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New cars fail to breach old bastions

autos Updated: Jul 30, 2010 21:48 IST
Sumant Banerji
Sumant Banerji
Hindustan Times
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Over the last few years, there has been an exponential increase in the number of new car launches in the country but contrary to popular perception only a few of them manage to make their presence felt on a sustained basis.

In the last one year, at least 12 new cars have hit the roads but only a handful, such as Ford Figo, Hyundai i20, Indigo Manza and Chevrolet Cruze have actually lived up to the hype that preceded their launch. The others, including Fiat’s Grande Punto and Linea, Volkswagen Polo, Honda Jazz, Maruti’s new Wagon R, Chevy Beat and even the Tata Nano have registered below-par sales.

In the first quarter of 2010-11, Ford Figo has managed to break into the list of the 10 best-selling cars that is largely dominated by age-old models from the troika of Maruti, Hyundai and Tata. This is the first time ever that any Ford vehicle finds its name in the list in the more than 10 years of the company’s existence in India.

“With the Figo, we knew from the start that the localisation level needed to be low and the price of the car needed to be attractive enough for a potential buyer to consider the car over other established brands,” said Michael Boneham, President, Ford India. “We planned for the car beforehand and our engine and transmission plants were running by the time we launched the car. That helped us in being aggressive with the price and we are happy the market has responded in the positive.”

The performance of other new players is anything but positive. The Beat, for example, started off very well, selling around 12,000 cars in the January-March quarter. That number, however, fell to less than 10,000 units in the next three months. The fate of the Grande Punto is even worse with sales of 3,146 units during the first quarter while Jazz sold only 1,050 units.

Despite a perceptible boredom factor working against them, the old war horses like Alto, Indica, Santro and Swift continue to rule the roads. Alto was the best selling car during the quarter by a sizeable margin over second-placed Hyundai i10 and even the hyundai Santro which, although the oldest car on the list now, sells over 6,000 units per month. A refurbished Alto next month may see the Maruti car’s vice-like grip strengthen further.

Maruti refreshed its second-largest selling car, Wagon R, in April after the i10 surged ahead of it to become the second largest selling car in the country in 2009-10. So far, though, that has not helped the Wagon R, which has now slipped below even the more expensive Swift. The latter, on the other hand, grew by 47.2 per cent even though its segment has seen the maximum new launches and every carmaker is looking to eat into its marketshare.

“The Indian market is very unique in that very rarely does one factor have the same impact throughout the country,” said Mayank Pareek, managing executive officer (marketing and sales), Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. “While a new car will bring in some novelty value, customers also look at cost of ownership, brand equity, after-sales and service and resale value before they buy a car. Hence, an established and successful car like Alto or Wagon R continues to dominate the market.”

It is never easy for new entrants to find their way in the less cluttered premium car segment as well. But the Chevrolet Cruze has managed to nudge ahead of the competition in the executive segment. The Chevy car sold 2,318 units against 2,018 Toyota Corollas and 1,060 units of the Honda Civic in the first quarter.