will be happy. Ah well…
Other thoughts from my two weeks driving around New York and Washington? America is a great place to drive. Sure the motorways are arrow straight but get off them and there are lovely roads passing through fabulous countryside that you can stretch a V8 on. Americans also love their cars, especially their V8s, and with an appropriately large and gurgly V8 in the GLE 63 AMG Coupe (which is made in America), I had people nodding in agreement and even the cops in our West New York neighborhood coming over for a (friendly) chat. We probably looked like a bunch of Silicon Valley nerds who sold our start-up to Google! Yet for all their love for gas-guzzlers, America is right now at the forefront of electrification. I was in Washington when Elon Musk announced the Tesla Model 3 and in the accompanying frenzy, my uncle threw down 1000 dollars to book one, even though he had only seen pictures of the car. Tesla is now the Apple of the car world making cool, sexy cars that can go very fast – the Model X has falcon-wing doors; the Model S in Ludicrous mode (yes, that’s what it is called!) can outrun an Aventador on a drag strip. More Americans want a Tesla than a Camaro. And by the way things are going, we might get the Model 3 in India before the Camaro.