NEW DELHI - Global car manufacturers jostled for attention at the opening of the Indian Auto Expo Wednesday, attempting to revive buyers' interest in a local market that is contracting for the first time in a decade.
The giant show on the outskirts of the capital will be used to launch 69 new vehicles for the Indian market, which local and foreign carmakers still see as a future growth center despite its present-day woes.
"The first month of 2014 did not witness any improvement in the overall industry performance and the situation remains subdued," said Pravin Shah, head of the auto division of Indian manufacturer Mahindra.
"We hope the Auto Expo, which will showcase new products and technology, will provide a trigger in giving a much needed boost to the auto industry and overall sentiment," he added.
Last year, car sales fell nearly 10% on an annual basis, the first fall in 11 years, and few see the prospect of a turnaround before national elections due by the end of May.
Sales have been hit by a combination of slowing economic growth, high interest rates, rising fuel prices and low consumer confidence.
"We have no concern in the long term as incomes increase," said head of commercial vehicles at Tata Motors, Ravi Pisharody. "The long term will be strong.... (but) there are uncertainties until elections."
Despite a decade of often double-digit growth in annual sales, India counts just 16 cars per 1,000 inhabitants, compared with 39 in China or 1,000 in the United States, according to industry figures.
And while the general car market is contracting, the top end dominated by Western luxury brands is still growing strongly, analysts say.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014