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Maruti to abandon ‘small’ car image

autos Updated: May 20, 2008 21:16 IST
Suprotip Ghosh
Suprotip Ghosh
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

India’s first people’s carmaker and the company that defined small cars in the country, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSIL) is slowly abandoning its ‘small’ image.

With Tata Motors moving into the original small car space with its low cost Nano and Indica platforms, MSIL, the Indian subsidiary of Japanese major Suzuki, is now putting in a series of measures that would ultimately give it a more premium image. For starters, MSIL has roped in US-based Raytheon, an international agency specialising in training sales staff, to groom a team of elite sales people to cater to an increasing focus on premium cars.

These fresh recruits would be added to the dealer force, after special training with focus on developing soft skills, etiquettes and customer handling. MSIL’s current sales force focuses on the low-end, which consists of small and medium sized cars. The company has taken a cue from global car majors like Audi, Honda and Mercedes that cater to high-end customers with a highly trained and sophisticated sales force.

At the back-end, MSIL plans to recruit a team of 1,000 engineers to ramp up its research and development (R&D) team. These engineers would be working with MSIL’s new, dedicated R&D centre to be set up soon, according to a New Delhi-based Maruti spokesperson, who requested anonymity.

The company has already started hiring engineers. Shinzo Nakanishi, managing director, Suzuki Motor Co, had announced that that company would bring in more models during the Delhi Auto Expo in January 2008.

Premium cars, or sedans, typically start at a price point of Rs 7 lakh, and higher. The steps would set the agenda for this new focus on the higher end of India’s car market. The total market is projected to touch 22 lakh vehicles by 2010.

“The target audience of the sedan segment has certain benchmarks in mind,” said an official spokesperson of the company. “It is widely travelled and has exposure to best services. It has a social network. A good word of mouth helps us win confidence of many others in its networking group.”