Monday, July 03, 2006
Pakistan Visit (Part 2)
Coming to the automobiles that Pakistanis use, all are of foreign make since Pakistan does not have any indigenous auto brands. However, interestingly enough, the Pakistani Punjabis' favourite small cars appear to be the Maruti 800 (which sells under the brand name Suzuki 'Mehran') and the Alto!
There are a fair number of Hyundai Santros as well.
And then there is the Chevrolet Joy, which was being sold as the Daewoo Matiz in India until Daewoo went bankrupt and was purchased by General Motors (GM). I am not sure if GM has any plans to re-launch the car in India as well.
Almost all the vehicles from the Suzuki stable in India are available in Pakistan as well, but are being sold under different names. However, some of the vehicles are slightly different. For example, the variant of the Maruti Gypsy that is sold in Pakistan is called the Suzuki Potohar and has a much smaller wheelbase and appears to have a wee bit more of ground-clearance (though I have not confirmed that), which makes it look more rugged and more suitable for off-road driving. Then the Esteem, which sells as Suzuki Margalla in Pakistan, has an estate or station-wagon version called the Cultus. All in all, Suzuki appears to have a strong market position in Pakistan just like it has in India.
The similarity between Indian and Pakistani cars does not end there. Honda sells the same 'City' and 'Accord' models in India and Pakistan. Toyota sells a similar 'Corolla' albeit with a diesel engine.
Among the 'higher-end' cars, I came across various Mercedes Benz models.
I believe Porsche has sold several 911 coupes in Lahore since it set up shop there, but I did not have the good fortune of seeing any of these on road.
The motorbikes that Pakistanis ride did not appeal too much to me. But then it could be because I am no great fan of small 4-stroke fuel-saving commuter bikes. The Honda CD-75 and CD-100 appear popular and Yamaha and Suzuki also have products in this segment. The Chinese onslaught has made significant impact with the Japanese brands not being able to match the Chinese prices. The Chinese bikes sell under brand-names like Qingqi and Pak-Hero, etc. The few riders that I spoke to told me that the Chinese bikes' quality is nowhere near that of the Japanese products and price is the main criterion for sales volumes.
I came across no motorbikes in the power-bike category (12bhp and upwards, though by world standards even that might not amount to much I presume!). I suppose that beyond the 4-stroke commuters, there are the super-bikes owned by the super-rich in Pakistan.
And what merits a special mention here are the unique, phat-phat-sewa-like motorcycle rickshaws that use 100cc, 2-stroke motorbike engines and, in fact, a part of the bike's chassis as well. The brand names that I came across were Qingqi and Suzuki. Of all the places that I visited in the Pakistani Punjab I noticed the kind of auto-rickshaws that we see in India only at Lahore. The number was quite small though as compared to the motorcyle rickshaws and the ones that I saw had been produced by Piaggio.
Though these can not be classified under automobiles, I must mention that I came across no cycle rickshaws at all in Pakistan's Punjab.
Moving on to the largest automobile specimen, those who have watched the Hindi movie 'Gaddar' would know what I mean when I state that West Punjabis tend to work very hard at doing up their trucks. Well, the makes are Nissan, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Hino, etc., instead of the Bedfords and Dodges of yore, but the trucks look just as gorgeous. Even some of the privately-run buses are done up in the same element.