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Old 8th November 2011, 16:24   #1
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Default "Facelifts" - Do they strike a chord? Do they make THE difference?

Every manufacturer eventually faces the reality of having to bring about changes in existing models to boost sales.

A manufacturer like Honda has brought about changes every 4-5 years even in a successful model like the City; each model mostly getting better than it's predecessor. And all generations being significantly different in terms of looks, styling and technical specifications.

Although this generally bodes well for the product, many manufacturers have resorted to mere "facelifts" [facelift : Major change or changes to a car's styling (often including new sheetmetal and/or interior design) with minimal changes to its underlying machinery.]. So, the model is "refreshed" but only on the exterior and everything is untouched inside. And that is packaged as Product 2.0.

Now while we all appreciate considerable improvements in a car as long as they are not just cosmetic, manufacturers are busy dishing out "facelifts" of almost their entire line-up every few years in the hope that this would resurrect the product's sales figures.

What's not amusing is what comprises the "facelift". While Honda provided a new set of tail-lamps and an optional sunroof on the Civic, Volkswagen is offering a Bluetooth HU and steering controls on the Polo. It is rarely that we see anything significant w.r.t. engine specifications, addressal of problems in existing models in the facelift. Honda Civic and City facelifts still face low GC problems despite them being widely discussed. Take Jazz for instance, apart from a new grill and lamps, there's no value addition! City too is rumoured to have a facelift with just the bumpers and lamps being changed. Oh yea, and an optional sunroof!

It was funny how Maruti came up with a "facelift" of each of it's line-up and the facelifted version had prism headlights and tail-lamps. NOTHING ELSE!
Here's the thing - for how many of us are such cosmetic makeovers a dealbreaker? In the sense, how many of us would start choosing one car over another because it has a Bluetooth HU or steering mounted controls or a sunroof.

To be put in a different way, if technically one car is superior than the other (among the same segment), would anyone choose the 2nd car JUST because it has more frills or has a sportier front grill?

Surely, the Indian customer is becoming a lesser fool by each passing day than he earlier was. Almost all look for the stuff that really matters - engine, technical soundness, A.S.S.; and THESE are dealbreakers.

Take the current Honda City for example. The car has a gem of an engine, very good styling and good interiors. Despite being under-featured, people are lining up to buy the City because it has a good engine and Honda's reliability. There'll be many more customers if Honda gave the City what it lacks - some more features, address the GC issue. But instead of providing ACC, Honda is providing a new bumper and tail-lamp. How is that going to help?! (A diesel heart is required too but of course, they need time for that.)

So, why do manufacturers continue to fool us (rather think that they are) by offering us the same stuff but packaged better. Instead of addressing the underlying issues in the existing models or having significant improvements technically, why do they rely on bumpers and tail-lamps to boost sales? Would you be swayed by such petty enhancements? Is it sufficient to win customers just on the looks?

I understand that competition drives manufacturers to continually improve their products. But then, why are these improvements just on the looks?!

Thoughts?
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Old 8th November 2011, 16:38   #2
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Default Re: "Facelifts" - Do they strike a chord? Do they make THE difference?

I think facelifts are more to get those customers who are on the fence with a big "to buy or not to buy" dilemma for that particular model, with a facelift I think they could temporarily reduce that churn, otherwise facelifts, especially for the very old ageing models, are rather no deals for the wider market in general. IMO
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Old 8th November 2011, 16:55   #3
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Default Re: "Facelifts" - Do they strike a chord? Do they make THE difference?

IMO, facelifts without substantial price increase are welcome.
If the changes are due to techincal then I would not term it as 'facelift'.

The issue is most cosmetic changes are done as an opportunity for increasing the price of the vehicle.

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Old 8th November 2011, 18:15   #4
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Default Re: "Facelifts" - Do they strike a chord? Do they make THE difference?

Facelifts are good in my opinion. And since you mentioned Honda, I think it deserves special praise when it comes to facelifts. It had the courage to go ahead and change the City very drastically each time and that too at a time when it was selling at a very healthy rate.

Even a minor change in the way those tail lights look does add a slight bit of re-freshness to the product. I don't see any problem in the practice. But yes the problem lies that with every such minor change comes a hefty increase in the price tag too. Its a double edged sword no doubt.
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Old 8th November 2011, 18:17   #5
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Default Re: "Facelifts" - Do they strike a chord? Do they make THE difference?

As far as I remember there were engine changes in Swift (1.3 to 1.2)/i10 (probably an added option and not a change) probably without any "face" lifts. Is that the reason these are not being considered as facelifts here?
I also remember Safari/indica had changes under the hood, may be long back. What do we call these as?
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Old 8th November 2011, 18:29   #6
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Default Re: "Facelifts" - Do they strike a chord? Do they make THE difference?

In my opinion, a manufacturer goes in for a facelift, first to combat the perception that their products are old and second, to boost sagging sales. You'd be surprised how well this works.

After 2-3 years after a launch of a product, people start to perceive a model as being old simply because it is visible everywhere. A facelift works a good excuse for the manufacturer to claim that their products are up to date. Sometimes, it's not fair to the manufacturers as well for eg: people today are starting to perceive the Civic as outdated. However, it's still a fantastic car.
(I would've thought that Honda would've facelifted the Civic instead of the City. However, they've always done things as per their schedule.)

In an increasingly competitive world however, it might be good to introduce more value with a facelift rather than mere cosmetic changes especially if your product is not selling. Today's buyer is more informed a lot of comparative information, user reviews, horror stories etc. are available online to help one make a decision.

Last edited by sydras : 8th November 2011 at 18:34.
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Old 8th November 2011, 18:36   #7
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Default Re: "Facelifts" - Do they strike a chord? Do they make THE difference?

And I really feel facelifts do make a lot of difference in the car getting the perception of being a newer model. This is from my personal experience. I have the OLD toyota Innova and I kind of like the new tail lights. I have the old city and do not even ask how much I regret not waiting for some more months and rather going in for the current Honda city. I just got the new facelifted Altis and glad that I delayed the purchase decision by some months and bought this new model even though I had to shell out close to 60k extra. What I get in the new model is fresher looking lights, touchscreen ICE, darker ( better) shade of wood inserts. One can argue that the differences are small but it plays a lot with your psychology of calling it the "Naya wala model".
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Old 8th November 2011, 18:38   #8
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Default Re: "Facelifts" - Do they strike a chord? Do they make THE difference?

Facelift does strike a chord with the users. The first model that comes to my mind when I think of facelift is the hyundai santro. The Xing model is looks far modern than the old tooth slat grille model (a.k.a Atoz (hyundai never used the name in India)). The change was phenomenal when I think about it but it was just a facelift if I am not wrong.

I think around the 98-2000 time almost all of the Maruti models went on to have a facelift probably because their cars were suddenly looking old and too common in the face of new fresher looking cars from competitors. That did work.

Latest of all the Manza look for the Vista has caused a spurt in the sales.

I think facelift totally works in India.
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Old 8th November 2011, 18:43   #9
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Default Re: "Facelifts" - Do they strike a chord? Do they make THE difference?

A facelift is basically what it means - a face lift, which translates into "a powder snow job", a sort of "Fair & Lovely" treatment to the same face to make it more shining, radiant, bright and fresh when it is beheld the next time.

Naturally, it doesn't involve any heavy duty changes (which are reserved for mid-life upgrades in the models), and small frills and features are added as "touch-ups" - a redesigned tail lamp, a front grille with 2 extra fins, slightly elongated headlamps, a USB port, etc. etc. IMO, it doesn't make much of a difference because it is basically the same car - same engine, chassis, body (more or less), transmission, etc.

Buying one or the other makes no difference, since it's the same car. But yes, some exclusivity (initially) and show-off factor is involved when someone buys a facelift: "See, my Honda City has a sunroof, yours does not!" I think it appeals more to those who want to be a bit showy about their purchases, other than that there is no mass appeal in a facelift, unless it is a major mid-life one involving the more critical and functional components of a car. It also gives the leeway to the car manufacturer to show the facelift as "Lo and behold! The All-New So and So! Coming Soon to a Showroom near you!"

If it comes with a reduced price, that's another question. But then facelifts have rarely been launched with lesser prices (exceptions being the new Jazz in August 2011), so expecting a reduction in price can be tough.

I am sure if the sales data of cars are collected before and after a facelift (specially the minor MMC types), the facelifts should show lesser sales than the original cars they are based on.

Last edited by RavenAvi : 8th November 2011 at 18:45.
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Old 8th November 2011, 19:34   #10
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Default Re: "Facelifts" - Do they strike a chord? Do they make THE difference?

Just to state again, my point is not whether facelifts are good or not; it is whether they make a difference in the sales figures. Whether they generate interest and sales based on the cosmetic upgrades.

Quote:
Originally Posted by drmohitg View Post
Facelifts are good in my opinion. And since you mentioned Honda, I think it deserves special praise when it comes to facelifts. It had the courage to go ahead and change the City very drastically each time and that too at a time when it was selling at a very healthy rate.

Even a minor change in the way those tail lights look does add a slight bit of re-freshness to the product. I don't see any problem in the practice. But yes the problem lies that with every such minor change comes a hefty increase in the price tag too. Its a double edged sword no doubt.
Talking about Honda City, it has gone for a complete revamp of the model altogether over the generations; so that is out of discussion. The City is rumoured to be "facelifted" soon and this facelift is purely cosmetic. That is my point of contention.

Fine the tail-lights look good and all, but if you were not considering City earlier, will you consider it after the facelift just for the new tail-lamps.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alto99 View Post
As far as I remember there were engine changes in Swift (1.3 to 1.2)/i10 (probably an added option and not a change) probably without any "face" lifts. Is that the reason these are not being considered as facelifts here?
I also remember Safari/indica had changes under the hood, may be long back. What do we call these as?
That's different from cosmetic facelifts then.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sydras View Post
In my opinion, a manufacturer goes in for a facelift, first to combat the perception that their products are old and second, to boost sagging sales. You'd be surprised how well this works.

After 2-3 years after a launch of a product, people start to perceive a model as being old simply because it is visible everywhere. A facelift works a good excuse for the manufacturer to claim that their products are up to date. Sometimes, it's not fair to the manufacturers as well for eg: people today are starting to perceive the Civic as outdated. However, it's still a fantastic car.
(I would've thought that Honda would've facelifted the Civic instead of the City. However, they've always done things as per their schedule.)

In an increasingly competitive world however, it might be good to introduce more value with a facelift rather than mere cosmetic changes especially if your product is not selling. Today's buyer is more informed a lot of comparative information, user reviews, horror stories etc. are available online to help one make a decision.
Again, how many people would go in for a car just for it's fresh tail-lamps?

I doubt new set of lamps could generate such a snob value.

Quote:
Originally Posted by drmohitg View Post
I have the old city and do not even ask how much I regret not waiting for some more months and rather going in for the current Honda city.
But, that's a different model in many ways altogether.
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Old 8th November 2011, 21:36   #11
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Default Re: "Facelifts" - Do they strike a chord? Do they make THE difference?

Quote:
Originally Posted by libranof1987 View Post
Whether they generate interest and sales based on the cosmetic upgrades....


.... will you consider it after the facelift just for the new tail-lamps.
Well, as for your question: YES, they do generate interest, infact, that's the whole point of a facelift.

IMO, a facelift along with some nitty gitty features, provide an older model a completely new advertising platform.

Usually, older models slowly fade off from a persons (here: buyer) memory, and new-car buyer often look for new or recently advertised/promoted/seen models. And often for the aam jantha, anything NEW, should be SEEN. Facelifts do just that. For example, when the Esteem was slowly fading off, or getting dated, they introduced a facelift, and caption the ads "THE NEW ESTEEM: MY BIG CAR" (or something like that). When we enthusiasts know that, its the same old Esteem, an aam juntha car buyer, sees it as a new face. And the new features are rejoiced, and he gets the satisfaction of buying a new car.

So.. YES, a facelift often makes old cars, run a little more.

IMO, Maruthi is best in this department.

P.S: Please note that my comments are not restricted to tbhp members, but the market on the whole. Infact, when it comes to cars, tbhp members behave rather strangely. Well, the enthusiasm deep down, does it all.. I guess.
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Old 8th November 2011, 21:47   #12
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Default Re: "Facelifts" - Do they strike a chord? Do they make THE difference?

Well, face-lifts, as most of us know, are mostly cosmetic, for most cars in India. Rarely do we see major changes like new engines or tweaked suspension setups. But some cars have seen major changes. The Alto K10, for example. It's now powered by the new K-Series engine, and is the most obvious difference over the older Alto, apart from the enhanced face.

But the main question persists. Why only cosmetic?

Introducing newer engines and upgraded suspension setups in existing cars will prove to be a tad expensive for the manufacturer. It would require a great deal of investment and changes to the assembly line. The manufacturer would asses the situation and would rather invest little, in order to bring about small changes and upgrades for the purpose of boosting existing sales.

The key here: small investment = sales boost. Even if the sales boost in momentary and would not last long, the face-lift would have done its job.
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Old 8th November 2011, 22:12   #13
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Default Re: "Facelifts" - Do they strike a chord? Do they make THE difference?

Quote:
Originally Posted by libranof1987 View Post

Fine the tail-lights look good and all, but if you were not considering City earlier, will you consider it after the facelift just for the new tail-lamps.
Well it depends on what the buyer is looking for. If he was not considering the City ( using it for example here) because of lack of gadgets or petrol only option then I doubt the facelift will interest him at all. But if he is not sold on any car as such and is choosing between the city, vento and the Verna, then he may show interest as even a minor facelift does make the car look new and little different.

But in general yes I feel that the tweaks do help in maintaining the interest level in the car. But a company should not take it to an extreme level where they put some sticker and a spoiler and call it a limited edition. I hate those gimmicks.
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Old 8th November 2011, 23:48   #14
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Default Re: "Facelifts" - Do they strike a chord? Do they make THE difference?

Many a times a new trim version is also released. Dont know if it can be pushed under the umbrella of a facelift.
Technically no, but purpose is the same. Try to make the best possible sales figure.

Many a times even without competition, one may need face lifts to keep the interest alive
This would be because the next generation product design cycle would be much later in time.
Hence some make over would be needed to keep the "product line" fresh.
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Old 9th November 2011, 00:31   #15
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IMHO face-lift is just a form of presentation used in the advertising industry. I have used so many products which always have a " NEW " label on top. Even colgate toothpaste needs a facelift once in a while.
It is a temporary solution to bridge the gap between v1 and v2. A very good example would be the Hyundai verna. The sharp eyed model was launched just to bridge the gap between the verna and the fluidic verna.
Some aam junta falls for the facelift. I have seen people saying naaye waale model mein problem nahi hai and all those kinds of irrelevant comments.
IMHO aam junta is bothered abt looks more than other factors. Hence it definitely affects sales.
People are even ready to change the v1 models to v1.xx by doing the cosmetic mods for instance say change the headlights, bumpers etc. to v1.xx ones.
O.T.:- some of them also end up in the Weird and Wacky thread.
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