Long back I had seen a Maruti 800 with the Merc 3 pointed star on the hood. Back then when 800 was still ruling the roost and people were still into buying a small hatchback, it stood for aspiration. When the D segment cars were still very premium and Mitsubishi Lancer made one drool, it made sense to talk about value and stuff.
Gradually the market changed. There were newer brands and the entry point into automobiles changed from 800 to premium compacts. It split the market into two kinds of consumers and mindsets.
First mindset – the Maruti mindset – People who were graduating within the Maruti fold from 800 to Zen or Swift… for them the ease of after sales service, mileage and low maintenance cost mattered a lot. There was an assurance and comfort in buying a Maruti (even a roadside mechanic can repair the car).
Second mindset – First car was not a Maruti or the quick upgrade from the first Maruti was not into Maruti Franchise. For them, the brand and what it delivered in terms of form factor and technology mattered. The mindset believed that all cars are good and low maintenance in the given segment. Speedy zippier cars obviously meant that fuel economy was not a primary concern.
But then a large population has been brought up on Maruti and believe in the benefits of Maruti so when Maruti did the communication about “Whats the mileage?” it really was talking to this large population.
But when over the weekend I saw communication about value and supposedly very high-profile people doing acts of saving on things, it made me wonder. I believe Maruti can see tough times ahead and is trying hard to retain its francise.
The profile of compact cars is changing and in metros it has changed already. The proliferation of i20s, the launch of Volkwagen Polo and entry of Honda and Toyota in the compacts is a sign of things to come. Sooner or later people are going to stop associating compact with everything Maruti stood for and there move from compact to bigger car will not be driven by mileage consideration etc. And that is where Maruti is going to hit a roadblock. Seriously, why would anyone want to buy a Kizashi when there is a Cruze or a Skoda or an Altis or a Civic are available. Brands that have strong equity in premium segment and have worked on building the segment while Maruti was working on Compacts. Schizophrenia is hitting the brand when it shows so-called premium people and the end frame of communication is a range of small cars. What gives?
Automobile advertising at first level is not about everything that happens after the car has been bought. It is about a desire to possess symbols of moving up in life. It is about showcasing “I can now afford luxury” and surely this mindset would not want connotations of fuel economy or maintenance. If I buy a car in excess of 10 lacs (approx US$ 20,000), am I going to worry about the mileage being 12 km/l or 20 km/l? Will I worry if changing the rearview mirror costs 10,ooo? Ok maybe a little concern but it wont be something that would involve changing my buying preference.
Yes Santosh Desai talks about the dhaniya mirchi to be thrown in (coriander and chilli) when buying vegetables but even Santosh will agree that the outlook is changing… specially when all these large retail stores are opening up and people have moved to shopping over there. so even the dhaniya mirchi mindset is changing too…
Here is to a new India where value is about what I get by way of quality stuff for the money I pay and not about Lx or Lxi or Vxi or Zxi. Let every purchase be fully loaded. We have caught up with the world where Airbag is standard fitment and ABS is a given and not comes only in top end. In fact let there be only top end and no bottom end. And there is no bottom end actually. Nano sales that are dropping are not so much the safety concerns but the fact that even a guy who is switching from a two-wheeler to car does not want to associate with a cheap car.