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Old 26th February 2015, 16:24   #1
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Default The Curse of the "Taxi" Badge

Need to totally destroy the aspirational value of a car? Introduce it in the commercial (taxi) segment.

In a perception-driven market such as India, where flops remain flops irrespective of multiple price corrections, facelifts, engine variations etc, few things kill the image of a car as effectively as the “Taxi” badge. Planning to buy a new Indica Vista? Chances are that a few of your acquaintances have advised you to stay away from it as it’s used by taxi operators. In fact, Tata Motors has to be one of the hardest hit as several of their products are popular as Taxis and thus, there’s hardly any aspirational value attached to owning a Tata product even if the car of your choosing is not commercially used.

This presents an interesting paradox to me as India is a predominantly value-for-money market and an average Indian buyer looks for reliability, economy and service above most other attributes. Commercially popular cars are driven for a million miles and abused in various ways which are testimony to their longevity. Yet, the negative vibes associated with them puts buyers off big time.

I get the fact that taxis are a dime and dozen on the road, but so are cars like the Alto and Wagon R. Yet, those continue to sell. So the point is it’s not the fact that you are just another Indica on the road. You are driving a car that’s used as a Taxi! How demeaning!

Now here’s where the fun begins-the taxi space is slowly seeing a spurt of new players such as Ola, Uber, Taxi4Sure and so on who are breaking free of the “Taxi=Indica/Verito” trend and offering customers more variety. These days it’s not uncommon to see cars such as the Etios, Micra, Wagon R and Dzire plying as Taxis. As new players enter the market, the variety would only increase.

I wonder how perception would treat these cars then, or will we learn to appreciate cars for what they are rather than for the sticker pasted on them.
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Old 26th February 2015, 21:25   #2
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Default re: The Curse of the "Taxi" Badge

Here in Denmark, most of the taxis I see are high end Audi's, Mercedes and Toyota's.

Of course these are not painted in white colour here!

Here actually its reverse of India. Cars like Spark (Beat), Splash (Ritz), Polo, WagonR, i10 are used by general masses and the Taxis are mainly high end Audis, Mercedes and BMWs!
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Old 26th February 2015, 21:55   #3
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Default re: The Curse of the "Taxi" Badge

Interesting topic. I think the recent cars getting really hit by this 'curse' are the Etios and the Fiesta Classic. At least here in Bangalore almost all the newer taxis I see are Etios. We have a black Etios in the family and once we had taken it to Marriott Whitefield. Unfortunately Black Etios is Marriott's car of choice to ferry hotel guests around. So we were greeted with 10-15 Black Etios cars lined up in front of Marriott. Did cause a little discomfort.

White Vento's are also commonly used by hotels here as taxis. One reason why I did not buy a white Vento although one was readily available
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Old 26th February 2015, 22:49   #4
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Default re: The Curse of the "Taxi" Badge

Wolfconsole, how convenient of you to have left out airport shuttle taxi-- Innova. How come there is no mention? I see more Innova taxis than Indicas. Forget Tata now. It is history. Toyota is new Tata. It is following in Tata's footsteps. I see more Innovas, Livas and Etioses as taxis than personal cars. Even Corollas.
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Old 26th February 2015, 23:07   #5
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Default re: The Curse of the "Taxi" Badge

^^^^^^^

Doesnt seem to have affected Innova the way other brands like Indica and Logan are affected.
In fact, Innova is doing better than ever and costs more than ever!
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Old 26th February 2015, 23:21   #6
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Default re: The Curse of the "Taxi" Badge

Mod Note : There are several spelling & grammatical errors in your posts. This negatively affects the forum experience for other readers.

Kindly ensure that you proof-read your posts prior to submission. Also, it would be a good idea to use spell-checkers.

Last edited by GTO : 27th February 2015 at 15:01.
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Old 26th February 2015, 23:27   #7
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Default re: The Curse of the "Taxi" Badge

If we try to understand why people do not prefer buying cars used as commercial taxis, we need to go back about 2 decades.
In the 1990's the taxi market was with the two indigenous giants- PAL and HM. These cars were still being used till very recently, and the horrible maintenance standards resulted in people relating taxis to smelly cabinets that could not go very fast. In fact, even today, in Kolkata a few Ambassadors are still running with the old metal dashboard- engine fumes come into the cabin! The cars were good - the way they were handled destroyed their charm.

The negative experience that people associated with the journey in a Taxi made its way into a social stigma against this form of public transport. Indicas have actually helped to change the image of the taxi- a lot of Taxi drivers still swear by its reliability and economical running costs and go for the eV2 version.
The problem is, the social stigma is not so easy to remove. Even if you are convinced about the VFM of a car like the Vista, you would not get the approval of your social circle members so easily.

People who have experience in brand management can consider this as a challenge. Are there any historical examples of such image reforming moves by an automobile company (globally)?
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Old 26th February 2015, 23:41   #8
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Default re: The Curse of the "Taxi" Badge

Quote:
Originally Posted by pgsagar View Post
Wolfconsole, how convenient of you to have left out airport shuttle taxi-- Innova. How come there is no mention? I see more Innova taxis than Indicas. Forget Tata now. It is history. Toyota is new Tata. It is following in Tata's footsteps. I see more Innovas, Livas and Etioses as taxis than personal cars. Even Corollas.
I am certainly aware of the Innova and its continued success. However, the Innova was launched at a time when there was hardly a choice in the segment it belonged to. Back in 2004, if you were considering a MUV which is affordable, spacious, offering safety features and good to drive, the newly launched Innova was pretty much the only option you had. It quickly became the king of its segment and just as flops remain flops, a super hit continues to enjoy fanfare in India. Worthy challengers such as Ertiga and Mobilio arrived MUCH later.

Indicas and Veritos never had this advantage. They had to fight it out in competitive segments and once they were branded as Taxis, buyers moved to other options.
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Old 26th February 2015, 23:43   #9
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Originally Posted by DCEite View Post
Here in Denmark, most of the taxis I see are high end Audi's, Mercedes and Toyota's.

Of course these are not painted in white colour here!

Here actually its reverse of India. Cars like Spark (Beat), Splash (Ritz), Polo, WagonR, i10 are used by general masses and the Taxis are mainly high end Audis, Mercedes and BMWs!

In Denmark, high taxes on cars makes it very expensive for general public to go for high end cars. This is the reason why you will also see lot of old cars, more than 10-15 years old, still being used.
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Old 26th February 2015, 23:44   #10
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Default re: The Curse of the "Taxi" Badge

Well though we can associate this to the sad plight of Tata motors, as others have already mentioned, the Innova was spared from this. Even today, in spite of price hikes to unbearable heights and just the basic equipment on offer, the car still sells.

But do you think it's the taxi image that affected TATA completely? Why didn't it affect cars like the Innova, Dzire(widely preferred these days for taxi) get affected?

The Taxi image only affected Tata partially. I speak to these Taxi driver whenever I take a cab and get the most information out of their perspective. The older generation Indicas and other Tata products Sumo, were really reliable. As they creeped into the likes of the Vista, Manza, Sumo Grande, the reliability factor was affected thought these products were modernized with better equipment,interiors etc. For a private owner, these cars might be niggle free and reliable. But when used and abused like a taxi, they showed their true colors. Hence, these days, even taxi owners don't prefer such cars and are moving to other brands.

End of the day, I don't think the Taxi badge Will affect a car as long as it has proven itself in the market. Best example being the innova. I haven't seen a single owner complaining about the car, be it taxi or private. And it commands good respect on the road be it white board or yellow board.

In order to repair such damage to a brand, if any should happen by word of mouth only in our market. People should start speaking good things about the brand and that's when the products get accepted. No campaigns or restrictions on commercial registration will work. Hence for a brand like Tata to recover back to their once upon a time performance, they will require a year or two of clean track record. That's when the condition will improve.
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Old 27th February 2015, 00:15   #11
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Default re: The Curse of the "Taxi" Badge

Ironically, I look for models that have clicked in the taxi market. When I was buying my Ertiga, I so hoped that it would click with the cabbies but then MSIL threw a spanner and stopped taxi licensing on the Ertiga. Yet, when I drove down to Kerala, I was pretty pleased to see loads of Ertigas with yellow boards. I primarily buy my vehicles with highway driving in mind and it's pleasing to know that my choice has been the choice of many.

Now with the launch of Lodgy around the corner, I sincerely hope it clicks in the taxi market and becomes the new benchmark for long distance travel. That way, I'll be extremely pleased with my new Lodgy. Well, to think about it, taxi or not, I love the Lodgy, but yeah it'll be nice to see it click in the taxi market!
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Old 27th February 2015, 00:26   #12
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Default re: The Curse of the "Taxi" Badge

Quote:
Originally Posted by arishi1 View Post
Perception is something that is more evident in Asian markets vs European markets.
Absolutely! For most, cars still are a symbol of prosperity and hence, bigger the better and flashier, more the brownie points.

I think only Maruti Suzuki may be immune to this "curse" as their vehicles will sell, no matter what.
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Old 27th February 2015, 01:06   #13
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Default re: The Curse of the "Taxi" Badge

I don't think the "Taxi Image" is a curse as much as the condescending attitude some people show towards a specific car for whatever social reasons that may be prevalent.

Toyota would've done decent market research, agreed? Still it is placing the Innova as a Premium MPV even though its been sold as a taxi.

People say they don't like the Indica as a car because it has image of being a Taxi. But here, a massive number of software engineers are ferried in it whilst they're hooked on to their Laptops at the back seat and at much more ease sitting than the same position in Swift.

IMO Its not the "Taxi Image" thats at fault, but the condescending image created by society that, irrespective of the positives & advantages of ANY product, terribly hurts the value of the product.

Personally IMO, another victim of such social bias would be the Tata Nano.

My theory may not be 100% right, but when the sales numbers between Nano & Alto800 differ by 12-15 fold, then I'm sure its atleast 40-50% true. And, by addressing the issue I highlighted above, if companies are able to increase sales by even 20-30%, then I don't think they'd mind any initiatives to resolve this issue that they face even though they sell products that are quite capable.

Last edited by GrammarNazi : 27th February 2015 at 01:21. Reason: Added "Some" to the 1st line...
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Old 27th February 2015, 01:07   #14
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Default re: The Curse of the "Taxi" Badge

What do you want in a taxi?
- High mileage
- Low cost spares, maintenance, reliability
- Wide rear bench
- Extra ground clearance
- Discounts on buying big numbers
- Not so much on the interior quality

What do want in a car you buy for your daily/ long drives?
- Powerful engine
- Interior quality, material quality (Front seats more than the rear)
- Refined engine
- Wider tyres, lower GC for better handling

- Liva scores high in most of the taxi departments. Its the lightest car around, with a diesel engine that is very reliable. It has among the widest rear benches. And reasonably priced. When it comes to selling numbers, dealers have to cut corners and sell them at discounts.
Also, it is very similarly priced to a Swift, which ticks the boxes in the second category.

- With the Indica, again the rear bench width, affordability, cheap spares are all tending towards the taxi segment. But engine refinement, power figures does not suggest that an average buyer who is not price concious would go for it.

So, I feel, we simply do not shun the Taxi-cars for their label. They tend to work better as a taxi and fail to hit the nerve when it comes to a individual buy.
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Old 27th February 2015, 03:28   #15
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Default The Curse of the "Taxi" Badge.

To put it in another way-

Would you buy the below cars even if they don't have a taxi image?

1. Indica / Vista / Bolt - I wouldn't buy any of these cars now simply because they feel simply too old now. Bolt is a new launch, but TATA has made a big mistake in carrying over the looks and positioning it. If I was too keen on picking up one- it would be the Zest and not the Bolt.

2. Etios / Liva - Feels very cheap for the asking price tag. Looks bland as well and lacks aspirational value IMO. Would work well as an appliance at home though. Lost half the battle when the car was revealed at the auto expo itself- forget the taxi image.

3. Logan / Verito - Same case as above, but a better job than the Toyota, specially with the recent facelift. The less said about the Verito Vibe, the better. Logan was infact a very good product, but if you remember correctly- it lost the battle the day the pricing was announced, not when it caught a taxi image.

4. Toyota Innova- I would buy one, simply because there is no direct competition. Ertiga and Mobilio are a size smaller and it is only the Innova that comes are as a true comfortable people carrier. Infact- Innova feels like a much better product after seeing the way Honda positioned the Mobilio.

5. Swift DZire Tour- A friend of mine went ahead and bought one, went ahead and converted to a VXi after removing all the badges and was a happy man having got rid of the taxi image - only to realise a month later that his whole family started hating that car for the lack of features, looks, rattles etc. They now repent buying an outdated car thinking the only fault with the 'Tour' was its taxi image which they didn't care about!

So, in a way, it's the cars themselves than the taxi image to be blamed. That's the reason why Innova seems to be unaffected by taxi image, while Etios does. Some cars scream taxi image even when they are not offered with commercial plates - the erstwhile Logan for example was declared a good taxi even before launch by various media sources. Taxi guys don't mind the image factor and go in for whatever offers him the lowest running and maintenance costs.

To go one step further from the example of the Innova- some cars scream desirability even when they are available only on taxi plates. Need an example? The Isuzu pickup fits the bill perfectly. I guess that counters the sentiments of the thread that commercial plates destroy the aspirational value of a product. Or even a Jeep- if you want an older example. People like me from Kerala grew up watching Jeep taxi in action- but mostly in awe of its abilities to climb the kind of terrains it does!

In a way- some of these cars like the Etios, Verito Vibe etc would have been flops if the taxi guys had cared about the image factor like private vehicle owners. Rather than being cursed, I feel they were lucky to have aspirational value to the taxi crowd atleast.

Last edited by CrAzY dRiVeR : 27th February 2015 at 03:49.
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