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Old 13th November 2017, 09:57   #1
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Question How much longer will we have to wait for a proper car configurator in India?

1) Need an i10 Magna AT with airbags, ABS and a sunroof?
2) Want an Octavia vRS with a manual transmission?
3) Dreaming about a Jeep Compass Sport with AWD?

Well, you get the gist!

These are reasonable asks but simply not available in our market as of now.

All this is possible only with a car configurator. In developed markets, the car configurator is a standard affair across manufacturers. Right from Dacia to Bentley. It is a section available within the official website for customers to pick and choose from the list of existing trims once a specific model is selected.

Some examples below:
1) Build and price all new Fiesta in the UK
2) The Bentley car configurator
3) Build your Suzuki

A fully blown configurator available in the UK for Ford
How much longer will we have to wait for a proper car configurator in India?-capture.jpg


We do have some very watered down configurators available with a few manufacturers even now. But the options are severely restricted and the customer just gets to choose only the colour or some basic vinyl treatment at the dealer once the car is dispatched from the factory.

1) Build your Ignis
2) Build your own Hyundai

The watered down version available at Nexa for Ignis
How much longer will we have to wait for a proper car configurator in India?-capture1.jpg


On the other hand, an actual configurator presents the best of both worlds for the customer and the manufacturer. A customer gets what he wants without changing a model or the brand itself. And also by not paying through the nose for features he/ she doesn't need. And the manufacturer gets to keep the business from a customer who would have jumped ship otherwise. And also take their time to block parts with suppliers, build at the factory and deliver to the customer through the dealer.

Sure, there will be a lot of delay to get the car you have configured as the whole process requires a lot of lead time. But all we are asking for is an option where the customer gets a choice to pick and choose from the different specifications and trims available to the manufacturer in the factory already. No one is asking for a power-train or a wheel which isn't available here already. Not right at the start at least.


The high end segments offer this utility already. But in all cases I know, customers just pick from the list of cars available at the dealer. No one bothers to configure and wait for the car to be made from the factory. Maybe people aren't willing to wait that long when they pay so much. And the wait is longer as the parts or vehicle itself is imported. Or is there another reason why this hasn't picked up in the upper segments?

And currently, all the configurations are done according to the whims and fancy of the dealers. I have heard of cases where a 911 came to the dealership with a MT (instead of a PDK) which is very hard to move in our market and had to be sold with a lot of sweeteners. So, the dealers now pick only those options which are sure to move.


But I think there is an opportunity and a customer base willing to be part of this process in the mainstream segments now. Think about it! The model you have always wanted in the exact spec that you have wanted within your budget. All you need is to wait for a month or two. And I am sure that won't be a problem for most out there. And there is also a certain joy in owning a machine you have configured and got built. And now with OEM fit, finish and warranty. I just cannot think of reasons why this wouldn't work.

Your turn manufacturers!!
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Old 13th November 2017, 10:08   #2
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Default How much longer will we have to wait for a proper car configurator here?

Do you know what is the average time of delivery for cars with such customisation?

This is exactly the problem I m going through as I could not see any car offering me what I want exactly. I was impressed with the features in Hyundai Verna but I wanted a more luxury version of it and hence was exploring Elantra. To my surprise, Elantra features list misses some of the important features that would otherwise qualify as luxury features but are part of Verna. I looked into Elantra alternatives - Jetta and Corolla Altis and I think I need to wait for facelift of both these cars as both these were launched more than a year or two ago and the variants I was looking for did not even have cruise control and sunroof.

I guess customisation would have made my life a lot easier and I would have had what I wanted
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Old 13th November 2017, 10:28   #3
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Default re: How much longer will we have to wait for a proper car configurator in India?

The answer for your question is - "When there is a demand for such a configurator" or rather, when the whole car ecosystem in India is ready for an overhaul, and owners are no longer demanding deliveries within a day or two and the accessories market is no longer encouraged by buyers.

That might never happen in India, at least with the mainstream brands like Maruti or Hyundai. Perhaps, the ones dishing out smaller numbers can have the bandwidth to accomodate custom configured cars on their assembly lines.

For manufacturers like Maruti, building cars is like how they prepare Dosas in Hotels. Especially there is one near my house which from many years has been serving very good Masala Dosa. There is a large Tawa, and at once tens of Dosas can be poured on. There is hardly a scope for customization of the dosa and you need to insist the chef repeatedly to get your dosa made the way you want it. That guy cares least when he has an order of 100 dosas to fulfil and all he cares is the throughput. If you want your dosa to be roast more, or with less oil, it will affect his flow of work and only upon insisting you might be lucky to have it your way. The server carries a bulk of around 20 dosas on his hand and just begins to distribute it table by table. Your dosa might get lost in his pile.

In the same way, leaving the Dosa apart, large scale manufacturing is done variant by variant, colour by colour and so on. And these manufactured cars are pushed to dealers whether or not there is an order. When I brought my Celerio, it was a tough time to get the top end automatic with ABS and airbags since no one even bothered to consider manufacturing a batch of such cars. Hence, upon severe pressure from my end, I had to wait for my car to be produced(maybe it was the first and last lot of Sunshine Yellow Celerio ZXI AMT(o)) produced by Maruti and they would have had a tough time selling them.

Like the example you have quoted, only a few dealer level customizations are not possible which again sounds absurd with the offering. But on the other hand, I personally feel that they should have both options. Those who want a car immediately can go for pre-configured variants and those who can wait longer should be given the option to choose what they want in the car. I would first get the chrome bits removed, add whatever safety is on offer, choose all the bells and whistles and yet avoid leather seats and beige and faux wood interiors
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Old 13th November 2017, 11:10   #4
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Default re: How much longer will we have to wait for a proper car configurator in India?

These configurators are very convenient and a great way to do some research from the comfort of your home here in Europe.

The Ford dealer I ordered a Focus from, used the same configurator in his showroom on a massive screen so you could see your car to be, real size so to speak. I thought that was quite a neat idea.

But as pointed out, the downside s long delivery times. I have just ordered a new Ford Focus and I’m expecting it to be delivered any time, but by then it will have taken close to four months from the moment it was ordered. 3-6 months delivery time is usual here. Everybody knows, so it’s not a big thing at all. My lease company will tell me well in advance I need to start looking for a new car to accommodate for the 3-6 month delivery time.

Effectively every car produced in Europe is against an unique customer order to different varieties, specifications and trim levels. To be honest, it has been like that as long as I can remember. In the 70s we ordered cars by going through a long list of option that you would ‘tick’ on the order form. My Mercedes W123 had more variations and options in those days then my brand new Ford Focus now.

So producing customer specific cars has been done for decades.

Dealers rarely stock cars, but you can buy their demo and showroom cars. That’s about it.

Alternatively, you can go the American way. Which mean you go to a dealer and within 90 minutes you drive away in your new car. American dealers store vast quantities of cars, and they usually come with just about all the options fitted. So what remains is usually choosing a colour from whatever they have in stock. And you won’t find the more unusual colours, because that’s too risky for the dealer. So you find yourself choosing a fully loaded model in grey or black. Maybe red too if you’re lucky.

I’m not sure why a vast car market such as India wouldn’t offer more choice, albeit at the expense of delivery time.

Jeroen

Last edited by .anshuman : 15th November 2017 at 08:37. Reason: Minor typo fixed. Thanks
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Old 13th November 2017, 15:15   #5
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Default re: How much longer will we have to wait for a proper car configurator in India?

Looking at the mass producing assembly lines are tightly coupled this may not see the light soon. However what could be done is to carve out new entities which can suit these customizations with company guarantee and after sales and prices are transparent to begin with. In most Global organizations these requested configurations are either handled by a separate teams or separate assembly lines within same premises.

Neither the company not the employees are keen to develop upgradable skills to offer such variations. With advent of more automation, the pressure is in churning faster by making everything iterative. This is the reason why more exports are happening from India as they still can cater the niche variations themselves to manage in the labor costs domestically
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Old 13th November 2017, 15:27   #6
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Default re: How much longer will we have to wait for a proper car configurator in India?

An interesting thread and something I have been wondering right when I got my first car. I just joined work and was looking for a decent hatch - Swift. Here's when I faced the problem. Swift didn't have the top end diesel variant and the VDi wasn't well equipped. That's when I thought the need for a configurator. Add few goodies that "I actually need".

But I did use many aftermarket configurators to check the alloys, body kits etc, mainly to see how it would look on the swift. I think these are the reasons why manufacturers don't want to add something like this:

1) Added inventory - Customization option means a lot of products which add to their inventory leading to nightmares in inventory/warehouse management cost. Although most of them will be from different suppliers, it will hard for them to manage. Again, cost. Logistics department would curse the man behind the configurator.
2) Currently, most of these accessories are just too basic and don't actually need a configurator (floor mats, basic body kits, sticker job - the famous Maruti decals ). Heck, most manufacturers don't even provide multiple alloys to choose from.
3) Audience - Indians want everything fast. And guess they wont have the patience to customize the car and wait further for the delivery.
4) Waiting period - As stated above, most of these add-ons will add to the delivery time. If these are from 3rd party suppliers, it will definitely increase the waiting period. I had to wait a month for a ORVM - Cant imagine if I had to customize the car.
5) Bulk sales - They wouldn't care about a single customer when they have lot many waiting for the stock car (just like audioholic had mentioned). They don't want to waste more resources to cater to a few customers who want a customized option (even though that customer might spend a lot on customizing his/her car and can be a long term customer. That's where Rolls Royce plays best.)

I see there are few basic configurators on offer, but there's definitely a scope for improvement. To start off, they should be giving alloys which wouldn't be hard for manufacturers since many have options spread across their segment of cars. The Germans do have a configurator but again it's something that comes with the car and nothing new. You do the same at the dealership level.

Will I go for this in case they introduce? Absolutely. Consider my car at the moment. I would have gone for the zero chrome, black roof liner, alcantara steering (I know it's a bit overdone), felt lining in all storage bins, better lighting options, tinted windows and few more.

Will a bespoke model seen in Rolls Royce make it here? I hope my great grandchildren gets to try them.

Last edited by naveen.raju : 13th November 2017 at 15:28.
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Old 13th November 2017, 16:36   #7
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Default re: How much longer will we have to wait for a proper car configurator in India?

Car configurator for normal users looks like simple web UI or application but in the background it requires lot of infrastructure support. Right from Manufacturing Planning to Inventory and Logistics need lot of adaption to introduce this kind of feature.

In Europe it is being offered because Plants and Processes are highly automated. Enterprise systems like PLM and ERP support this kind of dynamics.

Indian plants/manufactures are also catching up with infrastructure improvements required for necessary changes. The process is lengthy as it requires lot of reshuffling and proper interfacing between different enterprise systems like CRM, PLM and ERP. We will see this eventually that Indian companies are capable.

One more problem I think Indian companies are facing is brand value and profitability. Indian market is like street shopping where you want the best at less. Cost of manufacturing flexibility will in turn increase the cost of product. Indian companies are following methodology of fixed variants for maximum utilization of plant resources. Manufacturing Flexibility will reduce the production rate and increase logistics and planning cost. For example Tesla Model 3 offers very little configuration option or almost nil configuration, because they want to reduce cost by producing at maximum rate.

There are other small problems like, waiting period, after sales support but main problem is the profitability.

And then there is another perspective as well, Cost of feature if you add it in Configuration. Will you pay Rs.50 to 100K for upgraded Music System. Because of flexible manufacturing we have increased cost of this feature. If you see in Europe you have to shell lot of money for simple feature. Indians will think that after market fitment will do a better. People will then not choose features like Music System, Alloy Wheels. People will not buy cosmetic upgrades and many more such things. You will buy only necessary upgrades and rest will be managed aftermarket. And this is a problem for companies because higher end models are cash cows. In already competitive market and price conscious buyers you have to think from penny.

Last edited by sushantr5 : 13th November 2017 at 16:47.
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Old 13th November 2017, 16:49   #8
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Default re: How much longer will we have to wait for a proper car configurator in India?

Let us check some very basic options (Which is already available with most of the cars in India)

2 Engine options
2 Transmission options
5 Exterior colors
2 Interior trims
2 Drive options

Total variants possible = 80 variants! Imagine how difficult is to forecast production lot quantity of each variants. I did not even mention the next level of possible configurations. But few companies can do it very easily in India, they are Fiat, Mitsubishi etc

I do not see this gets implemented in mass market brands in the near future. Only 1 company in India thought of developing a configurator, but dropped it (few years back).

What companies can do is to meet this demand by moving customization option to separate sub unit/company. Get some quantity basic vehicles from parent -> stock configurable sub assemblies ready -> manage these orders separately -> charge a premium. but all depends on economic feasibility.

Last edited by Latheesh : 13th November 2017 at 17:04.
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Old 13th November 2017, 17:14   #9
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Default re: How much longer will we have to wait for a proper car configurator in India?

All this while most manufacturers have been wanting to sell us their cars with options that may not be the first choice of most customers.
I don't think many of us would choose the alloys, tyres, ICE or interiors that constitute the stock version of cars. Also, I feel that instead of offering cars with features that need to be factory built (such as safety features) they offer us such features that can be fitted in the aftermarket very easily. This is usually what the SA harps upon. The quality of such features leaves a lot to be desired and I am sure at a little more cost, we can find other better options elsewhere.

If such a configurator exists, I would like to buy a barebones version with all safety features and then mod the car to my liking in the aftermarket. Would the manufacturer gain from such sales? I don't think the margin would be great.
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Old 13th November 2017, 17:36   #10
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Default Re: How much longer will we have to wait for a proper car configurator in India?

While some luxury car makers do offer lots of customisation options, I doubt we'll see the same water down to the mass market. Reasons:

1. Other than enthusiasts, no one is asking for it. The market is more than happy selecting between LXi, VXi & ZXi variants.

2. Long delivery periods. Have read on USA forums that custom cars can take 4 months...sometimes 6. No customer is going to wait as long in India as everyone wants their new car NOW.

3. Cost. If you want a special build that'll disrupt the regular assembly line, you'll have to pay a pretty penny for it.

4. Our mass market manufacturers aren't accustomed to offering such individual options. It'll require tweaks to their organisational & supply procedures.

5. Profits - 'bundling' makes them money. The top-of-the-line variant gets you features you want as well as those you don't care about.

6. No discounts. Even in the USA, there are zero discounts on custom configurations, whereas a standard variant of the same car sitting in the yard will have thousands of $ in discounts.

That said, manufacturers are in the business of selling cars and if there is a lot of demand for a feature / variant, they'll offer it anyway. Those desiring safety features in base variants can take respite in the fact that Airbags & ABS will soon become standard. The day isn't too far when ESP will too.
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Old 13th November 2017, 18:26   #11
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Default Re: How much longer will we have to wait for a proper car configurator in India?

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Originally Posted by deetjohn View Post
A customer gets what he wants without changing a model or the brand itself. And also by not paying through the nose for features he/ she doesn't need.
My experience with car configurators suggests that things are not so rosy.

(a) Manufacturers often club some features together as a pack, which the customer can order. The pack may bring some features which the customer doesn't really need. For eg: I wanted to add adaptive cruise control to A4. This comes in a "pack" together with lane assist system.

(b) Manufacturers can have restrictions which make it impossible to order certain packs with certain trim levels. For eg: If I choose Passat Trendline, I cannot order rear seat heating at all. To order this, I need to choose at least the Comfortline variant. This type of restriction is very commonly seen with alloy wheel options.

(c) Manufacturers often add conditions like if you order pack X, the customer needs to order pack Y as well. For eg: I tried to configure A4 with rear seat heating. It costs about 380, but can be ordered only with leather seats, which costs another 1800. (Why, when front seats heating, which is standard, works perfectly with fabric seating in the same A4?)

And if the customer keeps ticking the options list, he will pay through the nose anyway

The other downside is the delivery time as has been mentioned already - even if you don't add any options to the car.
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Old 13th November 2017, 18:33   #12
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Default Re: How much longer will we have to wait for a proper car configurator in India?

This thread is a bit similar to the one I started recently about slow trickle down of luxury features. Call me a conspiracy theorist but everyone is playing safe and refusing to be competitive. You look at cellphone industry or other high tech industries, the companies go all out to offer the best. They are absolutely ready to kill each other. I do not believe in market not being ready etc. They prefer the status quo and scared to rock the boat for the fear of digging their own grave. Almost like an implicit cartel.

Why is it such a big deal to offer small diesel automatic?

Why is there no car with panoramic roof below VW Tiguan?

Why doesn't anyone offer better seats at a higher price? please don't tell me there is no demand for it.

Why should there be such a strict hierarchy among car models when it comes to features?

You rarely find anyone doing something disruptive or innovative which is very unusual if you compare with other industries. These guys are just lazy and playing safe careful not to step on each other's toes. It's like Airtel, Vodafone, etc. all enjoying the ride till someone like Jio comes and kicks butt. Can't wait for Tesla-ish companies to spoil their party.

Market is not ready is not a valid argument really. Innovation creates new markets.
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Old 13th November 2017, 18:47   #13
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Default Re: How much longer will we have to wait for a proper car configurator in India?

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Originally Posted by GTO View Post

6. No discounts. Even in the USA, there are zero discounts on custom configurations, whereas a standard variant of the same car sitting in the yard will have thousands of $ in discounts.

That said, manufacturers are in the business of selling cars and if there is a lot of demand for a feature / variant, they'll offer it anyway. Those desiring safety features in base variants can take respite in the fact that Airbags & ABS will soon become standard. The day isn't too far when ESP will too.
Too true on the discount in the USA as dealers really prefer to sell you a stock car from their forecourt. In Europe as dealer stock is much less or non existent, you will be able to get discounts on new cars, any custom configurations. Doesn't make any difference. Discounts in Europe vary from Manufacturer to manufacturer and sometimes per model. Many factors are involved. It used to be that if you were a BMW dealer and you would order say 10 3-series, you also had to take a 6-series. Which often meant that dealerships ended up having to order high end cars because they sold so many of the lower range cars. As you can imagine that was attractive for getting big discounts.

I'm not that up to date, but without a trade in, I would guess in many European dealerhsip you might be getting anywhere from 3 - 8 percent discount. Trim levels, options really don't seem to make a difference.

Delivery time for all these custom made cars is just about the same. There are a few options where the delivery time due to a certain option would be more. For instance on my Ford I have ordered the auto-box and that meant a few weeks extra delivering time compared to a manual box.

But by mid September I was already informed that my car would be produced on the 2nd of November. So these production processes work really well and is set up to handle all of these variants without a hitch.

Manufacturers will also offer a number of (option) packages / trim levels that will include several options thrown together. It's usually a bit cheaper then ordering each option seperately. And I guess it ensures some level of standardisation/volume for the manufacturer and it drives the total sales price up of course.

So on my Ford I choose the Titanium package, (which is a whole bunch of options/features/trim level). In addition I choose the Adaptive cruise control with forward alert and the advanced technology pack (which in itself is also various options/features). (And the autobox and a special Candy Red paint job)

Jeroen
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Old 13th November 2017, 19:47   #14
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Default Re: How much longer will we have to wait for a proper car configurator in India?

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Originally Posted by GTO View Post
......
2. Long delivery periods. Have read on USA forums that custom cars can take 4 months...sometimes 6. No customer is going to wait as long in India as everyone wants their new car NOW......
Most of your points hold true, except this one.

Waiting periods in months aren't unheard of - for bog standard variants, no less - and plenty of people wait willingly for popular models.

You're right about the economies of mass customization not making sense in India (yet), but 'waiting times' is a specious argument in a country where it's often quicker to carry a child to term than have a popular B-segment hatch delivered (pun not exactly unintended, and only slightly exaggerated).
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Old 13th November 2017, 20:17   #15
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Default Re: How much longer will we have to wait for a proper car configurator in India?

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Waiting periods in months aren't unheard of - for bog standard variants, no less - and plenty of people wait willingly for popular models.
This scenario is like a hen or egg first. Consider there is a popular model, which people are willing to wait for months to get their hands on. Now the manufacturer will be working day and night to deliver as per the demand. If the same model must be offered with customization, then there 'could' be some reduction in the output of the line. I am not claiming that there will be a delay, but in our country where there is some amount of easy going attitude at every level, with a fair bit of QC misses thrown in there could be a good amount of goof ups when it involves producing a car in a specific configuration and then delivering it to a specific customer only. Instead if they were to produce a limited number of variants, the distribution gets easier.

Whereas, if a manufacturer is not running at full capacity and can spare time at the line for such flexibility, and ensure that a good level of QC checks can be done to ensure that the configuration is exact as per the requirement, they can offer variant customization as a value added service. But will the average Indian customer wait for a month at least for a not so popular model? I dont think so. Thats the problem. Hence, it is now limited to premium cars which anyway are not produced in mass numbers and such options add to the value offered. Imagine prospective buyers of a big barge like the S Class, a Rolls Royce etc who get to customize so many elements as per their taste - All a part of the big cheques they write
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