After selling three million Altos in the last 16 years, Maruti Suzuki India is gearing up to give its most popular small car a complete makeover.
The next-generation Alto will look different from its current model, and also include better features and specifications.
India’s largest carmaker has of late focussed on premium cars, including Baleno, Ciaz and S-Cross, and even launched the dedicated sales channel Nexa to push their sales.
But with over two-thirds of the cars on Indian roads being hatchbacks, not concentrating on small cars is not an option for Maruti. Even more so because its competitors have crowded the segment with new launches.
Apart from the Alto, Maruti will also launch a new WagonR, another entry-level hatchback. It has sold 1.8 million units of the car so far.
“We will try to develop these models, refresh them in future, and then give it to our customers,” said Kenichi Ayukawa, managing director and CEO, Maruti Suzuki. “Entry-level cars are very important for us, so we have to keep some volume there — 200,000-300,000 units.”
Globally, Ayukawa said, the models are refreshed every six years.
The Alto was launched in 2000, as an alternate to Maruti 800, and by 2011 it was selling 33,000 units every month, becoming the largest-selling hatchback globally.
But the new Alto and WagonR will be a tad expensive than the ones on the road as the government has decided to adopt new safety measures and Bharat Stage-VI emission norms. “Unfortunately, we will have to introduce the new devices, we can’t avoid them,” Ayukawa said.
The cars, both in petrol variants, may cost ₹30,000-50,000 more. Alto already comes with airbags in the top variant.
“With the cost going up, Maruti may keep both the new Alto and the older one to buffer the impact in the beginning,” said London-based Deepesh Rathore, co-founder of Emerging Markets Automotive Advisors.
The mini-segment in India has been stagnant. Whatever growth happened, it was cornered by Renault Kwid, with average monthly sales of 2,500 units .
Analysts, however, are not too enthused. “New products are there in the market. Even if you put a lot of features in a facelift, for the customer it is still an old product,” said Abdul Majeed, partner at PwC.