The Indian Auto Industry continued its growth momentum this festive season and grew over 11% in Sep’17. Dusshera was the prominent festival in Sep’17, and the market was also getting ready for the biggest festival of the year – Diwali. Let’s see how the OEM’s fared –
Maximum number of new car launches happen in the Aug-Nov timeframe owing to the festive demand. Even in Sep’17, new launches were in the limelight. Tata started dispatches of its much awaited Nexon and Skoda bought in the Kodiaq too. Ford too started dispatches of it next generation Ecosport. Hyundai’s Newest Generation Verna topped the segment and pipped City to be the best seller – Again a reason why launching a car in festive season is fruitful! All the new car launches are extremely strategic to its respective OEM –
Nexon – The compact SUV segment can’t be ignored right now. Honda too recently bounced back into action with the success of the WRV. Brezza’s numbers too are testimony of what the segment can offer. Tata launched its model at the lowest price and raised many eye-brows. Not only the price; but the feature list is mouth watering too. Nexon’s success could push Tata’s in the No.4 spot in the ranking table.
Kodiaq – It has been generating a lot of interest right from the time it was showcased in the Geneva Motor Show. Globally, it has already won many awards – (In November 2016, Škoda Kodiaq was named the “Best Family Car in the World” by Top Gear Magazine. Kodiaq won the title of the Car of the Year 2017 in the Czech Republic, Poland and Bulgaria, the SUV of the year in China and France and the all-wheel drive car in Germany. Kodiaq also won in German magazine competition Auto Test for 2017 and is the winner of competitions in British magazines Auto Express and What Car for 2017. Kodiaq also received the Red Dot Design Award for 2017. Source: Wikipedia). However, similarity to the already launched Tiguan and the ambitious pricing can act as a deterrent.
Ecosport – It is the only silver lining Ford can currently depend upon. Over 56% of Ford’s sales in Sep’17 was contributed by Ecosport and the trend will aggravate even further. With new entrants in the Compact SUV space (WRV, Nexon, etc); Ford needs to protect its turf and keep its buyer engaged. The new design and interiors will help Ford in its purpose and sustain the volumes.
Verna – While Hyundai’s volumes had stagnated at 42k mark, it needed a product which could push it ~50k. And yes, Verna comes in. It has all the bells and whistles to be the ‘Hero’ product in the portfolio. However, beating the competition (City & Ciaz) will not be easy.
Mahindra XUV 500 was launched in September 2011. XUV 500 – read the ‘00’ as O as in superstiti‘O’n. Ever wondered why after Mahindra Armada all Mahindra’s vehicle names ended in “O” – BolerO, ScorpiO, XylO, VeritO, QuantO, NuvO(Sport)? Good they have not rebranded themselves as “MahidrO & MahindrO”.
Jokes apart, XUV 500 was indigenously designed vehicle inspired by Cheetah, the animal which we don’t have in India since 1947. And it is quite a design, aggressive and butch in front and sporting muscles all around though looks little MUV like from behind and rear three quarter. It has cheetah inspired, claw like door handles, never seen before in India and it had whiskers too ingrained in front bumper design. Though it shed those whiskers when it got a facelift in May 2015. In human parlance how many actors since 90s use to sport a prominent moustache, barring Anil Kapoor! It had very strong diesel engine and if you recall the post 2008 economic crisis period diesel was tasting ever sweeter because of high price differential between petrol and diesel caused due to lopsided fuel subsidy policy. Unlike its younger sibling Scorpio it was more car like, having monocoque chassis and appeared more sophisticated thus appealing to urban dwellers.
This cheetah had claws with real killer instinct and it hunted down an entire segment of sedans which I christen as Premium Sedan (4.6m) – comprising of still in production but struggling for numbers – Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra and Skoda Octavia, others just got discontinued over time.
Price-Wise This Is How They Stack Up
For effective segmentation instead of following conventional A, B, C, D category of classification, I tried to personify each segment, what it stands for. Length is considered as primary factor because it defines the footprint of the vehicle and proxy to the overall size and space it offers. Secondary factors are price and positioning. Having said that, some products are really difficult to perfectly fit into well-defined segment. If you see the below classification, XUV500 is case in the point. Thus, such product may be able to create a unique position for itself, redefine the market and prove to be a differentiator or may land them in no man’s land.
Mass Market Sedan Segments
Mass Market SUV Segments
Premium Sedan (4.6m) Segment
This segment came into existence with Skoda Octavia, launched in 2002. It filled in the void between executive segment sedan and luxury segment sedan. Also known as mid-segment, it offered more space inside, with bigger engines in tune of 1800cc for petrol and 2000 cc for diesel engine. Larger space means it qualifies for premium category and larger engine means superior performance. Priced above Tata Safari at that time, still attracted quite a few buyers because of refinement on offer, especially in urban concrete jungle. These cars were ideal for chauffer driven back seat passengers. So if you want to differentiate your status and cannot afford Mercedes at 20 Lakhs, you had a choice.
Over the years new cars got added and pie expanded, accommodating all brands. Competition was from within the segment and not from segments placed above or below. Segment started seeing decline when petrol prices started touching roof as market leaders namely Corolla and Civic came only in petrol avatar and executive segment cars like Honda City started getting more premium touches than before. Launch of XUV 500 has caused free fall of the segment, now majority of them are discontinued and manufacturers do not have plans to re-launch them.
The car which actually kick started this segment. Before Octavia there was large void in sedan segment between likes of Mitsubishi Lancer and Mercedes Benz C200, bottom end of Luxury segment. Powerful TDI engine won the heart of many and made them believe that diesel engines could be refined too. It had tank like build and diesel engine propelled like rocket for first time in India at price point of 10 Lakhs. So 2002 onwards, if you want to buy luxury car and cannot afford Mercedes Benz you had a choice.
Octavia brand resurged after demise of Laura. Car was wearing new family look with crisp lines all around. With option of powerful petrol and diesel engine it is still posting good numbers despite being called niche and not mainstream anymore.
Best seller globally and Toyota reliability has given instant success to Corolla.
After launch of Civic, Corolla started feeling as it looks dated in that comparison. Toyota brought in the new generation Corolla to retain its pole position. Initially launched in petrol, it was later joined by diesel though low on power but high on fuel economy.
This model adopted Lexus inspired design and had added level of flamboyance. Now its third iteration in India is still having leadership position in the segment.
Hyundai is the company which has introduced modern engine technology in mass market of India, namely MPFi Petrol and CRDi Diesel engine. Elantra had both of them in powerful avatar, and packed with all bell & whistles, however, it never was exciting to own in the company of Corolla, Octavia and Civic.
In second iteration fluidic design did the magic, it looks like sport car in sedan body. That helped become segment leader for short moment before Corolla snatched the crown back. Numbers tapered down quite fast despite having looks inside-out and powerful engines.
Third iteration is here now with restrained fluidic sculpture, but number suggest it has lost the game from very beginning. May be not very good time to be in this segment.
This model was replacement of Octavia globally. However, following Maruti and Hyundai’s footstep Skoda retained Octavia as is and positioned Laura above it. Idea was to have incremental volumes from Octavia. Indian context it worked well as Octavia aged well. In 2009 it came up with face lifted version which continued to soldier on till 2013 when it passed the baton to Octavia brand. Laura like all Skoda had strong build quality and lovely diesel engine. Skoda brand itself is considered premium and people love their diesel engine. After-sales-service was, and is, something which people don’t love about Skoda in general.
Chevrolet introduced Daewoo Nubira as rebadged Optra in Indian market. It was positioned at lower end of spectrum and it did compete with Honda City. Designed by Pininferina, it was refreshing to look at. In 2007 it was given facelift and had almond shaped headlamps. It continued till 2012 and used to clock good numbers, though positioned below the stable mate Chevrolet Cruze.
Civic was launched in petrol only as Honda did not have diesel engine. It was quite unique offering, having sport car silhouette. Look at it from rear and it looks similar to Ferrari because of twin pot tail lamp. Younger buyers jumped off Corolla’s wagon to get into Civic. It was enthusiast car with top notch performance. Step inside and you will be welcomed by driver centric aircraft like cockpit with digital console never seen before in India. On the downside boot space was small and ground clearance was too low that it always scrapes its belly on Indian roads. Non availability of diesel power plant and high petrol prices after 2008 economic crisis has pulled its number down and finally Honda pulled the plug in 2012.
Jetta was part of VWs entry journey into India. VW followed a top down approach by introducing premium products to establish its brand. Positioned alongside Skoda Laura, it has same family characteristic of strong build quality and sweet diesel engine. To me this generation Jetta’s headlamp resembled that of Tata Indica, slightly more rounded.
2011 version followed a completely new family look. Sharp and crisp lines running around and used to resemble a man wearing tuxedo. In fact all VW cars look smart but very much identical, some time you have to see them from side to identify who is who, based on the length. Skoda’s numbers were always higher then Jetta and people perceive Skoda to be more premium. 2016 numbers reduced to single digit and VW threw in the towel. Now question is whether VW decides to bring in MQB platform based Jetta. Seems unlikely.
From beginning it was available only in diesel. Engine was really powerful and had made quite a fan following for itself. Owners love to modify their vehicle and tried to add more x-factor. With Chevrolet now shutting shop here in India its goodbye Cruze.
Renault has followed top down product introduction approach in India. By launching premium product first to establish the brand. Unlike other cars in this segment, it never had any unique proposition to entice the prospects in particular and onlookers in general and died very quickly, unnoticed.
Cheetah and The Killer Instinct
XUV 500’s value proposition for customer can be summarized as
A spacious 7-seater SUV having appealing design and powerful engine packaged well with all the bells & whistles one can imagine for urban dwellers at an aggressive price point undercutting a segment above by a fair margin
Sweet sweet diesel
Instinct : Powered by punchy 140 BHP diesel engine only, which has performance on tap and good fuel economy
Defense : Sedans were on par and exceeded performance but all of them didn’t have diesel at enticing price point
SUV – lifestyle and aspiration oriented
Instinct : High ground clearance is good for Indian roads and SUV do provide commanding position from inside out.
Defense : Sedans are more aerodynamic and have good handling characteristic with less body roll due to low center of gravity. But buyers get carried away by aspirational value.
Bigger is better
Instinct : Has lot of bulk and enticed those who just want a vehicle which is bigger than their neighbor’s.
Defense : Sedans have similar footprint but not the bulk.
3 rows of seats
Instinct : Could accommodate 7 or 5 with tons of luggage.
Defense : 5 seater but mostly good to carry 4 in comfort. Luggage space is good enough but not great as UV.
Bells and whistles
Instinct : Cramped with features of a segment above like touchscreen infotainment system, voice command, auto headlamp and wiper, day time running LED with bi-Xenon projector headlamps and later saw an addition of sunroof and electric driver seats – all this and sold at price segment below.
Defense : No sedan was equipped to that level at given price point. Buyers love gadgets both functionally and emotionally.
Virtually no competition from SUV pack
Instinct : As Mahindra had cleverly identified the sweet spot and offered more car per car.
Note that, XUV is not best SUV to have either. First the ride is quite wobbly, step inside and dashboard plastic feels little tacky and 3rd row of seats are meant for children only. Still it wins heart over mind.
The Other Hunters – Hyenas
Executive sedan (City, Verna, Ciaz, Vento, Rapid, Sunny)
Have started inching closer in size, more premium and feature rich, though seems slightly underpowered in comparison to elder segment siblings, still a plenty full for the mass market. They started encroaching the segment from below by offering higher value for lower bucks.
Compact SUV (Creta, Duster, S-Cross, BRV, Terrano)
One can easily argue that compact SUV segment, which was kick started by Renault Duster, could also be considered as a factor that brought down an entire segment. Yes they emerged around 2012, however, they were a notch below in terms of pricing, dimension, engine size and power output. Though less bulk but still have quite a charm of a SUV to lure customer away with budget inching to 15 Lakhs.
Now they are hunting down another Sedan segment in India. See the graph.
Hunter Is Now Being Hunted
Yes, of late XUV 500 is also witnessing a decline in sales, but it is a normal lifecycle decline which every product will eventually have, except with few notable exceptions like Mahindra’s own Scorpio and Bolero, and Indian’s beloved Toyota Innova. These vehicles have lived beyond their grave, which in India is around 6 years from launch, including mid-term facelift within 3 years.
Moreover story of XUV 500 now is more of a hunter who is now being hunted. There is huge onslaught of SUV in the 15-25 Lakh ₹ price bracket. Ones which are really heating up the competition are discussed ahead.
Though a segment below offering, still has power to punch above its weight. Strong engine, premium interiors and has all bells and whistles. It undercuts XUV 500 price and someone looking for just 5 seater, compact and under 15 Lakh ₹ budget, usually looks no further. That’s what makes it leader in 10-20 Lakh ₹ segment range.
King in its own right. Had a presence in India since 2005 as a replacement of Qualis. It made a space for itself on its own and never ever looked back. It had a very steady sales data with ever increasing price. No, it didn’t killed the Premium (4.6m) sedan segment, as at the same time, the segment under question flourished well, together.
Crysta – the new iteration exudes more premiumness and seems to be owned largely as personal car now and fleet operators are having less affinity, due to higher pricing. Unlike its predecessor, which was loved both as personal car and premium taxi. Despite being owned as fleet vehicles across India it never lost its premium personality, thus loved to be part of personal car (though it is utility vehicle but inside it feels like a CAR) and that’s just opposite to what happened to Tata’s Indica-Indigo sibling.
Doing well as compared to its predecessor Aria, and gaining acceptance like never before (just look at Aria’s number). It is quite surprising that Tata chose Aria for another round and not the Safari. Still no match for XUV 500’s number in initial lifecycle phase.
The forgotten underdog. Well Tata never did justice to the product or the brand when it was launched as new generation, on 5th January 2012, badged as Tata Safari Storme. It received Tata Aria’s underpinning. Looks were kind of sissy as oppose to Hulk it used to be. And look, they even forgot to design an integrated audio system and fitted aftermarket CD player from the previous generation. They missed a huge opportunity and how!
Remember how Mahindra was successfully able to pull off the same trick for Scorpio. Underpinning has undergone transformation but body shell was retained. The trick was having meaner and angrier looking SUV, packed with goodies and that’s what personality people look for in SUV – intimidating!
The original Jeep, having grill design which was borrowed by Mahindra in 50s. Now seems to be pointing in right direction for FCA. It is already giving jitters to XUV500 and Hexa which is apparent with Tata and Mahindra’s current advertisement. Pricing of Compass is very aggressive and its acceptance can be seen in the numbers it is doing and bookings it has garnered.
Overpriced & lost in oblivion. Hyundai never had success in terms of numbers for anything priced over 15 Lakhs – Elantra, Sonata, Santa Fe. It is still finding it difficult to transgress the mental boundary created into the minds of customer to differentiate between premium tag it claims for product like SantaFe. Had Tucson been priced starting around 17+ could have made its presence felt or become a star like Creta!
Right now it is an overpriced petrol-urban-soft roader. May be a diesel heart transplant in future and new design can change its fortune. That’s highly likely, unless Honda gets greedy and loose its thinking cap, and end up with poor pricing.
New Members Joining the Pack
Soon to be launched. More premium than Duster but need to be priced right otherwise it will meet the fate of Tucson.
Seems highly unlikely that it will be priced below 20 Lakh. But less likely to meet fate of Tucson as in India Skoda is still considered as premium over its parent VW brand. It is given that success and failure will be decided in real battle ground, pre-launch assumption does not help much.
Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara
Previous launch was commercial failure. Brought in as CBU it was overpriced for a car having steering wheel and power window switch from Swift. It was available only in petrol guzzling engine and never had butch SUV appeal. Now things have changed for Maruti, with Vitara Brezza being a success, older sibling may make it presence felt and catapult Maruti in premium segment, if priced aggressively.
Nissan want to replay the Duster-Terrano story with Renault launching Captur. This time hopefully it is not just the badge swapping with cosmetic surgery.
Not sure if Honda will be able to position in 15-20 price bracket, if it can with a diesel heart than its better choice over Civic.
Despite having competent product in its global portfolio that fits well in Indian segment, Toyota has never given serious thought. It is an opportunity to fill the gap what Corolla is ceding now. May be Toyota does not want to cannibalize Innova in the price bracket but lower end of spectrum still looks like sweet spot.
~19 Lakh two wheelers were sold in Aug’17! The Two Wheeler Industry grew by a healthy 14.6%. Honda grew at a massive 25.72% and neared Hero Moto Corp’s volumes. Honda is now closest to the Top Slot! However, the fastest growing OEM was Piaggio – Aprilia SR150 just elevated the brand to profitable levels.
Aug’17 market the beginning of the festive season and also the second month of the post-GST era. We celebrated 2 big festivals in August – Janmashtami & Ganesha Chaturthi. The aforementioned factors helped the industry grow an impressive 13% YoY and the overall Industry Sales was ~3 Lakh units! The fear of the price in Sep’17 increase also pushed customers prepone their purchase.
The biggest launch in Aug’17 was the New Verna from Hyundai and bought the much required volumes for the Korean Automaker. It was also the second month of FCA’s Jeep – It was heartily accepted by consumers and was able to garner >10,000 bookings in a short span of time. It reflected in Fiat’s numbers as well – The stellar growth momentum continued and the OEM grew by 247% YoY!
Let’s look at the modelwise analysis here:
The best thing about Maruti is that they compete with themselves! While, the Market Leader grew 26% YoY; the growth compared to July’17 was -1%. It was able to repeatedly post >1.5 Lakh sale for the second consecutive month.
It is no surprise that Dzire tops the Best Seller list! The compact sedan sold over 30k units and overtook the No.2 (Alto) by a huge margin. Just to signify the volumes of Dzire – It outsold the overall sales of Honda & Toyota in India for Aug’17 (Honda @ 17,365 + Toyota @ 12,017 = 29,382). The success of Dzire is still a mystery the other OEMs are unable to crack. While, the latest other entrant (Tigor) is not doing that well – Dzire’s numbers are a matter of envy for all.
Baleno single-handedly made Nexa a profitable venture for Maruti Suzuki. The other models in the portfolio (Ignis, S-Cross) are yet to perform as per Maruti’s aspirations. However, the New S-Cross is slated to launch in Sep’17 (right time to launch in the festivity). Also Ciaz’s addition in the portfolio is reaping results to the Nexa Brand.
Hyundai was consistently struggling ~42k-43k figures and was in desperate requirement of a volume puller. And there it launches the Verna. The New Verna has been launched at a very attractive price and has been loaded with segment best features. But the Sedan lacks space and the brand will also need to out-perform the already proven City & Ciaz. It is going to be a very interesting competition and we expect the overall segment to grow steadily. The trend is already visible in Aug’17 performance – All Models in Sedan segment showed positive YoY growth.
Honda finally seems to have launched a product which could sustain the initial Euphoria and gradually enhance the volumes. The WRV has surely brought in the Wow factor for the Japanese OEM and has helped Honda grow 25% YoY. The City Facelift has also helped Honda push the volumes.
Tiago & Hexa were the notable performers in Aug’17 for Tata. While Tiago continued with the incremental volume game; Hexa’s numbers was a pleasant surprise for us. Hexa posted its all-time highest sale in Aug’17 and was the second consecutive month where it has sold >1,500 units! It is indeed a positive sign for the brand and shows slow yet steady acceptance of the model in the market.
Toyota is one company which is extremely irate due to frequent policy changes. And Yes, Toyota’s response is understandable. While the Government has proposed to increase the cess in luxury cars in Sep’17; the OEM wouldn’t have been more confused! Innova & Fortuner are yet again under the radar and the best performers of Toyota’s stable will bound to take the hit.
The Industry grew 13.3% YoY and the festivities helped the volumes soar to ~3 Lakh units! FCA (Fiat) has already overtaken Skoda with the success of Compass. Fiat has grown the highest (247%) in Aug’17! Renault Nissan Alliance seems to be the worst hit amongst all with both the OEMs struggling with numbers – However, Renault announced that it is going to launch the much awaited Captur this year.
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July’17 was a transition phase for the Indian Auto Industry from a pre-GST era to the post-GST economy. The prices of majority of the models were cut due to the change in the taxation structure. The government’s stand on Hybrid models led the steep increase in the prices of Ciaz/Ertiga SHVS, Accord Hybrid, Camry Hybrid, etc. OEMs like Toyota, Maruti, Mahindra pushed their vehicles enough to compensate June’s loss and as a matter of fact Toyota grew a stupendous 800% in July’17 when compared to June’17! Maruti’s Nexa bet has played off really well and what they have done in the Indian market is nothing short but magical. Nexa could sell 32,860 with all its models combined! – At this speed, we could see Nexa overtake Hyundai’s numbers in coming time. Also splendid is Maruti’s numbers from its traditional channel (i.e. without Nexa) – It sold 1,20,438 units from its traditional models. The Product onslaught and differentiation in brand positioning is surely a case study for the other Global MNCs.
July’17 saw a YoY growth of healthy 15% and MoM growth of over 50%! The spurt was primarily due to the upcoming festive season in August (Rakshabandhan, Varamahalakshmi, Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi to name a few). As requested by one of our reader, we are happy to present both MoM & YoY analysis in this month’s post. Do see how the OEM’s fared –
In MoM performance, only 2 OEMs experienced de-growth (GM & Nissan). Also in YoY analysis – apart from Renault, Nissan & GM; all OEMs saw a growth in their volumes. While GM is out of the game; the decline in numbers at the Renault-Nissan alliance is a serious concern to their global ambitions. The Alliance is in a close competition to become the Global No.1 and their Indian performance will be vital. July’17 also saw the birth of an Iconic Product – Compass. The pricing has been sweet and has already sent terror waves amongst the rivals. The Compass saw dispatch of 935 units and helped Fiat rub shoulders with Skoda’s volumes. We are positive about Compass’s potential to revive FCA’s fate in India. Let’s look at the modelwise analysis here:
Maruti & Nexa are on a roll – and the break through success of their two key products (rather new launches) was the key. Maruti’s Brezza & Nexa’s Baleno – Both crossed 15k units and were positioned in the Top 5 selling cars of July’17. Also commendable is Alto’s performance over years – It still sold >26k copies and could easily outshine its capable competitors (namely Kwid & Eon). Dzire numbers saw a hitch (we suspect a production concern after the steering column recall) or else it would’ve been much better. Even Dzire was the fastest product in Maruti’s stable to garner over a Lakh Bookings!
Hyundai has been on a backfoot after not that great success of Refreshed Grand i10 & Xcent. With Compass launch, it’ll be a difficult ride for the easily selling Creta as well. Hyundai is now overly dependent on i20 & Creta. Here’s what Hyundai’s strategy is – the launch of Next Gen Verna! Yes, New Product Launch is the key to success in Indian market as of today. Hyundai has timed the launch pretty well in the festive season and we are sure that they’ve aligned to production to get the volumes on board. It’ll definitely be a tough fight in front of the mighty City & Ciaz.
Mahindra XUV sold over 1200 units lesser than the Fortuner in July’17. That’s how ruthless the Indian market can be! The Indian consumer is now seeking value more than cost and has become ever brand conscious. And things have turned pretty difficult for the Indian OEM – losing its UV-leader crown to Maruti and the dropping volumes. However, the strong rural demand and acceptance is shielding it from the debacle.
Honda’s raking the moolah with the recently launched WRV. The Compact SUV from the Japanese OEM has got a wide acceptance for being Feature-rich, Butch looks and Decent Price. It has overtaken Ecosport’s volumes for second consecutive month and has also registered itself as the best selling Honda model for the month of July’17!
Tata is in the news for the forthcoming launch of Nexon. The product has got some seriously good reviews and looks promising. After Hexa & Tigor’s average success; Tata has a lot riding on the Nexon. We believe Nexon has all the ingredients to seal Tata’s position in the Top 5.
Toyota saw the highest fall in prices of its models post GST and the same reflected in their volumes as well. It sold crazy 9369 units of Crysta in July’17 made it the No.1 selling MUV of July’17! Similar was with Fortuner’s volumes – It sold over 3400 units and placed itself as the Best Selling Premium SUV!
The Indian Auto Industry grew over 14% in July’17 (v/s July’16). Renault & Nissan were the only mass manufacturers to experience a YoY de-growth. Compass does the magic in the first month itself – pushes FCA to 100% growth.