India’s largest car maker, Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL) is banking on its new refurbished Alto 800, which will be launched next month, to revive its sagging fortunes in the domestic market.
The company has been battered this year, first by a month-long lockout at its Manesar factories in July, and then a fall in the demand for petrol cars led by its largest-selling model, Alto.
Sales of the Alto dropped from over 35,000 units in March to just over 10,000 units in August, mirroring MSIL’s declining fortunes in the country. With the first complete model change in the Alto’s 12-year chronicle, Maruti is hoping to restore the old order.
“Any new car brings added excitement to the market and Alto is a proven bestseller,” said Manohar Bhatt, vice-president, marketing, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. “I am sure that after the launch of the new model sales would not only go back to the original levels but we will end up exceeding those levels.”
Currently, the Alto is sold in two avatars in India — with a smaller 800cc engine and a 1-litre engine added two years ago. The changes would cover only the 800cc version, which has been given a completely new design and transmission, and the engine tweaked for better performance. Fuel economy has also been increased making it the second most fuel efficient petrol car after the Nano. Maruti has no plans to carry forward these changes to the 1-litre model.
“We have taken consumer feedback, and the changes make the car more contemporary,” said I V Rao, chief operating officer, engineering, MSIL. “We have spent around Rs. 270 crore and our vendors another Rs. 200 crore cumulatively on developing it.”
Maruti’s marketshare has slumped to 36.6% in the first five months of this fiscal despite the new bestseller, its first in-house utility vehicle Ertiga, launched this year. Its share in the same period last year was 40.3%.