Car accessories to jazz up your ride

As if painstakingly choosing the right car wasn't tough enough, buyers are being lured in with a wide variety of extra add-on accessories that can  be even more bewildering. By Sourya Biswas

When we went to cover the Ninth Auto Expo at New Delhi in January, we were overwhelmed to see for ourselves the growth of the automobile industry in India. And this industry refers not only to the vehicles, but also to all the useful features that convert the typical five-seater from a mere car to an experience in itself.

The 25 new launches at the Expo did take our breath away, and of course all the cameras were focused on the Nano, but we were left equally impressed by the gamut of accessories on offer - from LPG conversion kits to iPod-compatible music systems to high-strength alloy wheels. The expo had them all… and buyers for them as well.

Long gone are the days when the Indian car-buyer was saddled with Hobson's choice of a Hindustan Motors Ambassador or a Fiat with the little Maruti 800 thrown in for variety. We remember the days when the Contessa Classic was considered the ultimate executive car and the Premier Padmini an ideal family vehicle. Luckily for us times have changed.

Not only do we have home-grown manufacturers like Maruti, Mahindra and Tata Motors unveiling new creations every second month, we have also seen the entry of the biggest foreign names in automobiles like General Motors and Volkswagen. And many more like Lexus are on their way.

All this has coincided with an economic boom unseen in independent India, and the Indian car-buyer is spoilt for choice. Not only does he want to buy the best wheels money can buy, but also add to the experience. We are talking accessories here, which have now moved from the realm of passing fancy to compulsive necessity. It is now possible to spend an amount of money on accessories, which earlier one spent on cars. We will look at some of these add-ons on offer and although most of them would come standard with high-end vehicles, the possibilities of enhancing most cars on the roads are many.

We will approach this topic the same way we review cars, top-down. So, starting from the exterior we have the car's appearance and safety in mind.