Maruti Udyog Ltd., India's largest carmaker and producer of Suzuki vehicles, has launched a redesigned Swift premium hatchback car line with plans to win back lost market share.

Reuters said New Delhi-based Maruti, 54.2% owned by Suzuki Motor Corp, has priced the modern European-style hatchback at a competitive INR387,000 ($US8,895) to 485,000 rupees to meet the challenge from aggressive foreign and local competitors.

In recent years, the carmaker has yielded ground to South Korea's Hyundai Motor and India's Tata Motors Ltd., the report noted.

Reuters said the Swift will help Maruti take on the premium hatchback Hyundai Getz and Tata Motors' Indica hatchback and Indigo sedan.

Analysts reportedly say the Swift is Maruti's most significant launch since the mini 800 [1980s generation Alto] more than 20 years ago revolutionised a market long dominated by the stodgy [Morris Oxford-based] Hindustan Ambassador boxy Premier Automobiles Premiers [based on a 1960s Fiat design].

"This is a new opportunity for us. It will reposition the way people see the Maruti Suzuki brand," K. Saito, Maruti's sales and marketing director, told Reuters.

"It is a very aggressive and good pricing," Kalpesh Parekh, senior analyst at ASK Raymond James, told Reuters. "It also shows Suzuki's commitment for India."

The company reportedly did not forecast Swift sales for this year but said it had already received more than 8,000 orders for the car.

Reuters said analysts were bullish about the Swift's sales.

"At this price, they can easily sell 5,000-6,000 units a month," Ajay Shethiya at Enam Securities told the news agency, adding: "By moving up the product mix with more high-value offerings like the Swift, Maruti's margins will also be protected."

Reuters noted that Maruti plans to sell 600,000 vehicles in fiscal 2005/06, including exports, and that the Swift launch marks the shortest gap so far between the launch of a new vehicle in Japan and in emerging markets. The car hit the roads in Hungary [where it is built for Europe by Magyar Suzuki] earlier this year, shortly after it was unveiled in Japan in November.

Starting with the Swift, on whose design Indian engineers also worked, Suzuki is aiming to build key models at its global units including Hungary, China, India and Indonesia, the news agency added.

Maruti has recently invested $748.3 million in a joint venture for a new car plant and engine/transmission unit in India, Asia's fourth-largest economy, Reuters noted.