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May 10 2013

Will Luxury Hatchbacks Be Successful in India?

The Indian automotive scene has been experiencing a new high with the coming of almost all premium car manufacturers and all the supercar manufacturers setting up shop in the country. So is the Indian car buyer, it has made many buyers happily come to a decision with plenty to choose from.


And before all this happened, the Indian buyer associated a bigger price tag with a bigger car (in terms of size), things have changed a lot in the last few years.  Volkswagen was the first one to hit the premium hatchback party in India with their flagship and iconic car Volkswagen Beetle back in 2009. It is simply much more than a car. It’s an icon with thousands of fan clubs running around it. The Beetle was originally supposed to be a people’s car (meaning it was supposed to be cheap so that everybody could buy it). But the beetle today with a price tag of Rs.25 Lakhs, is nowhere even close to what I just said above. Even with a 2000cc, 115 BHP petrol engine, it didn’t exactly catch the eyes of the buyers more than it did with its exterior. The moment you look at a Beetle, you would immediately want one, the rounded corners, the big eyed headlamps; the overall curvy appeal of the car is enough to make you write that fat cheque.


BMW came out with another famous iconic car in the hatch segment, the Mini Cooper. What is interesting is the fact that both the Volkswagen Beetle and the Mini Cooper were originally meant for mass volumes and an economical way to drive about town. The Mini Cooper with its price range starting from Rs.25 Lakhs and going all the way upto Rs.35 Lakhs, depending on the variant you choose ranging from the standard Mini Cooper to a Mini Cooper Convertible, is in no way close to being an economical way to drive around town. It is if you have deep enough pockets to show off your small puppy with a peppy and souped up engine and great looks. But all the die-hard Mini fans would tell you otherwise. The car is amazing no questions asked and then Indian buyer’s mentality is also changing with time passing by of associating the price tag with the size of the car. With BMW running the Mini Cooper, the brand already established well enough in India, the road ahead should be smooth. The market response has been average for the premium hatch segments so far, but not as average as the manufacturers thought it to be.


Mercedes Benz recently came out with their sports-tourer “B-Class”. They aim at the youngsters who are willing to enter the premium segment but not with sedans or SUVs but smaller cars that look way cooler and pack more punch in the engine are easy to drive around it, also youngsters who are also willing to spend Rs.21 Lakhs upwards. B-Class packs a 1600cc petrol engine; the car was recently launched by the German manufacturer in India. So far we have seen a few cars on the road. The sales-figures are hard to guess for the moment.


CarSizzler Viewpoint


With the success of premium car manufacturers like Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz in the country, the fact is well established that people are willing and liking to drive in luxury cars. The hatchback scenario in India is already on the top with more and more people wanting to buy a feature rich and compact Hyundai i20/ Maruti Swift over a sedan Toyota Etios.

For the premium hatchback segment to see any success, the prices will need a bit revising and more marketing.


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