India's Maruti unveils revamped bestseller, has over 10,000 pre-orders

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI Tue Oct 16, 2012 3:11am EDT

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NEW DELHI/MUMBAI (Reuters) - The world's biggest-selling small car was revamped on Tuesday when Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MRTI.NS) launched a new version of its Alto model, clocking over 10,000 pre-orders as it tries to fend off rising competition in the entry-level car market.

Since 1984, Maruti's entry-level models have outsold anything in India's car market, as millions of middle-class families and first-time owners in the developing country flocked to its Maruti 800 model and its successor, the Alto.

"Our engineering team has made many innovations to offer more space, improve driveability and safety to customers," Shinzo Nakanishi, Maruti's managing director, told reporters.

The new car's petrol model offers 15 percent greater fuel efficiency, he said.

Maruti, controlled by Japan's Suzuki Motor (7269.T), has had over 10,000 pre-orders for the Alto since bookings were opened in late September, Nakanishi added.

Cheap to buy and run, the Alto 800's two predecessors became instant best-sellers in a sector that Maruti Suzuki dominated until the late 1990s. As more automakers have muscled into the market, and more Indians had the cash for larger cars, its grip has slipped.

In the fiscal year that ended in March, Maruti sold over 310,000 Altos, making it the world's biggest selling small car. Indians bought 2.02 million cars that year.

Sales of Maruti's entry-level models are down 21 percent so far in the current fiscal year, hit by rising competition from rivals such as Hyundai Motor Co's (005380.KS) Eon and Tata Motors (TAMO.NS) Nano model.

(Reporting by Anurag Kotoky and Henry Foy; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)

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