Charge of the UV brigade
In the current passenger vehicle market, the Utility Vehicle (which includes SUVs and MUVs) category has been a saving grace.
The country’s UV sector has seen buyers – largely young and under the age of 35 – opt for spacious and sporty vehicles. It is a trend that the OEMs have tapped in a major way but not all have had the success they would have wanted.
With its first-mover advantage, Maruti Suzuki has set a benchmark with the Ertiga. In April 2012, Maruti set the ball rolling with this UV, a seven-seater that promised much space at an aggressive price even as its design was on the more staid side. Based on the Swift platform, the company’s strategy has been to garner savings on the manufacturing side as the vehicle shares its parts bin with the Swift duo. The Ertiga innings started with sales of 5,464 in April 2012 and by end-November had racked up over 50,000 units. The car has not been endowed with typical sporty features but what Maruti has done is get an aggressive price strategy. With six variants, with the entry-level vehicle costing Rs 5.89 lakh, Maruti has been able to set the bar high for competitors keen to tap the segment.
If the Ertiga was one reason for the UV market shining, another was the refreshed Bolero that has helped its manufacturer, Mahindra & Mahindra touch new heights. The company has crossed sales of 103,775 units for the January-November 2012 period and in the process cemented itself as the master of refreshes. Who would have imagined that a 10-year-old brand that has a cache in small towns and semi-rural areas would have been such a hit? M&M also appears headed for success with the sub-four-metre version of the Xylo, the Quanto that has got 5,000 bookings in the first three weeks since its launch in November. The company is tapping the market for private buyers with a value-added offering. It has also kept in mind the taxi market with a D2 variant.
Another Mahindra offering that has boosted the sporty segment was the XUV500 that has sold over 40,000 units since it’s the beginning of 2012. At the time of its launch, the company said it had offered a vehicle with a slew of features at a very competitive price point and buyers have, indeed, seconded that. With its design and features, the company has set a benchmark in the UV segment even
While the Ertiga and Bolero have spiced up the UV market, other launches that have added sparkle to the market include the Premier Rio and the Nissan Evalia, the latter having got off to a very slow start. The Rio was been given a much-needed boost with the introduction of the Bharat Stage IV engine from Fiat which enables the manufacturer to sell the vehicle in 13 Indian cities that have transitioned to BS IV norms.
Also figuring in this segment is the Toyota Innova which was launched as an all-new offering. Sales took off with over 6,500 units in the first few months but have since petered out.
By far, M&M has been the mainstay of the segment selling 170,115 units in the first seven months of the year as against 125,554 units in the year-earlier period. However, the share of the UV vehicles pie has fallen from close to 57 percent to 47 percent reflecting the entry of new competitors.
Chief among these is the Renault Duster that has already garnered 35,000 bookings and sold about 20,000 units. With an entry-level price of Rs 7.19 lakh, Renault has positioned its Duster at a certain premium, keeping in mind that the key rival it has to face will likely be the Ford EcoSport that is slated to debut in early 2013.
If there is one vehicle that has not taken off, it is the Nissan Evalia which has barely managed about 200 units a month since its launch in September. The company hopes to sell 2,500 units a month. However, the Nissan brand remains relatively unknown and the vehicle is up against the Toyota Innova which has strong brand recall.
BRIAN DE SOUZA
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