The Utility Vehicle (UV) segment in India, which has buffered overall passenger vehicle sales for the past year, is riding a wave of success and with it Maruti Suzuki India. In January 2017, the UV segment with sales of 62,264 units and a year-on-year growth rate of 24.47% helped the segment notch 14% YoY growth to 265,320 units.
The forerunner of the UV segment’s sales charge, particularly for the past 7 months, is Maruti Suzuki India’s first-ever compact SUV, the Vitara Brezza. Right since July 2016, the SUV has been the No. 1 in the Top 5 best-selling UVs in the country. Its highest monthly sales yet have been the 10,232 units sold in July 2016 (see sales table below).
A disrupter and a game-changer
For Maruti Suzuki India, the Brezza is big news. First revealed on February 3, 2016 at the Auto Expo in New Delhi and officially launched on March 8, the Vitara Brezza has been a huge game-changer. Surging consumer demand saw it not only dethrone the other popular SUV – Hyundai Creta – but it also went on to command a waiting period of close to seven months, that mainly due to manufacturing capacity constraints at Maruti’s two plants.
It was just when the clutch of compact SUV makers in India were getting comfortable that the Vitara Brezza entered the party – the booming compact SUV segment has been growing at an annual rate of 25 percent for five years. It seemed the Vitara Brezza, which packs the right punches when it comes to cabin space, equipment, safety and fuel economy and importantly, aggressive pricing thanks to a very high localisation level of 98 percent, was just what consumers long wanted from Maruti.
Available in diesel only at an introductory price of Rs 699,000 (ex-showroom Delhi) for the base LDI version, and going upwards to Rs 968,000 for the top-end ZDi+ variant, the Vitara Brezza undercut its direct competitors like the Mahindra TUV300 and Ford EcoSport by Rs 27,000 and Rs 120,000 respectively. It was not long before sales took off, thanks also to Maruti’s sound reputation and vast dealer network numbering over 1,800 outlets across India.
Maruti Suzuki was confident about the Vitara Brezza’s market success from the start. Speaking at the car’s launch, Kenichi Ayukawa, MD and CEO, had said: “The Vitara Brezza marks our entry into the popular compact SUV segment. Class-leading features, personalisation, future-ready safety, outstanding fuel efficiency and an attractive price are sure to endear the Vitara Brezza to customers. The Vitara Brezza is set to redefine the rules in the SUV space.”
Speaking to Autocar Professional at the vehicle launch, CV Raman, executive director (engineering) Maruti Suzuki India and the chief engineer of the Vitara Brezza, had said: “Whenever we enter any segments or create new ones, the goal is always to be the market leader. That thirst remains and we are doing all we can to make sure the Vitara Brezza does well.”
Speaking about the key objectives the carmaker set out to meet with the Vitara Brezza, C V Raman, had said: “Very clearly, it had to be for the Indian market and so the design had to be something to India’s taste. Secondly, it was for those who want to upgrade from a hatchback. Thus, it had to be for someone who is already in the Maruti fold, wants an SUV that sporty, aggressive and bold. That's what we have created. Apart from the design, it had to have all the comfort, convenience and safety packed into that. Because that's where the customer today sees value.”
“The SUV market has been growing at a 30% CAGR over the past 4 years. There are a lot of people who want to upgrade to an SUV and we wanted to do an SUV which was something which is very dynamic, very sporty and aggressive. That's what we did and we built it on a global Suzuki engine platform and used the Suzuki global development process and core technologies.
Sales of the Brezza over the past year are more than confirmed that promise. Between March 2016 through to January 2017, the Vitara Brezza has sold a total of 94,100 units, averaging 8,554 units a month.
While Maruti will announce its February 2017 sales numbers on March 1, suffice it to say that the Vitara Brezza would have sold at least 8,500 units, if not more. This means the vehicle will have crossed the sales landmark of 100,000 units in less than a year since launch.
On March 2, Maruti Suzuki India confirmed Autocar Professional's sales estimate. According to R S Kalsi, executive director, Marketing & Sales, Maruti Suzuki, “The Vitara Brezza has been a game-changer for Maruti Suzuki. With its bold and sporty looks, contemporary interiors and feature-rich character, the Vitara Brezza has addressed all parameters that customers expect from a compact SUV. Based on customer demand for personalisation we introduced the ICreate customisation portfolio in the Vitara Brezza. We are delighted that new-age customers have liked this overwhelmingly.”