2-door cars in India – Then, Now & Future

Written by Nizam Shaikh

Earlier today Mahindra launched the all-new Thar in the Indian market at an attractive price package that starts at INR 9.80 lakhs. The Thar since its inception was always a two-door vehicle and even its predecessor the MM540 was a two-door utilitarian. Some rumours in the industry also indicated that the brand is likely to develop a 4-door/5-door ‘Practical’ model for the Indian market. But being a lifestyle vehicle will it be the sales driver or does the market still prefer 2-door variants remains to be seen if at all a more family friendly version is launched.

The Mahindra Thar is not the first or the only such offering from the Indian brand. Mahindra did offer two-door cars in the form of the San Storm and the e2o (electric) and they were not a total lemon due to their coupe status, but other underlying causes. Two-door cars have always had a special place in the hearts of aficionados, one example is the Zen Carbon/Steel which was offered with two-doors and sold like hot cake. Even today a pristine example is likely to fetch more than a standard 4-door Zen. 

The same could be said for the Volkswagen Polo GTi, which was offered in the recent past. Now we don’t intend to compare it to the standard four-door Polo due to the superior engine specification on the GTi, but motorheads are likely to still choose the 2-door iteration over a four-door practical hatchback if we factor out the cost. Another example is the Toyota Sera which was way ahead in its time and offered dihedral doors (Butterfly Doors). If the car is relaunched in today’s date, it certainly will turn heads. Premium offerings in the past also include the Fiat 500 and the Volkswagen Beetle which made people smile while looking at them out on the streets.

If these above-mentioned examples are to be sold now in the Indian market, will car fanatics buy them? The answer to it is probably – YES. But they may not be the sales driver for the manufacturer and bringing in two iterations of the same model does not balance the economies of scale as the manufacturer would have an addition on the production line and other expenses such as retooling and homologation.  

Talking specifically about two-door SUVs, in the yesteryears the Tata Sierra and the Maruti Suzuki Gypsy, were sold in good numbers but it is next to impossible to lay hands on a good trouble-free model now. This is where the all-new Mahindra Thar steps in. Some research suggests that nowadays Indian customers, with more spending power and easier methods of vehicle acquisition such as easy finance plans and EMI options, have started to own two cars, one a family runner and another more of a weekend toy, similar to the western world. Even youngsters who have moved to Tier-1 cities and living on their own are inclined towards a more stylish offering than so-called practicality and in the near future, as families decrease in size and more families go nuclear, two-door vehicles are likely to make sense. 

A notable offering in the Indian market other than the Thar is the Mini Cooper in its two-door form and people still love the car, indicating the acceptance for two-door vehicles. In the near future, another offering in the two-door SUV segment will be the BS6 upgraded Force Gurkha and also the Maruti Suzuki Jimny which is likely to make its entry in the Indian market soon. Almost everybody who has been following our stories on the upcoming Jimny were excited about the two-door fixed top / normal top SUV. Even the Tata Sierra EV Concept when unveiled at the Auto Expo 2020, generated massive public interest, but it is not truly a 2-door SUV and comes with sliding rear door. 

So like it or not, 2-door cars do make sense. If not as mass market, high volume sales generators; but at least as halo cars or show stoppers. And there will always be a demand for such cars. Many come all guns blazing shouting out that such cars are not practical, but then, one can always drive around in other boring cars already on sale. Who’s stopping whom from buying whatever they want?