Maruti Alto drives past the 3 million sales landmark

Launched in September 2000, the Alto has become the first Indian car to reach the 3 million sales milestone.

By Nikhil Bhatia calendar 01 Mar 2016 Views icon5517 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Maruti Alto drives past the 3 million sales landmark

The popular entry level Maruti Alto has become the first-ever Indian car to cross the three million units sales milestone. The achievement comes 15-and-a-half years after the first Alto was launched in India in September 2000 and just a few months after the model overtook the Maruti 800 as India’s best-selling car of all time. The Alto has been India’s top-selling model for over 10 years in a row.

The Alto though wasn’t quite the sales king in its initial years. The Maruti 800 ruled the roost at the time and even cars like the Hyundai Santro, Tata Indica and the erstwhile Maruti Zen outsold the Alto by a considerable margin. However, 2003-04 was when the Alto picked up momentum and recorded a year-on-year sales growth of 135 percent. The next year, helped by a price reduction and focused marketing programme, the Alto went on to displace the 800 as India’s best-selling car, a position it has held since.

Studying the Alto’s history reveals a major reason for its success and that’s how Maruti Suzuki India has been on the ball to read customer requirements. The focus on fuel economy has always found favour with buyers in India looking for a cheap runabout but, over the years, the introduction of newer variants have also contributed to its continued demand. The CNG version, the more powerful 1.0-litre K10 engine-powered model, the AMT gearbox option and even the option of a driver’s side airbag have, in their own ways, kept the Alto relevant over the years.

Commenting on the landmark, R S Kalsi, executive director, Marketing & Sales, Maruti Suzuki, said, “The Alto has constantly evolved to reflect the changing India. While the Alto’s true essence lies in its remarkable fuel efficiency, performance, attractive price and low maintenance, it has a zippy and sporty design that appeals to customers. Over the years, Maruti Suzuki has kept the brand rejuvenated with latest technology, features and design. The Alto is being offered with features – airbag and Auto Gear Shift – at par with higher segment cars. These initiatives have helped enhance the brand’s connect with its customers and maintain its popularity.”

Maruti Suzuki India, which has cemented its position as India’s largest carmaker on the back of the success of the Alto, does not intend to tinker much with its successful formula, even at a time when radical models like the Renault Kwid are getting the right sort of attention. Commenting on the future of India’s most successful car, company officials suggest the Alto will remain true to its roots and any future version would be more of an evolution than a revolution. But with sales showing no signs of slowing down, you can hardly argue with that logic.

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Q&A: Vinay Pant, GM (Marketing), Maruti Suzuki India

What would you credit for the Alto’s continued success?

I think it’s really understanding the first-time buyer and regularly reinventing the product that has helped us achieve this feat. When we started, the Alto was seen as a peppy car. After some time, we realised fuel efficiency was a big thing and we focused on that. Today, the Alto services two types of buyers. For those who want affordability and fuel economy, we have the Alto 800. And for those who want performance in an entry-level car, we have the Alto K10.

Many people see the Alto as the spiritual successor to the 800. Did the Alto’s success lead to the 800s going out of favour?

That wouldn’t be right. The 800 created the segment but as the brand got older, it became popular in the hinterlands. And that’s where the Alto came in. The Alto saw demand in the metros and the mini metros while the 800 sold more in the smaller towns. The brands performed in their own space.

As safety and emission norms get more stringent, will maintaining the Alto’s low price-tag turn more difficult?

When we launched the Alto back in 2000, the LX cost Rs 2.99 lakh (ex-showroom). Today, the comparable model costs Rs 2.94 lakh. We are aware that pricing is critical. Safety is also critical and that’s why we have taken the lead in offering safety options as well. I’m sure moving forward, we’ll meet customer requirements in terms of price.

Also read: Maruti Suzuki registers flat sales in February

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