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Old 1st July 2004, 01:40   #1
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The Chevrolet Forester, launched last year has received rave reviews by all Auto Journos alike. What better else than CNBC-Autocar handing it the best driver's car last year. But something has been totally amiss.

Last year, Chevrolet managed to sell only 150 odd Foresters during the entire 12 month period. Which is rather surprising, since all its competitors (namely the Endeavour and CR-V) sell the same nos. in just about a month. So what's really gone wrong with this babe of a vehicle that hasn't managed to really set Indian hearts aflutter?

Well here are some assumptions, some views and findings. You may agree or disagree.

1. Indians are really bad drivers, huh?: Is it really so? C'mon after winning the driver's car of the year award, sure the journos are upto it. But is the normal motorist? At 13 lakhs+, most people who buy these cars can be categorized into three groups.
i) Individual buyers.
ii) Company owned vehicles for top flight execs.
iii) Fleet cars as private taxis.

If we look at nos. 2 and 3, 90% of the times, the vehicles under daily usage are driven by the drivers with the 10% being either emergencies, or Sundays or some picnickers taking it for a long drive themselves (very rich ones in this case). Option 1 also sees it at a slightly less 75% if they are driver driven, which in most cases they are. So who's having fun? The fat cat sitting in the rear completing his work or the driver?

But even if the true owner does drive this vehicle, how many of them really take it to the limit, shift at the optimum point, take the racing line, go a bit offroading etc.? Am i trying to say there are probably only 150 good drivers in the country who have found the right choice b/w performance and handling in an SUV (crossover)? Probably.

2. GM- An unknown quantity?: Oh well, GM really hasn't been consistent with its sales, after-sales and most of all its India strategy. Being most of the time below industry average in CSS, its used to accepting failure now for quite sometime i suppose. The Astra died a very painful and slow death, the Corsa in all its avtaars is stuck on 800 units a month since i think US decided to go to war with Afghanistan, then Iraq and now with itself (Read national elections), the Optra having a great initial run, then sliding then returning a bit to normalcy (for how long, god knows), the Vectra (who?); the less said the better. I can't comment yet on the Tavera, but seeing GM with few after-sales points and even fewer sales points with barely a reach that can be called national after 9 years of presence in India, i think Toyota with just 4 years is light years ahead.

3. Is it a good car being launched at the wrong time?: Maybe yes. Well Indians with our driving styles really cant seem to understand the brilliance of this vehicle. And i blame the company more for this. Firstly get rid of that Chevy badge, put a Subaru logo on it, highlight the roots of this vehicle, then get a few Impreza STIs to town, show their capabilities on a track and a dirt track (with Solberg behind the wheel of one of them?) and then just sit back and see the sales charts rise. Maybe also import a limited no. of Impreza STis to town a year (maybe 10-20) for sale. To think of it, as hard as the incumbent ad agency tries, which is brilliant with its work, it can't harp about it unless that Subaru badge lies fixed dead front on that grille.

Honestly, for a car that costs 13 lakhs, is reasonably spacious, is quite fast for 120 bhp and goes around bends and rough roads with the same aplomb, its a very good buy. And if you find one in the used car market going at a steal, pick her up and enjoy the rest of your life believing that the WRC drive isn't very far.

Revv

P.S. Post in your comments.



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Old 1st July 2004, 09:38   #2
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Apart from the ones mentioned by Revvmaster, I can think of some more reasons that could have caused the Forester's "failure".

1. The Forester dosen't look like a proper SUV. Indians have yet to accept the concept of crossovers. The Endeavour certianly has a more striking presence.
2. The Forester dosen't have a diesel option. For a car like this to be successful, a diesel option is a must. Look around and you'll hardly see any any stationwagons that run on petrol. Even the Adventure, Swing and Altura are pretty rare.
3. Most people who buy a car that costs as much as a Forester don't drive themselves. So they don't really know what handling is all about. The car's rear seat isn't that great either.
4. How many people who are rich enough to afford a Forester would really go offroading? Hardly any. So no one really cares about its offroad capabilities.

Addressing these points is vital if one wants to survive in a market as difficult as India. Like Revvmaster, I've always loved the Forester, but, just two admiring guys in a country of 1 billion are not gonna be enough.



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Old 1st July 2004, 11:41   #3
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Well.. I love the Forester..even if it is a failure i dont care.. Infact.. i feel very good when i see the forester and best part is i see it rarely.

Well its failure may be becauz..people in India think it as a Station wagon kinda car.. due to its looks.. No one really cares... of wat gr8 4wd system its got or wat nice Boxer engine it has.! But now as GM-Chevy have cut down its prices.. v shud see a rise in the sales.!!
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Old 1st July 2004, 11:55   #4
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scooby rules loved the car.. wish they woud position n market it proper..
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Old 1st July 2004, 12:45   #5
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Make that one more lover Addy. The Forester is one of the best cars on our road today. It has great on road presence and its off road capabilities are outstanding. I feel its much better off road than the CRV even.

But as Addy said Indians are really not accustomed to station wagons and the sales charts show. The only station wagon to sell in acceptable numbers was the Tata Estate but thats now defunct. Very rarely does one see a Forester on the road but when I do see one , I always give the owner a thumbs up for his choice.

An Impreza chassis, excellent handling, good space , drop dead gorgeous looks and a rally heritage... Now does that sound like delicious recipie or what??? Yummm it sure does

Dippy

Still aching for a test drive
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Old 1st July 2004, 13:56   #6
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One more for the club. The number of Foresters that i have seen around the city are definitely on the rise, compared to the odd one i would see at the dealership at Mahalakshmi, but maybe it's the same ones circling the city over and over again. There could be a few reasons why the Forester to say the least flopped.
1) It's a novel product in a not so mature indian market. With almost no advertising structure in place, the majority of prospective buyers are just plain unaware of any advantages the car might have over others.
2) Combine that with ignorant little men in ties at the dealerships and i'm not surprised one bit why they don't sell. When i went to check out the car at dealership in Goregaon, there was no display car. We were lucky enough to get our hands on the showroom owner's car. The sales rep had no clue what a Boxer engine was. On being asked what brakes the rear wheels had, he took a quick look to proudly announce 'Discs' while they were drums.
3) Coming to the car, for something that costs 14 lakhs the interiors were diappointing. Don't get me wrong i love the car for the way it drives, but i'm just trying to project the Indian car buyer's psyche. In a country where flash sells, this one has none. The gearshift was notchy, maybe it was just this car, but i can't imagine Solberg having the same sort of gearshift on his car, would have driven it straight off a cliff.
The solutions have already been addressed by the others. What it needs is an aggressive marketing campaign, talking about the 120bhp and the AWD, and it's roots in the Impreza. It's a very capable car, maybe a sort of a JOSH campaign, only better. I hope the Forster hangs around for longer because then we might just get our hands on the turbocharged verion, the XT.
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Old 2nd July 2004, 02:12   #7
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Revv,

I speak with relevance as I was looking out for a D segmenter early this year.

I never even considered the Forester coz:

1. Its engine is all Y-A-W-N below 2000 rpm. Just like the C180, you need to whip it to perform. And even after that, it delivers a not so excited 0 - 100 of almost 12 seconds.

2. Its a car, wait its an SUV...nope its a station wagon!! Identity crisis

3. The model that you have provided here are not representative of whats sold in India. No hood scoop to start with. Looks are a matter of personal opinion, and I think that the Forester downright sucks in this department.

4. The interior is cramped...literally at the rear.

5. At the original price of 15.5 lacs, "you have got to be kidding." They did get this area reworked, and I believe its something like 14.7 lacs on the road now....but (Proceed to the next point)

6. The Accord 4 cylinder at 15 lacs - Its a steal. Forget the forester, it has alienated all the competition around it. In the D segments, it is the only all rounder - Flashy Indian appealing looks, awesome ride and handling, the interior space of an E Class, Nice interiors, a Honda engine, low cost of ownership etc. I cant find anything wrong with the Accord, and with good reason because there isnt.

GTO
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Old 2nd July 2004, 11:43   #8
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I emphatically agree with GTO on this issue. The Forester might be a good car but it just doesn't appeal as much the competition & the identity crisis thing is spot on! It wants to be an SUV but it can't & its a little tall for being a sedan. So it ends up looking like a Station Wagon. The biggest turn off for me about this car is the absolute lack of character in terms of looks. It has that confused look. Even a soft roader like Honda CR-V looks like a macho vehicle compared to this ! If I were to put my money on SUV for about 15 odd lakhs...it surely wouldn't be this one.
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Old 3rd July 2004, 12:35   #9
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this car was also in my short list along with the corolla and octavia.

when i drove it it was quite nice. but when i sat in the back as i do 75% of the time I was quite uncomforatable. it was cramped and bouncy.

the corolla in comparision is only the bouncy and the octavia is only cramped. at 14 lakhs most owners of the forrester are chauffered. there is lies the problem.

And yes the Accord 4 line did change the rules of game for all cars below 15lakhs (Octavia L&K included)
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Old 27th June 2005, 23:29   #10
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I agree completely with Revv
That Chevvy Badge on the Forester's Grill is killing me.

I had a Subaru Impreza WRX before, there are very few cars that make you feel you are riding on railway tracks instead of roads !
WRX was one of those cars with great handling on gravel,snow,water
road and everything.... !

Last year when I had to choose a car in India, I had aimed first at
Fiat palio GTX and after Fiat refused to give me the car I had to change my views drastically and re-consider another Subaru. But the price was 13.00 Laksh Ex-showroom then. Now it is 11.7 L I think.

Its really amazing to imagine what exactly a Subaru badge can do ! And unfortuante, how short sighted sales people fail to promote an established brand.

Currently I own a Skoda Octavia the ground clearance is a serious problem for me now because of the places I goto.
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Old 27th June 2005, 23:46   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ported_head
It's a novel product in a not so mature indian market.
Its become quite fashionable to blame the 'not so mature Indian market' whenever a vehicle with a fancy badge fails to sell.

Look at the vehicles that HAVE sold and HAVE done well and you will realise that the Indian market is quite mature - the man on the street knows what he is looking for.

A lot of people are enamoured by Subaru because of their WRC record. However we forget that we dont drive a rally to work everyday. We also forget that Subaru is a miniscule manufacturer in the world market, with very little to show by way of market share. They are also owned by GM, and I dont see why anyone should object to GM badging the car whatever they want just because they identify one GM brand with a macho image. GM can call it an Oldsmobile for all I care, except that they've decided to can that brand.

If you like the Lancer EVO and the Impreza WRX, that does not mean that the Mitsubishi Lancer or Subaru Impreza saloon are fantastic cars. On the contrary, these two saloons are in the tail end of the market. They are pretty lousy cars too, when compared to what the competition offers.

Gentlemen, some manufacturers may make one or two models that excel in any one particular department to become cult symbols for people who look for that one attribute alone. That does not mean that the model in question is a panacae for all issues automotive. That also does not mean that ALL models made by that manufacturer are fantastic.

Let us not generalise from the particular.
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Old 28th June 2005, 12:07   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steeroid
Its become quite fashionable to blame the 'not so mature Indian market' whenever a vehicle with a fancy badge fails to sell.

Look at the vehicles that HAVE sold and HAVE done well and you will realise that the Indian market is quite mature - the man on the street knows what he is looking for.

A lot of people are enamoured by Subaru because of their WRC record. However we forget that we dont drive a rally to work everyday. We also forget that Subaru is a miniscule manufacturer in the world market, with very little to show by way of market share. They are also owned by GM, and I dont see why anyone should object to GM badging the car whatever they want just because they identify one GM brand with a macho image. GM can call it an Oldsmobile for all I care, except that they've decided to can that brand.

If you like the Lancer EVO and the Impreza WRX, that does not mean that the Mitsubishi Lancer or Subaru Impreza saloon are fantastic cars. On the contrary, these two saloons are in the tail end of the market. They are pretty lousy cars too, when compared to what the competition offers.

Gentlemen, some manufacturers may make one or two models that excel in any one particular department to become cult symbols for people who look for that one attribute alone. That does not mean that the model in question is a panacae for all issues automotive. That also does not mean that ALL models made by that manufacturer are fantastic.

Let us not generalise from the particular.

that was very well put sir.
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Old 28th June 2005, 12:31   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WRXXX
I agree completely with Revv
That Chevvy Badge on the Forester's Grill is killing me.

I had a Subaru Impreza WRX before, there are very few cars that make you feel you are riding on railway tracks instead of roads !
WRX was one of those cars with great handling on gravel,snow,water
road and everything.... !

Last year when I had to choose a car in India, I had aimed first at
Fiat palio GTX and after Fiat refused to give me the car I had to change my views drastically and re-consider another Subaru. But the price was 13.00 Laksh Ex-showroom then. Now it is 11.7 L I think.

Its really amazing to imagine what exactly a Subaru badge can do ! And unfortuante, how short sighted sales people fail to promote an established brand.

Currently I own a Skoda Octavia the ground clearance is a serious problem for me now because of the places I goto.

Dont you sit right next to my cubicle in the office?

I agree that Subaru Forester hasn't got its due back here. Yes, identity crisis is a big thing with the forester. What is it? It certainly doesn't look like an SUV, neither does it look like a sedan. People associate it more with the station wagon. Subaru should have put in a diesel engine also. That certianly would have done wonders. This certainly is a very capable vehicle that can travel on any kind of surface with aplomb.
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Old 13th July 2005, 19:37   #14
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I think Revvmaster summed it all up!

I had almost missed the discussion entirely.

People who are comparing Accords with the Foresters haven't really
seen the Subaru in its elements. Ofcourse I am not asking people
to leave all their cars and buy Forester. Its sometimes to see
few good cars on the road than too many of them.

Well when it comes to character you got to know the thing deep
and more enough to appreciate it.

Actually I fell in love with the scooby again and have sold my Octavia today. Currently I am searching for a used forester (Which I think I won't find) and then I am off to booking a new one !

I think it will be time again that I will be showing a "V" for the
fellow subaru owner.
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Old 14th July 2005, 02:39   #15
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But I find the forester to be the only off road performer in India that is good onroad too. I will certainly take a car offroad when it is capable and cheap at around 10lacs too.

Ford endeavour is pathetic in power and interiors are old.I have heard rumours ford is about to discontinue it

Honda CRv is more expensive, less capable off road, gear lever stick is somewhere out in the world.Still makes a good competitor to the forester.

Hyundai tucson is a fwd when not in AWD. something I personally hate in SUV's. I wouldnt pay A premium on a Hyundai SUV yet.ANd again I wouldnt take a 14lac suv out in the mud.

Mahindra scorpios and tata safaris are yet to reach the perfection goal post though they are superb.

Maruti grand vitara is so expensive that I would not buy it even with a maruti tag on it.

forester is a mix of estate, sedan and suv is true but it is not having identity crisis. Instead it is a superior mix of one. I will call it a giant hatch that performs like a sports car on road and suv offroad.

No doubts on Subarus reliability ever. yeah the low speed power is just a glitch that doesnt come in the way much.


ANd finally I love those rimless door.

forester certainly makes a better buy among the optras corollas elantras lancers and octavias if you want more boot and like to own a suv alongwith a sportscar

Last edited by devarshi84 : 14th July 2005 at 02:41.
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