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Vintage cars at the 2010 Auto Expo prices & reviews 

India's tenth Auto Expo started Tuesday and is already triggering traffic jams as car, truck, motorcycle and parts makers and their increasingly savvy Indian consumers converge on New Delhi's Pragati Maidan.

India's first Auto Expo was back in 1986. With few models allowed on the roads and little international interest in India, the next one wasn't held until seven years later. Today - as India has become one of the world's few remaining high-growth markets and is on the way to becoming an export hub for small, inexpensive car - this year's Auto Expo could attract more than 2,000 industry participants and close to two million visitors up through Sunday.

Two automakers got a jump on the competition by unveiling new models for India on Monday. General Motors unveiled its sporty mini model, the Chevrolet Beat, for Indian consumers with a sticker price of less than $8,500. Meanwhile, Mercedes Benz India launched its big GL350 CDI sports-utility vehicle which goes for around $150,000.
The fact that the first unveilings were one of General Motors' smallest cars and one of Mercedes' biggest shows the diversity and opportunity of India's market decades after its first Auto Expo.
No prizes for guessing which end of the spectrum is doing better. Mercedes sold around 2,250 vehicles in India last year, down 10% from a year earlier. General Motors' sales climbed to close to 70,000 units in 2009 and they expect to sell at least another 100,000 cars this year, says General Motors India managing director Karl Slym.
In India you have to respect the back seat drivers. That is the wisdom General Motors got from testing its new mini-car, the Chevrolet Beat, on Indian roads. The stylish little car - which looks like the offspring of a couple of candy colored race cars in from "Fast and Furious" series - was originally aimed at the trendy teen to twenty-something. But GM designers had to take into account that in India it could end up becoming the family car.

In Europe or Korea the back seat might only be used for backpacks full of text books or groceries so it is little more than a padded shelf. In India, however, you can be sure that grandma and a couple of uncles will be sitting back there on a regular basis. You can also assume everyone will end up stuck in traffic for hours at a time. The Beat has extra padding and support under the legs and at the lower lumbar to make those family outings more comfortable.
"Here in India it is more of a family car," said Edward T. Welburn, vice president of global design at GM as he nods towards the lime green Beat he helped design. "It has a front seat and a back seat."

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