Maruti looks to shed its ‘dad’s car’ image in India
Ignis is not just another car that Maruti Suzuki is adding to its fleet of 18 models. The carmaker, which sells one of every two cars in the country, will sell the Ignis from its Nexa dealerships, and the car is especially designed to attract the young car buyer.
India has the world’s youngest car buying population – 27% of the car buyers are under the age of 29 – and Maruti’s rivals have tried often and on to get a grip of this car buyer. Maruti didn’t have much to do – its cars were boxy, and known for mileage, trust and reliability.
Throw in, India is also the world’s fourth largest new car market, expected to overtake Japan by 2020 to become the third largest. It has a equally large used-car market, many of which are bought by the youth.
Maruti’s rivals – Tata launched the Nano Twist, Hyundai launched the Eon, and Renault launched the Kwid, to attract the young car buyer. “Many people had this thing in their mind: we don’t want a Maruti car. It was my dad’s car,” said Vinay Pant, head of marketing at Maruti Suzuki. “We had to change that image.”
The average age of a Maruti buyer is between 36 and 40 years. With the Ignis, Pant expects the average age drop down by five years.
There has already been some positive impact with the Baleno and the Brezza, both of which have most of its buyers in the age group of 28-35 years.
But it was not until 2012 that Maruti realised it had to break away from its “older man’s car” image. Between 2010 and 2012, the car market grew 24%. It would have doubled by 2017, had it not been for the fall in car sales in 2013 and 2014.
Maruti knew that it couldn’t have captured market with its ageing models. It had to inject fresh blood in the form of new design, technology and features, which would appeal to youngsters. “That is also the time we decided to develop new cars, and the new channel (NEXA)… We couldn’t make the change in image just through design,” said Pant.
So, Maruti launched the Ciaz to counter Honda City, and the Baleno to counter Hyundai i20. The Ignis, so far, Pant said doesn’t have a competition. “It is the first vehicle designed for the millennial generation… Eon and Nano were positioned for them, but were not developed keeping the generation in mind,” he said.
The Ignis is unconventional – is a mix of a hatchback and an SUV, and comes in attractive colours, can be customized from inside and outside, and will be conservatively priced at about Rs 5 lakh (to begin with).
The millennial generation – under the age of 25 years – constitute for 440 million Indians. Even if Maruti is able to attract 1% of that, Pant said he will be happy. India’s vehicle penetration is at just 8%, leaving enough room to grow.