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Old 31st August 2013, 23:47   #1
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Default Why do Indian cars have limited variants (compared to US / UK)?

Last week i was going through a pdf of an old TG UK dec 2011. I was astonished to see the vast number of variants that most companies have for their portfolio. A cursosry look ended with these figures:

1. Fabia 26 Variants.
2. Polo 25 Variants.
3. E Class 20 variants
4. Fiesta 20 variants.
5. Punto 12 variants
6. Cruze 10 variants
7. Swift 6 variants
8. i20 6 variants
9. Spark 6 variants
10. 3 series 25 variants
11. Yeti 22 Variants
12. Superb 20 variants
13. A4 28 variants

I am attaching the car guide pages for reference. Would like to get the ansers to the following questions.

1. Is it a good thing commercially to sell so many variants in a country as small as UK?
2. If it is, then why aren't we doing the same in India?
3. How can a person decide when faced with so many options?

PS: Saw some cars which should be sold in India eg SX4 4WD. What do you say?
Attached Thumbnails
Why do Indian cars have limited variants (compared to US / UK)?-pages-topgear-britain-edition-dec-2011_page_05_page_182.jpg  

Why do Indian cars have limited variants (compared to US / UK)?-pages-topgear-britain-edition-dec-2011_page_05_page_183.jpg  

Why do Indian cars have limited variants (compared to US / UK)?-pages-topgear-britain-edition-dec-2011_page_05_page_184.jpg  

Why do Indian cars have limited variants (compared to US / UK)?-pages-topgear-britain-edition-dec-2011_page_05_page_185.jpg  

Why do Indian cars have limited variants (compared to US / UK)?-pages-topgear-britain-edition-dec-2011_page_05_page_186.jpg  


Last edited by GTO : 1st September 2013 at 13:48. Reason: 5 images are enough to drive the point home, buddy. Removing excessive images
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Old 1st September 2013, 00:11   #2
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Default re: Why do Indian cars have limited variants (compared to US / UK)?

Guess how many variants of Indica does TATA have?

Here in India, if an auto-maker provides various variants for the customer to choose based on his needs, we criticise them for confusing us. Why so? Because in India, a car is supposedly an "Aspirational" product and many, if not most, people consider their car as a "Prestigious" possession.

We all have better friends, who'd value us for ourselves rather than our cars, but then we also have 'Relatives' and those type of 'Friends'. People who we'd rather shut up by plonking a car in our garage than argue & explain whats what.

So, more variants = confusion as to whats your actual "status".

Just my 2 cents.
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Old 1st September 2013, 00:38   #3
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Default re: Why do Indian cars have limited variants (compared to US / UK)?

Quote:
Originally Posted by GrammarNazi View Post
Guess how many variants of Indica does TATA have?

Here in India, if an auto-maker provides various variants for the customer to choose based on his needs, we criticise them for confusing us. So, more variants = confusion as to whats your actual "status".
While i understand the message that you're trying to convey, i don't get the reason why a particular variant would be less prestigious than a higher variant of the same car. Infact the class of people who consider cars as inspirational products don't even go into the details of variants. For them, a car without ABS/SRS?EBD is same as a car which has one. I mean, A Ecosport Trend version will have same status as a titanium(O) to most people, even though the cost diff is 3 or 4 L.
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Old 1st September 2013, 01:18   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by searchingheaven View Post

While i understand the message that you're trying to convey, i don't get the reason why a particular variant would be less prestigious than a higher variant of the same car. Infact the class of people who consider cars as inspirational products don't even go into the details of variants. For them, a car without ABS/SRS?EBD is same as a car which has one. I mean, A Ecosport Trend version will have same status as a titanium(O) to most people, even though the cost diff is 3 or 4 L.
Greetings
Well I agree with Grammar nazi here. There are a few features we as Indians aren't used to getting in our normal cars so any car with them we feel is a premium car compared to others. Maybe a sunroof, alloy wheels, leather seats . I picked up a the face lifted fortuner and although it came with an option of a 4X2 but I simply didn't pick it up and picked up the 4X4 because I didn't want the feeling that I'd spent money yet scrounged on a Lakh ( at that time ) and missed out. I still feel that it's crazy that people opt for a 4X2 . Yes it's fuel efficient ( marginally ) , it's cheaper and great for people who want a city / highway SUV but the fact that for a Lakh or two you bought a car that misses out on the 4X4 looses the charm for me. Maybe that's how some of us in the north think . Probably our purchases are more from the heart than the brain haha .
Abroad it's different . While I was there I understood the reason. A company decides to get you a car for an x amount which has certain features . According to your position you are entitled to a car . Hence a customer can choose that for eg a 1000 pound rent that I get I want a c class with fabric seats but I want sat Nav , or I want leather seats but i don't want a special body kit Etc etc. Taxes are different too maybe that's a contributing factor .
Best wishes
Imran
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Old 1st September 2013, 03:45   #5
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In developed countries yes , one does have a lot of choice in terms of the bells and whistles that one wants.

One can literally 'build one's own spec' of the car that one wants through the 'car configurator' option. Of course everyone realizes that there is a cost attached to this and there is likely to be some lead time required for delivery as well.

As a car market, we in India have not yet reached this level of maturity. However, companies like Maruti and Hyundai, or for that matter Ford, or Mahindra or Tata, can very easily introduce a 'car configurator' for the urban markets. They will, in this way, actually be 'trend- setters' in this market-place.

However, they, like everyone else, are too busy scrambling to meet existing demand and appear quite content to continue to serve the plain vanilla stuff to the public or at best, a set of 'pre-configured' 'mass-customized' options!
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Old 1st September 2013, 07:16   #6
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For most models above the B segment, that is clearly a function of our tax system, which forces you to locally "manufacture" products, and the regulations that force manufacturers to spend a lot to demonstrate to the ARAI that the product has been homologated. In fact relative to sales volumes, some of these products do offer a wide choice of variants. For example, the Laura, which sold about 300 units a month at best, came with 5 different diesel variants (110 HP manual Ambiente and Elegance, and 140 HP DSG Ambiente, Elegance and L&K variants), and 4 or 5 different petrol variants. In short, each variant did under 30 units a month. Offering a 110 HP diesel with DSG or a 140 HP diesel manual could have been done, but would have only increased complexity for marginal extra sales.

For smaller cars, the challenge seems to be that Maruti, Hyundai and Tata seem reluctant to offer the same engine in different states of tune. They have enough volume to do so. Perhaps that is because a large part of those volumes use India's national engine (from Fiat) and Maruti and Tata have limited ability to customise the same. And in the A segment, price is such an all powerful factor that they only offer the cheapest options.
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Old 1st September 2013, 08:35   #7
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Default re: Why do Indian cars have limited variants (compared to US / UK)?

There are a few reasons as to why we don't have so many variants of a car available in our market:

Confusion:So many variants and options leads to confusion among the customer as to which one to buy and Indian market has not matured like UK where people spend time to understand the differences between each trim line.Even there only a fraction of people configure their car,most just pick up what's on the shelves so that they don't have to wait for their car.A few manufacturers like Tata have tried and we all know the consumer's response.

Cost:Having so many variants of a single car would require expenses as they have to produce and service all those variants.The manufacturer would offset this cost by increasing the price of the car and the Indian market being so price sensitive no manufacturer would be willing to do this.This is also the reason as to why we don't have many color options for the cars.

Homologation:Homologation of all the engine options would be a long and tedious process that would not be justified by the sales of the variants.

Also,if you see mostly the Germans offer so many variants.Brands like Chevy,Hyundai,Honda don't have that many trim lines.
Hopefully in the near future we would be able to configure our car online like in the UK & US(not a fake one like Hyundai Verna)

Last edited by Marauder : 1st September 2013 at 08:40.
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Old 1st September 2013, 08:43   #8
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Default re: Why do Indian cars have limited variants (compared to US / UK)?

I'm guessing here
1. India is not a high margin market to have lot of variants
2. Engine variants is something not very welcome because we are a FE consscious market. So what's the point of having different states of tune when most people will go for the most FE one
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Old 1st September 2013, 09:08   #9
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Default re: Why do Indian cars have limited variants (compared to US / UK)?

searchingheaven, Thanks for sharing this one.

Well, If we observe the above list, almost every car/variant listed in the above, have basic safety features such as Airbags, ABS etc. So, IMO, it's no confusion to choose. It's pretty easy to sort out which features we want when we have safety things in every car.

In Indian car scene, airbags/ABS are available only in top varients (With little exception to few car companies such as Nissan Sunny, Renault Scala, Honda Amaze (Diesel) are providing ABS as standard across all variants.) Wish our Gov't would make a mandatory rule to have ABS and Airbags in every car. So that, we will have less confusion and more security.

In addition to that, in India most people would go for fuel efficiency cars and so less variants. But IMO, its waste to have too many variants when they don't provide basic security features.

Last edited by Wildy : 1st September 2013 at 09:20.
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Old 1st September 2013, 09:14   #10
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Default re: Why do Indian cars have limited variants (compared to US / UK)?

1) Market sensibilities - We still steadfastly hold on to the belief that cars are supposed to come in only three state of trims. Low end, medium and high end variant or should i say lxi, vxi and zxi.

2) Price - Price could also be a factor here. Most of the models mentioned retail for a much higher price in the UK compared to india. Maybe the higher margins allow the manufacturers to offer different engines in different states of tunes
eg - Polo 1.2 tdi retails for almost 15 lakhs
- Fabia 1.2 tsi retails for close to 13 lakhs
Agreed that the european cars come with better quality interiors and safety packages standard across all models, still try selling a polo here for 15 lakhs, godspeed to you.

3) Local market - This always differs from country to country. A manufacturer will always find it economical in certain markets to focus on specific variants which get tax exemptions so as to give an economical product in keeping with the competition(the 90th percentile rule). Following the same strategy across different markets will certainly give it a good solid caning.
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Old 1st September 2013, 09:37   #11
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Default re: Why do Indian cars have limited variants (compared to US / UK)?

Some reasons I can think of, are:

1. Segmentation of cars of different shapes and sizes, with LITTLE or NO overlapping. We Indians continue to attach status to our cars and when it is time to upgrade, we generally upgrade to the next segment, even if the basic necessity calls for it or not. That is why car manufacturers did not dare to bring safety features in hatchbacks 10 years ago; they knew no customer would buy a fully-loaded hatchback when he could get an entry-level sedan for the same money.
This is so unlike the west where you get cars of different body styles in the same price, as the customer values the product for what it offers and chooses the variant that appeals to him.

2. Certain body styles simply do not sell in India. The first body style that comes to mind is the Estate, which is present in more than 50% of the mid-size cars there. Some more include the hot hatch, van and the pickup truck segments.

3. We Indians rarely decide upon a firm budget and even if we do, we seldom adhere to it. Salesmen, too, somewhat promote the trend and can often be seen asking customers to check out the Swift when he is basically interested in a WagonR. If a customer somewhat gets confused and falls for the salesmen's antics, he is only exploited more.

4. Cross-shopping, something that often happens here and rarely in the West. A prospective Scala customer, on realizing that his 9-lakh budget wont get him certain features and he needs to put in extra money, takes the opportunity to check out the Duster instead of the competition.

5. We Indians also have a tendency to compromise. If a a car appeals to 7 of our needs and is nowhere near 3 of them, we MAY end up selecting it. This is so unlike the west wherein if the car, for instance, does not have heated seats or that extra cupholder, it will be simply rejected.

6. Our obsession with fuel efficiency means certain variants with convenience features such as AT and 4x4 are simply skipped by car manufacturers.
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Old 1st September 2013, 14:33   #12
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Default Re: Why do Indian cars have limited variants (compared to US / UK)?

Thanks for creating this thread searchingheaven.

I have been wondering this since quite literally years. I find it very odd as even the high end cars such as the Superbs and Camrys and Passats have just 2 or 3 variants and a few colour choices and that's it.

In other markets, the same car is sold with so many options, including interior and exterior features such as navigation and heated seats and different alloy designs.

We don't get all the body styles or engines either. <30 lakh, all we get is one 4-cyl petrol, and a 4-cyl diesel and that's it. Whereas in other markets, they get various different engines with various different power figures. In the higher end, (Mercs, Audis, BMWs etc.) in the foreign markets there are various specs of 4s, 6s and even 8s. But here, we only get a couple of 4s and a couple of 6s. Nor do we get the different body styles such as estates and crossovers, and the 3-door variants of hatchbacks.

I think that the main problem is that the Indian market doesn't want to learn something new, and accept something new. They just want to stick to the things which were introduced years ago, i.e sedans, hatchbacks and SUVs, whereas the western market is much more flexible and they are willing to try out new things.

i sometimes feel so envious of the western markets, I open up one of the companies' websites and just a configure a car the way I like and then just sit and look at it..
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Old 1st September 2013, 15:15   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nipcarlover View Post
i sometimes feel so envious of the western markets, I open up one of the companies' websites and just a configure a car the way I like and then just sit and look at it..
I empathise mate.
Prior to buying my Yeti Elegance, I used to regularly visit the Skoda UK website and keep configuring the Yeti there in all sorts of permutations and combinations and just drool. The one I ended up configuring and liking best came to a whopping 29000 GBP after all my choices of bells and whistles were conferred upon it. But heck, that would have been one real devil of a Yeti had such a thing been possible to get in India!

The one sadness I have is that the Yeti has never been sold in India in that Forest Green shade in which it is available in the Western markets...that is a lovely colour indeed!

We in India, are the 'underprivileged third world' in many more ways than one!

Last edited by shankar.balan : 1st September 2013 at 15:16.
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Old 1st September 2013, 15:48   #14
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Default Re: Why do Indian cars have limited variants (compared to US / UK)?

The India market is still maturing, its only after 1991 that things started moving and after the IT boom that enough folks were employed and paid enough to create a market.

That's the front end, the back end in terms of regulation, bureaucracy, supply chain, logistics, technology is still catching up.

At one point you just want a car, then maybe a car with some features, then maybe safety and on.

But everyone in the world is looking for a good deal, FE and value for money is as important in any other market as it is in India. You just have to look at the car forums and reviews to see FE and VFM is important to everyone.

It will be a mistake to presume its only India that is price conscious or FE conscious, especially given we often pay a lot more for our cars, both in real terms and in terms of fraction of the average person income, than those in the US and UK do.
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Old 1st September 2013, 19:40   #15
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Default Re: Why do Indian cars have limited variants (compared to US / UK)?

I guess its all in the numbers. As a market, our priorities tend to circle around things like fuel economy, price, reliability, low cost of running and ownership. With diesel having given petrol the knockout punch, having various petrol engine options make no sense at all in our market. If you look at the US and UK markets there are more petrol engine options than diesel options (if at all there is a diesel option). SO if a particular car, comes with say, 5 engine options in Europe (4 petrol and 1 diesel)it will come with probably just 2 in India.

Manufacturers are reluctant to offer more variants if they do not see potential numbers. Take the case of the Palio 1.2 and the 1.6. Yes the 1.6 was great and iconic and blah blah... but how did it fare on sales charts? Same with cars like the TJet, Laura TSI, etc.... ECONOMY is the key word here. Once the engine variants are ruled out, that itself brings down your variant options by 75% as most of the options that you see in the European markets are engine options. If you freeze the engine option, I think cars that see good numbers here, are available in quite a few trim levels.
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