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Old 25th January 2009, 01:10   #1
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Default Is there a market for premium hatchbacks in India?

Many automobile manufacturers only launch sedan versions of their popular models in India. Examples of this include:
  • Honda Civic (in Europe the hatchback is far more popular)
  • VW Jetta (an ungainly version of the Golf)
  • Toyota Corolla Altis (saloon version of the Auris)
  • the recently phased out New Honda City (a butchered version of the last generation Honda Jazz)
  • Suzuki SX4 (looks far better as a hatchback)
  • Ford Fiesta
  • Fiat Linea (still no Grande Punto on sale)

Its 2009 now, and although one can now choose from a very large variety of cars in India now, there is an extreme shortage of good quality hatchbacks available in our country. Most of them have small engines (most powerful ones I can think of are the Palio 1.6, Getz CRDi and Fabia 1.4), flawed dynamics (Chevy SRV - looks sporty but a terrible drivers car) limited space and inferior build quality (eg. Indica, Swift - I drive the latter and it rattles more than a skeleton in a washing machine).

So are there any people out there who would be takers for a so called "premium" hatchback? Would you choose a Civic hatchback over a Civic sedan? Or a Golf over a Jetta? SX4 hatch over an SX4 saloon?

Or is there another hatchback that you would love to buy? Audi A3? BMW 1 series hatchback? Anything else?

Or do you think hatchbacks are inferior to sedans and only make sense if you want to buy a cheap (less than 8 lakhs) car?
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Old 25th January 2009, 01:37   #2
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Definately it would take some time for the people to get used to premium hatches but it is a promising segment.
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Old 25th January 2009, 08:41   #3
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In reality, the answer is NO. The problem is the image Indians are attached to. For Indians, longer car is a better car for still a large population of car buying public. One small incidence. Recently when I was attending a marriage function of cousin, people were asking me " your car is a very nice machine, very long car, gives image of having a Corolla. Its looks so rich ".
No technical talk was done, but people were chattering " they are rich, they came in a looong car " for any one who came in sedans.

So generally Indians attach sedan with " prestige " in society. Very wrong concept, but its very hard to change that. The car that comes in the segment you have mentioned is Ford Fusion. A very practical car, but even with diesel, its not selling well. I see more Baleno than Fusion on the road.
It will take more than 2 decades ( just IMHO, purely ) to change this mentality. Unfortunately, a very small number of people who would prefer hatchback version of cars like Civic, etc. are the one to wait eternally for the market to mature.
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Old 25th January 2009, 09:09   #4
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Default No

No. Definitely not even in near future.
I dont know about Europe but it is almost same here in US also. Hatch backs are considedred inferior in general. ( ofcourse there are exceptions like WRX STi, VW GTI )
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Old 25th January 2009, 10:30   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theEnd View Post
Many automobile manufacturers only launch sedan versions of their popular models in India.
Problem is Indians equate boot with status and richness. Can't blame the manufacturer's.

Quote:
Honda Civic (in Europe the hatchback is far more popular)[*]VW Jetta (an ungainly version of the Golf)
There are different reasons why Civic hatch and Golf are more popular in Europe then sedans.

Indian market is a lot like the North American one when it comes to sedans. In US Jetta is more popular then Golf. Americans believe hatchbacks are cramped since they like everythng XXL sized though how much of that XXL sized space they use is debatable. Many Americans upgrade to a SUV or mini-van from a sedan as soon as they get married because 'very soon' they will be starting a family and will need the extra space!

Indians think sedans means 'I have arrived'. BUt, I, personally, think that this feeling of 'I have arrived' can be taken care of by stylish hatchbacks like the i20, Grande Punto, Bravo and few others not yet avaliable in India.

Another reason given by Indians is sedan is required because we have a family unlike westerner's who tend to live either alone or as a couple. Again, most of the times we never use the luggage ability of a sedan nor do we travel as a family much but that's how people are everywhere.

Quote:
there is an extreme shortage of good quality hatchbacks available in our country.
I agree. BUT, if you get good hatcbacks how many people would buy them if they priced equivalent to sedans? How many people would buy a i20 1.4L Crdi instead of a Linea Emotion MJD at the same or even slightly lesser price?

Quote:
So are there any people out there who would be takers for a so called "premium" hatchback? Would you choose a Civic hatchback over a Civic sedan? Or a Golf over a Jetta? SX4 hatch over an SX4 saloon?
I would love to see and buy premium hatcbacks here. I would pick the Civic hatch over a sedan, a Golf over a Jetta but people like me are too few in our country.

Quote:
Or is there another hatchback that you would love to buy?
Quite a few actually. Grande Punto (thank you Fiat for bringing it here!), Bravo (not at 2 million bucks though! BUT can't blame Fiat for not manufacturing it here), Golf, Peugeot 207 , 307, Alfa Romeo MiTo, 147, Citoren's, Focus, Fiat 500, VW Beetle and Mini (not at 2 million bucks again!).

Last edited by amit : 25th January 2009 at 10:34.
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Old 25th January 2009, 10:59   #6
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Our Indian Consumer Mentality is some thing different on the Premium Hatch. I own a Ford Fusion. This car is comparatively more costly than any other Hatch. People compare this car with the Hatch Segment. But I am sure its more than a Hatch that we have in India. More Space,Stable,Power etc...
This car again didnt made big presense as people feels its more costly...

When we pay more we expect bigger thing... Thats what we think.
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Old 25th January 2009, 11:19   #7
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Of course there is a market for premium hatchbacks in India. The first time 6 lakh car buyer will always prefer a sedan (for obvious reason & that he is upgrading from a hatch), but premium hatches make a compelling case as the 2nd or 3rd car of the household. However, once the bigger brands enter the 6 lakh premium hatch segment, I see this trend changing.

For a premium hatch to taste success, the following are a must:

- Brand : Just wait till Honda & Toyota enter the segment

- Size : But of course

- Quality : Equal or exceeding that of more expensive sedans

- Trim level & features : The i20 did well on this count

- Competent engines : Not a 1.2L Kappa (as in the otherwise excellent i20) or a lousy three-cylinder engine range (Fabia).

- A competent diesel : A favorite ever since common-rail went to the masses

- The right price : The Fabia & i20 went overboard with their pricing, for what they offer. 6 lakhs is just perfect for a premium hatch. 6.5 if the engine range is really strong.

- Excellent road manners : Great ride quality is a must.

With urban India getting only more congested with time, hatchbacks make a strong case with their manouverability & practicality. The segment may be in its nascent stage as of today, but it will only grow as the market matures.
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Old 25th January 2009, 11:32   #8
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The Success of Maruti Swift and the skoda Fabia shows that there is a market for premium hatchbacks. With better integration and models like Grande Punto coming up, the market will only open up. But I doubt if their market can match that of sedans in the near future.
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Old 25th January 2009, 11:43   #9
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Premium hatchbacks (something that costs 7L and above) will remain an enthusiast's fantasy for a few more years. It will take a daring step or 2 from some manufacturers to open up this cliche (appearantly) segment.
First of all, they should plan well and deliver with good results to bowl over the Indians with a premium hatchback. Else, it will never catch up in our country.

And regarding hatchbacks above 12L (as expensive as a D segment vehicle), it will always be some rich boys' toys.

But when will we get some good 2 door hatches?

Last edited by speedzak : 25th January 2009 at 11:53. Reason: Figures!
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Old 25th January 2009, 12:23   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amit View Post
Problem is Indians equate boot with status and richness. Can't blame the manufacturer's.
Yup kinda agree with you.


Quote:
Originally Posted by devarshi84 View Post
The Success of Maruti Swift and the skoda Fabia shows that there is a market for premium hatchbacks.
Fabia -success?? I dont think so.

Well i personally feel yes there is good scope for these cars. Butttt manufacturers shouldnt go overboard with the pricing. If Punto, Jazz and Toyota s hatchback ( Yaris?) are priced below Fabia levels and have better engines then they would surely sell well. Fiat, Honda and Toyota would have got a hint by now that they wont be selling in nos if they price it at Fabia levels.

With the amount of traffic and congestion in our roads i think these hatches will sell as long as they fit to their premium.
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Old 25th January 2009, 13:57   #11
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Default Re: Is there a market for premium hatches?

Why not? If there is a market for premium sedans, sports cars, bentleys, rolls royce dropheads, porsche GTs, and everything else, why not? I have been waiting for a decent hatchback ever since I picked up my Palio in 2002. And nothing that I have set my heart on has bothered to make it to this market without being hobbled in some way, either in terms of features or spec.
The Fabia has weedy engines. The Golf would have been great. But will we get it? Even the VW Polo due in a year or two is going to be the sedan version, and not the hatch. Enough already. Like everyone uses that boot for anything most time, anyway!
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Old 25th January 2009, 14:47   #12
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I doubt if there is more to it than just customer bias towards sedans which has made all the manufacturers shun away from the hatchbacks.

Sedans may be easier to design and manufacture than the hatchbacks. My opinion is that the hatchbacks with their mono-form design need more complex production techniques. In hatchbacks, many things have to be considered while designing since the load carrying boot and the rear passenger load are to be accurately balanced.

IMHO, these intricacies make the hatchbacks more costlier than the sedans to replicate and re-release in India.

Last edited by ritz830 : 25th January 2009 at 14:52.
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Old 25th January 2009, 15:18   #13
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Since most customers want to get the best and the biggest money can buy, if the price crosses 7L mark, they are likely to go for a sedan. If this is the only car they have, they are justified as sedans seem to be more versatile. Add 'prestige' angle to this and it is difficult to make a case for a premium hatch as a first car.
It may make sense as a second car or as a city car as it offers the benefit of easy driving and parking in the city.
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Old 25th January 2009, 15:40   #14
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I think its just a question of time. Just wait for a few years and you will see.

I don't know what price the Civic hatch or the Golf would be if they were available in India, but cars like Grande Punto, i20 or the Jazz will have takers if they come with good engines. These cars make a lot of sense in congested cities.

The 'prestige' factor associated with a car with a boot wil be there for sometime, but will change once the people realize the paracticalities of a hatch over a sedan for a city use.
Another factor that is currently stopping manufacturers from giving good package is the definition of a 'small car' as it is now. This has to change. In my opinion engine displacement shouldn't be a factor for this. May be FE and emission but not engine cc.
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Old 25th January 2009, 16:52   #15
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Default Nope in near future

Reality
------
a) 90% of the time, its only driver with no/little luggage using 'big' car
b) No DIY culture (due to cheap/affordable labour), meaning no requirement of huge boot space to carry tools (mostly norm in developed countries)
c) the benefits of nimbleness, parking and driving ease are conveniently ignored just to look upmarket.

Probably the 'bigger the better' Indian junta mentality would ensure that premium hatchbacks will not be in same league as sedan/SUV. We have seen this time and again in case of Fusion,Palio GTX, SRV, Fabia,UVA,Corsa (to name few). On the similar note, the 2/3 door hatchback versions and estates would never be able to make big here.

I sincerely hope that as the overall exposure to western world and earning power increases, people would look for premium Hatchbacks , but would easily take 5-10 years..
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