Fea­tures, not fru­gal­ity, driv­ing car buy­ers in In­dia

Mint Asia ST - - News - BAY RUSHI KO TECHA

Aditya

Pai, a 27-year-old bank­ing pro­fes­sional, is will­ing to pay al­most ₹ 60,000 more for the Hyundai Grand i10 hatch­back than it would cost him to buy Maruti Suzuki’s Swift, the best-sell­ing car in its seg­ment, for a seem­ingly in­con­se­quen­tial rea­son: sep­a­rate air con­di­tion­ing vents for the rear seat.

Sim­i­larly, 32-year-old film­maker Te­jas Kar­gup­pikar shelled out over ₹ 1 lakh more to pur­chase Maruti’s pre­mium hatch­back Baleno as the Ig­nis “had too much plas­tic”.

The will­ing­ness of In­di­ans to as­sign more value on com­fort and aes­thet­ics has in­creased with the rise in dis­pos­able in­comes.

While price and func­tion­al­ity still play a ma­jor role when buying a car, for a grow­ing sec­tion of young con­sumers, the rea­sons go be­yond their util­ity value.

“A large share of cus­tomers are now ex­pe­ri­enced buy­ers look­ing to up­grade their cars. As they can af­ford it, they are look­ing for more fea­tures,” said Deepesh Rathore, co-founder and direc­tor at Lon­don-based Emerg­ing Mar­kets Au­to­mo­tive Ad­vi­sors.

Auto mak­ers have taken note. Not only have they in­tro­duced pre­mium fea­tures, they have also re­vamped deal­er­ships to en­hance the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence.

Hyundai Mo­tor In­dia Ltd re­cently de­cided to re­po­si­tion it­self as a pre­mium car brand after 20 years of be­ing a mass market brand in In­dia, a move that fol­lows one by market leader Maruti Suzuki In­dia Ltd, which in­tro­duced its pre­mium sales net­work Nexa in 2015.

“To­day, a car is not just per­ceived as a mode of trans­port, it has be­come a car­rier that per­son­i­fies an in­di­vid­ual’s style and per­sona,” Y.K. Koo, man­ag­ing direc­tor and chief ex­ec­u­tive of the South Korean au­tomaker’s lo­cal sub­sidiary, said in an email re­sponse to queries.

Hyundai, he said, aims to pro­vide “new value and ex­pe­ri­ence to cus­tomers be­yond their ex­pec­ta­tions”.

While Skoda In­dia Pvt. Ltd and Volk­swa­gen In­dia Pvt. Ltd will soon in­tro­duce a new range of pre­mium products based on a highly lo­cal­ized plat­form, Mint has learned from three peo­ple with knowl­edge of the mat­ter that the Euro­pean car­mak­ers are also un­der­tak­ing a broad-based dig­i­ti­za­tion drive across their show­rooms to in­cor­po­rate tech­nolo­gies such as aug­mented and vir­tual re­al­ity.

Maruti Suzuki also re­branded its mass market car net­work as “Arena” last year to in­clude more in­ter­ac­tive tech­nol­ogy such as prod­uct vi­sion touch­screens at the deal­er­ships. About 100 deal­er­ships have been re­branded across the coun­try, with an aim to over­haul the re­main­ing 2,000 in the next two-four years.

RAMESH PATHANIA/MINT

Com­fort value: While price and func­tion­al­ity still play a ma­jor role when buying a car, for a grow­ing sec­tion of young con­sumers, the rea­sons go be­yond their util­ity value.

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