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Ignis’ success will be critical for Maruti’s image makeover

If Maruti have to carry on with its Nexa dream it will have to ensure that Ignis succeeds in the market, but, the price range at which it will sell, has many competitors.

business Updated: Jan 16, 2017 12:12 IST
Sunny Sen
Maruti Suzuki Ignis

Maruti Suzuki will launch the ‘premium urban compact’ Ignis in India on January 13.(Maruti Suzuki)

Maruti Suzuki will launch the Ignis on Friday, and its success will be important for the country’s largest carmaker to shed its “dad’s car” image.

However, more than shedding the old-man-car image, for Maruti, Ignis’s success will also determine its stronghold into the premium car space.

So far, its intentions have been clear – it wants to be known for high-quality feature rich cars, offering good technology. With Ignis, it hopes to move on with that philosophy.

In order to chase its premium dream, Maruti opened a new dealership chain called Nexa, through which it sells cars such as the S Cross and Baleno. Both these cars are significantly better than the cars it sells from the regular Maruti Suzuki dealerships.

However, for Maruti its Nexa strategy hasn’t worked the way it wanted to. S Cross didn’t sell well – it numbers are less than 2,000 units every month. Maruti had to cut its price by Rs 2.5 lakh to get some traction.

Baleno, however, sells like hot cake – nearly 10,000 units every month – more than its competitor Hyundai i20.

Nexa needs another fast moving model inside the dealerships. If Ignis fails to appeal the car buyer, Nexa will have two flop cars in its stable.

Ignis’ biggest selling proposition is that it’s a car for the “young buyer”, targeted at college goers and first time employees. Maruti has 18 models under its hood, but none of them is positioned especially at the millennial generation, Ignis is.

The stats will tell you why. More than 27% of the car buyers are under the age of 29. If Maruti has to capitalise on this, it needs a car developed and designed for them. “Many people had this thing in their mind: we don’t want a Maruti car. It was my dad’s car… We had to change that image,” Vinay Pant, head of marketing at Maruti Suzuki, had told HT in an interview earlier.

To the Ignis buyer, Maruti wants to offer a whole range of customisation, from accessories, desired paints, seat covers, panels, designs, to infotainment devices.

Pant hopes that all these aspects will help Maruti get a larger chunk of young buyers.

Maruti’s desperation is justified. Baleno is for a slightly mature car buyer. It is also more expensive than the Ignis.

The “young car” buyer is a largely untapped market, Pant explained. There are 440 million Indians under 25-years of age. Even if Maruti gets 1% of the market, its 4.4 million car buyers.

But, there is a problem. Maruti has plans to launch the Ignis at Swift’s price point. Swift is expected to have a complete body change. Also, the Rs 5 lakh price is a sweet spot for carmakers in India, so there is a lot of competition.