Thursday, November 23, 2006

Convertible cars: The new road-beauties

Domestic auto market has in recent years witnessed a smooth growth but it is still virgin for the sporty convertible cars. These sleek, stylish and trendy head-turners are slowly luring the Nepali auto-buffs. It is evident from the fact that until a year ago, there were only a couple of convertible cars on the Kathmandu roads. But today, the numbers of these road-beauties are increasing, if not by leaps and bounds.
“The sale of convertible cars is still very low,” says Prabal Saakha, director, Saakha & Company Pvt Ltd, the authorised agent of San Motors that has launched convertible cars officially in Nepal last February.
Convertibles generally have a sportier performance than other cars, with good acceleration. The engines are revvy, giving maximum power at high revs, with engine sizes typically in the range of 1.8 litres to 3.5 litres.
Almost all the major car manufacturers like BMW, Peugot and Aston Martin have convertibles. But among them those plying on Kathmandu roads are from San Motors, which is designed by Gerard Godfroy, developed by Christopher Bhir and engineered by Phillip Beloon and Le Mans design Group, the people who has also designed Aston Martin and Peugot also. San Motors began its life to produce contemporary, exclusive and stunning cars that showcase creative excellence, claims the company.
“Convertibles are the ultimate fun cars,” says Saakha. “These beautiful machines are not for first-time buyers. After all not a single new-car buyers opt for convertibles and there are good reasons why. Even though those of us who love convertibles do our best to ignore them,” adds, Saakha, a proud owner of an occasionally driven garage queen.
Lack of interest in these fun cars might also be due to the varying needs and driving habits of the Nepalis. In general, buying a convertible car means bringing an excitement back to one’s driving experience.
But before buying a car every buyer asks, “Do I want a car just for fun or commuting?” As these open top cars have less room for occupants and luggage, the buyer might opt for other similar-sized family cars.
There is yet another reason why convertibles aren’t getting much respect. The vast majority of Nepalis would rather be encapsulated in a silent, climate-controlled, rolling den than be out in the open, assaulted by every loud noise, passing dusty clouds and quirk of the weather that a journey might bring. After all convertibles can be no fun in a hot traffic jam or amid diesel fumes on the crowded Kathmandu roads.
“This is the one section, which, unlike others, has less but quality customers,” adds Saakha. And there are no growth targets either like any other brands in the market. After all, convertibles are rolling compromises and compared with solid-roofed cars, they are less weather- and noise-tight and not as structurally strong. “Convertible car is an ultimate driving satisfaction for the driving pleasure seekers,” says Saakha adding that these rolling beauties are not expensive, if not affordable, but it must suit one’s life-style rather than pocket, as today buying a car is not an inaccessible dream for a middle class Nepali.
One can buy a convertible at Rs 1.625 million, which is in the range of any other car in the market. “But a passionate auto-lover only buys convertible.”