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Old 15th May 2009, 00:04   #1
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Default The Big Question- Is The Indian Car Market The Toughest One To Crack On Earth?

Recently, I was going through some posts about "underpowered" cars like punto, i20, fabia (1.2 litre) saying that seeing the specs on paper is a deal breaker (one post on VGT V/s FGT engine on punto diesel), some people saying that small engines are fuel efficient but not on big heavy cars, etc etc.

now the big question-what the hell do we people want in a car?

bigger or smaller engine?
brand or product?
country of origin or country of value based (straight H v/s tilted H)
power or mileage?
comfort or safety?
style or image?
price or after sales service?
resale value or depreciation benefits?

etc etc..

i think this writeup will clear some myths that still prevail in us.

fact one: the car's mechanicals:

we were all damn excited when the finance minister Mr. P. Chidambaram announced a tax cut for cars with petrol engines < 1.2L, diesel < 1.5L and <4 m in size. it sent manufacturers into a tizzy and they scratched their heads in wondering whether that is till possible or not.

yes, we think that FM had fault in this but remember one thing: the future is only smaller engines in big cars with DI and turbocharging. One reason-meeting of strict emission norms and increasing mileage.

Do NOT go by what is written in the brochure about an engine capacity, power and torque and cribbing about underpowered 1.2 engines in big hatches. Remember in Europe, this is a common practice as these cars are volume sellers. The people in R&D are not fools that they can do anything they want. They design cars for a global environment, ours included and depending upon the requirements of the country, determine the engine size.

Our country is more of a mileage conscious country, not power. Where the hell are going to we race small hatchbacks? In chocked cities or highways full of trucks?

Now comes the question of diesel engines, FGT V/S VGT.

cars like-palio, ritz, swift, punto, 500 and vista are small, agile city hatches which are not meant to be raced. And if Swift DDIS owners are happy with the car's performance with an FGT, why the hell do we criticize the punto for being second grade? just because is it a FIAT product? Or just because are we expecting too much from them?

Work in an R&D team and then you will come to know how difficult it is to really tune the car for our market.

The fact is engine size alone on paper does not determine whether the car is worthy of buying or not. It is determined by how a car behaves on pressing the throttle and how is it easy to drive on city streets, which a majority of car buyers want. If you want to race a small hatch, then look elsewhere.

Now comes the question of fuel efficiency.

We need to educate people something called as driving etiquettes. The fact is actually all cars are reasonably fuel efficient but it depends upon our driving style, which majority of we Indians are not aware of.

The big cause-contaminated fuel, poor roads and infrastructure, poor traffic rules and laws, poor pedastrian safety measures etc.

we often criticise cars with low clearence due to our roads but fail to understand that we have to fault, not the car manufacturer.

Remember that cars with high ground clearence are less stable at high speeds as compared to cars with high GC. What we need is top class roads to enjoy cars with same global level spec as people in other countries enjoy it.

Now comes-price. we often cry that some cars are overpeiced, features not offered etc but are you aware of the term "bhedchaal"? majority of the people only buy cars just for the sake of brands without really digging deep into the goodness of the product.

I mean what the hell will you gain if you buy an accord over a sonata? status?

people say it is embarassing for us to go in a big car with a tilted H rather than a straight H or the car with a fiat badge rather than go with a toyota/ honda badge.

it is not a shame about what brand of cars do you purchase.It is about whether are you really enjoying the car as a whole or not.

take a proper test drive and decide that what best value you can get out of your vehicle rather than just blind-foldedly going for "brand" factor for the sake of avoiding "embarrasement".

There are lots of options out there than restricting ourselves to just a few brands.

Question of safety:

We cry that manufacturers are not providing us with ABS/ airbags.

the big question is- HOW many of us really do end up purchasing up cars with safety options?

all we care is about-price, price, discount, discount, resale value etc.. and not the product that you enjoy.

No salespersons are even aware of the functions of ABS/ airbags in mass market cars, all they care is maximum sale at the cost of safety. It is for this reason that old outdated models like:

maruti 800
omni
alto
zen estilo
wagonR
versa
santro
accent
getZ
old indica
octavia
lancer
cedia
tavera
ikon


and many more are existing confusing customers (two or more generations of the same model sold side by side).
why can't we be at the same level as other countries?

another big question-poor sales staff at all dealerships whether it is maruti or audi/bmw/merc many persons, I do not know how the hell are they recruited and without even basic knowledge of the product, working in the showrooms and misleading customers.

resale value- why do we ask this question when an average person drives the car for 5 years? This means that he is buying the car just for formality and not to enjoy the product.

After sales service-this is a debatable topic that even I cannot comment on, as opinions may differ. But yes, can we give a chance to the Koreans and Tata/ Fiat?
Unfortunately, Many of we people are not exactly maintenance savvy and when a major problem crops up, blame the manufacturer on the component design.
how many of us thoroughly read and go through the owners manual 2-3 times after delivery? most of us have never even opened it except to find the numbers of dealers.

It is cheaper to maintain a Hyundai premium car than a Honda, isnt it? So why can't some people try and enjoy sonata and tucson?

Unfortunately we Indians are not even aware at the basic level of car knowledge (general car buying people) and even I feel that Team-bhp has to try even harder to campaign and educate Indian car buying public the importance of products and safety.

I don't know whether I have written an appropriate article, some may call it biased, some may like it or not but I personally feel that Indian car market is the most difficult to crack it on earth. Just because we expect again and again without going deeper into the product.

(Disclaimer: This write up is not meant to offend any existing or prospective car buyers/ sellers/ owners/ dealers/ salespersons etc, but just my opinion and truth that I have seen).

I would like you members to contribute with your humble opinions and how we can as a forum of 41,000 and growing members can help manufacturers and encourage them to come up with the same spec cars as abroad.

MODS: If my way of writing has errors, kindly correct them.

Last edited by sidindica : 15th May 2009 at 00:07.
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Old 15th May 2009, 00:13   #2
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You mean low ground clearance.
It's a point to ponder on though, in the case of the punto I feel we should really wait till we drive it.
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Old 15th May 2009, 00:39   #3
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Default Thought provoking

Nice article sid. Very insightful and thought provoking.

I agree with you, particularly the portions about maintainance and brand consciousness.

Cheers,
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Old 15th May 2009, 00:58   #4
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Well done SID. Very good article. Hope it is an eye opener for prospective car buyers and critics, especially those who drive abroad and compare Indian cars with theirs outside.
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Old 15th May 2009, 02:16   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sidindica View Post

now the big question-what the hell do we people want in a car?

1.bigger or smaller engine?
2.brand or product?
3.country of origin or country of value based (straight H v/s tilted H)
4.power or mileage?
5.comfort or safety?
6.style or image?
7.price or after sales service?
8.resale value or depreciation benefits?

etc etc..
From my experiences, I'll try to answer those questions:
1. Smaller: No point of power on Indian roads with Indian traffic.
2. Product, then Brand: Both are important though, and a product will do well without a brand only if it's exceptionally better than the competition. In the case of Sonata vs Accord, Sonata is not exceptionally better.
3. Country of origin: Time and again, I've heard "it's a German car, it will be very good" etc.
4. Mileage: It's a no-brainer. In a country of cost-cutting and penny-saving, mileage is king. No doubts about that.
5. Comfort: Another easy one. Nobody gives two hoots about safety here. Come to think of it, even comfort can be forgone if it means lower pricing.
6. Image: Cars are largely status symbols here. It's all about snob value.
7. Price: Refer Point 4.
8. Resale value: A really simplistic view of things, but that's how most of us think.

Other than that, excellent post.

In India, it almost always comes down to one thing: VFM. Pack in as many fancy features as you can for the lowest price. By fancy features, I don't mean 8 airbags etc., I mean things that you can show off to your relatives and friends. Like a touch screen, like a remote boot opener, like automatic wipers. Stuff like that. If you can't show something off, it's not a fancy feature and therefore cannot be included when computing VFM.

Mileage is a much more important factor though. Even if the car looks butt ugly, people will buy it as long as it gives 20kmpl. In fact, mileage is so important that people will give up their fancy features and even their comforts and travel on stone benches for that all important mileage.

Safety is an unheard of concept. I'm willing to bet my entire earnings that at least 70% of the car buying public will be unable to tell you the benefits of disc brakes over drum brakes, and that they won't care very much about airbags and ABS and ESP and all those things. Simply because they never travel fast enough to use any of those things.

This could be a never-ending post, so I'll cut it short. Basically, all primary factors that contribute to purchase of a car are related to money. Looks, comfort, safety (definitely) etc. come second. Price a car really low, give it an economical engine and you'll be laughing all the way to the bank. Even if you give a branch for a gear-shift and put a table cloth instead of seat leather. Money talks.

Last edited by f450 : 15th May 2009 at 02:18.
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Old 15th May 2009, 07:34   #6
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Majority of cars all around the world start to give problems after 5 -6 years due to mechanical wear and tear.So basically not to break your head on spares and other replacements etc owners sell it off.There are exceptions to this also ex toyota qualis

i believe in the Quote :first impression is the last impression( i know i quoted it from that crappy movie tashan) . Company's like hundai Ford even maruthi initially started doing business here with small and vfm cars so all of a sudden when they start offering luxury cars like the endy,mondeo and sonata and Grand vitara etc people will wonder if im paying 15-20 lacs for a company that is known for cheap cars my car will have lower value then a similar or slightly higher priced competitor.

Then there are those people who are NRI's or have NRI's as relatives. They have information or experience about cars outside indian market and they also are partial to certain brands.
I remember many people on this forum in various threads saying "I cant believe we/I are paying 20 lacs for a Honda/Toyota/maybe Hyundai.
if a certain brand performs badly in another country its sales get affected here also.
My Dad used to say I will never buy a korean car in my life again after having loads of problems with his company daewoo around 20-25 years ago.Many people stay away from koreans in india for similar reasons .
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Old 15th May 2009, 09:26   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sidindica View Post
fact one: the car's mechanicals:

Do NOT go by what is written in the brochure about an engine capacity, power and torque and cribbing about underpowered 1.2 engines in big hatches. Remember in Europe, this is a common practice as these cars are volume sellers. The people in R&D are not fools that they can do anything they want. They design cars for a global environment, ours included and depending upon the requirements of the country, determine the engine size.
I still believe that using good technology, manufacturer's can derive excellent power from the engine with smaller and smaller capacities - For e.g., 1.9 TDI of Octavia produces 90 BHP, but the 1.8 TPi engine produces 152! However, I have also seen that with higher capacity engines, the engine seems to rev freely - The engine seems severely strained at higher speeds if its capacity (in cc) is less. With the current gen technology, if I have an option between two engines with the same power rating, I'll pick up a higher capacity engine. (For e.g, 1.3 MJD with VGT @ 90 BHP + Pete = 104 BHP Vs 1.6 MJD @ 104 BHP - I'll choose 1.6 MJD)

Quote:
Originally Posted by sidindica View Post
Our country is more of a mileage conscious country, not power. Where the hell are going to we race small hatchbacks? In chocked cities or highways full of trucks?
And, I really don't agree with you on this - Then why do they make and sell the Civics, Audi's, Beemers and Mercs in India? Why dont they sell only Nano? Cars with higher power are made for a reason - Call it a boost to the ego, or simple pleasures of ripping the car in a small patch of free road and smiling, or cornering at a good speed and deriving thrill - If one can pay for it and get it what's wrong?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sidindica View Post

Now comes the question of diesel engines, FGT V/S VGT.

cars like-palio, ritz, swift, punto, 500 and vista are small, agile city hatches which are not meant to be raced. And if Swift DDIS owners are happy with the car's performance with an FGT, why the hell do we criticize the punto for being second grade? just because is it a FIAT product? Or just because are we expecting too much from them?
We expect because there is a possibility - Nobody cried when Ritz launched with a FGT - Nobody even expected it. Common sid! These are the guys who make Ferraris! If we dont expect from Fiat who else can we expect from? People were looking for a hot hatch, and they feel disappointed - Thats all! Nobody called it a second grade (AFAIK) - A good number of enthusiasts were expecting to get a nice fast car with great handling in 1.3 MJD + VGT. Again, if you think people cannot drive cars in roads full of trucks, you may not be able to empathize.


Quote:
Originally Posted by sidindica View Post
we often criticise cars with low clearence due to our roads but fail to understand that we have to fault, not the car manufacturer.

Remember that cars with high ground clearence are less stable at high speeds as compared to cars with high GC. What we need is top class roads to enjoy cars with same global level spec as people in other countries enjoy it.
It is not the question of GC alone! People may compare it on paper - Octavia with 135 mm GC scraps less than a Honda Civic because Civic has a soft suspension and a HUGE wheel base. Skodas and some of the European cars add a "Rough Road Package" by default to their Indian offerings. I agree with you that a high GC may affect stability, but I haven't seen any SX4 owners complaining about that - It may finally come down o the question of design.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sidindica View Post
I mean what the hell will you gain if you buy an accord over a sonata? status?

people say it is embarassing for us to go in a big car with a tilted H rather than a straight H or the car with a fiat badge rather than go with a toyota/ honda badge.

it is not a shame about what brand of cars do you purchase.It is about whether are you really enjoying the car as a whole or not.

take a proper test drive and decide that what best value you can get out of your vehicle rather than just blind-foldedly going for "brand" factor for the sake of avoiding "embarrasement".
Brands are not created overnight! The brands have acquired a status because of their good / bad jobs they've done so far! Lack of brand value means either they've not done so good in the past, or do not have a track record to evaluate them.

I have tried earlier (not in cars) to go against brand values and I found an intolerable failure rate. When I spend my hard earned money, I'd like to put it in a place where I trust. How can you know how the car will run after 3 years in a test drive? We need to look at how the cars from the same company performed earlier. Hyundais were notorious for breaking down in the US, and that earned them the bad reputation.


Quote:
Originally Posted by sidindica View Post

We cry that manufacturers are not providing us with ABS/ airbags.

the big question is- HOW many of us really do end up purchasing up cars with safety options?

all we care is about-price, price, discount, discount, resale value etc.. and not the product that you enjoy.
Some do. That's why some manufacturers give these options in the first place. Otherwise everyone will be buying the cheapest possible options.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sidindica View Post

resale value- why do we ask this question when an average person drives the car for 5 years? This means that he is buying the car just for formality and not to enjoy the product.
Resale value does matter when you want to change your car after 3-4 years. It is another parameter to consider, but not the primary one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sidindica View Post
It is cheaper to maintain a Hyundai premium car than a Honda, isnt it? So why can't some people try and enjoy sonata and tucson?
It is not always the question of money - It could also be the question of brand that I've discussed already. There is a saying in sanskrit - "Karya Gunaha Karyena Bhasanti" - The characteristics of the Creator can be seen in the created.

I have seen that it's got to do with the culture of the place. I can trust an Audi to corner in a curve to save my life than I'd trust a Honda Accord or Sonata. Germans are cold and precise and pay great attention to details. (In my role in my company, I've worked with Germans - Alcatel - Lucent)

I'll trust Honda Accord / Civic to be of low maintenance and trouble free than a Audi / Beemer. Japanese are very hard working and dot all the i's and cross all the t's (I've worked with NEC, NTT Docomo, KDDI)

In US Korean cars provide value - In India they are considered premium i.e. because we have not seen Hyundai cars breaking down in the highway. Koreans are extremely hard working but IMHO they work based on brute force methods.

Indians don't have an eye for detail, and mostly give up easily. (My friend bought a Safari last week which had a broken suspension on delivery). But, if persistent, nothing can come close them in innovativeness (Nano)

So, there is again a reason why people have notions of German cars handling well and Japan cars live long. These notions were not created out of thin air and have a history.

I appreciate your thread's intent - I just wanted to share my thoughts.

PS:- My first post with no smilies (oops....)
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Old 15th May 2009, 09:35   #8
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SID excellent.

You have correctly Depicted the INDIAN Market.

Being a Marketing person for the past 6 years, I would like to add 1 point, We all have a mentality of favouring a particular BRAND or BADGE for some or the other reasons, irrespective of Product (FMCG Automobiles).

And we have a very uncanny habit of not being able to decide (We are always undecided, as we never actually know what we want).

This actually remind me of the discussion i had with my dad in 93' when we were planning to buy our first car and i was pushing him to buy a Uno where as he wanted a Maruthi as he belived that maruthi makes better cars.. Why?? because it a Government Run Company....

And i am sure things have not changed much, as 90% of us still feel that Maruthi is a Government Company....
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Old 15th May 2009, 09:50   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sidindica View Post
Now comes the question of diesel engines, FGT V/S VGT.

cars like-palio, ritz, swift, punto, 500 and vista are small, agile city hatches which are not meant to be raced. And if Swift DDIS owners are happy with the car's performance with an FGT, why the hell do we criticize the punto for being second grade? just because is it a FIAT product? Or just because are we expecting too much from them?

Very Very good thread Sid! Must appreciate the efforts.


Well let me bring my views why im not too happy with GP FGT. Its just that most of us expected GP to be pricier than the Swift. Heck i think most of them were ready to pay atleast 1 lac premium for the VGT & the extra features on the Emotion + model. Its too early for us to criticize too much on it. But now Fiat has to price GP tad above Swift. They cant ask for too much premium IMO. Like others i too feel VGT should have been atleast been given on higher end . Fiat has to think of both FE conscious buyers and people who want powerful hatch!
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Old 15th May 2009, 10:30   #10
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good thread sid and nice write up too.
yeah india is mileage,resale and brand conscious country.
how many people in india buy the grand vitara??
even the baleno was a success only after significant price cuts.

you are very true about the sales staff part.hell the sales man attending to me when i baught my swift ddis said that there is no difference in the Ldi and Vdi except power windows.he didnt even know the bhp and torque ratings and had to consult the brochure for that.these people are only trained to how to convince people to buy a car and hoe to calculate E.M.I 's.all they know is to complete their targets.

resale value is another factor which determines which car an indian buys.
a used car dealer was offering even less than a 2004 maruti 800 for my 2005 petra 1.6 . thats the time i decided that i would go for a maruti/hyundai/honda this time.

alto and santro and selling decent numbers even now.main reason for that is that these cars are generally reliable and an indian says that " arre,meri santro ko 5 saal ho gaya kuch nahin hua aaj tak aur hamesha 13-14 average milta hai.aur kya chahiye". what he doesnt know that the tin can that heis driving in is a light weight car with a decently powered engine.light weight means less wear and tear of suspension and decent f.e too.
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Old 15th May 2009, 11:41   #11
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I would have bought the sonata any day if I had the money. Brilliant engine, huge space, you get the luxury feel and cheap to maintain.

Our society is a corrupted one, a very corrupted one, people look down on people buying smaller cars or cars that don't have badge.

I know people who have bought the new logan? Why? FE engine and huge huge space in the back, which is why taxis have also accepted the logan.
But our commmunity won't accept it, because it is the usual sedan brand.

I don't think our market is the toughest, it is the easiest.
We buy outdated models and old gen cars, it is easy to dump cars on us.
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Old 15th May 2009, 11:52   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by karanraheja View Post
Fiat has to think of both FE conscious buyers and people who want powerful hatch!
The perennial players of the waiting game like me, after a year or so, may be rewarded by Fiat in the following way (for GP):
1. Cosmetic upgrade of the exterior and interior
2. 1.3 VGT in Active and Dynamic; 1.6 VGT in Emotion
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Old 15th May 2009, 14:57   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sidindica View Post
Question of safety:

We cry that manufacturers are not providing us with ABS/ airbags.
I have to say, if people dont follow rules and disrespect pedestrians, manufacturers should not even provide such features to the masses.

People think that they can run over pedestrians, but they deserve to be safe in their vehicles. When an Indian hits a pedestrian, the first thing they do is check for the damage on their car, and then go for the injured.

Also, if you are overspeeding, then why should they provide airbags. Not to mention most of overspeeders dont wear seatbelt anyway - so they deserve to receive whiplash that they get during impact
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Old 15th May 2009, 16:39   #14
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The success of a product depends on how well a manufacturer understands the needs of the customers in that market.And if they start doing it then a brand is developed.I really apreciate the way hyundai had done it with the SANTRO and then we have an example of -DONT TAKE THINGS FOR GRANDED IN INDIA too.Thats the getz.Final try was the verna engine plonked into it ,still dint work.I firmly believe that there are hyundai fans in india like honda and toyota.People understands the difference of the capital H and the slanting H.Still slanting was also equally successfull or even more than that when compared to the capital H.So cracking the Indian market is not as easy as said.Here word of mouth has an unbelievable strength as people still discuss in forums,home,office ,clubs etc before purchasing anything for that matter.Its the indian phsycho which is working.He doesnt want to be a fool in a bunch or the odd man out.In the other markets people buy things which actually feels good to him rather than which feels good to the masses.
Just take a list of the succesfull models and this would be a testimony for this.

ram
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Old 15th May 2009, 16:58   #15
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More than anything, its time manufacturers stopped treating us like star struck children who will take anything that they give us with a bag of salt.
Small engine displacement is the new trend, agreed.
Higher technology small engine displacement is also the trend.
So why do we get saddled with lumps that barely give us the mileage even new age Mercs and BMWs get with twice the engine displacements and twice the body weight?
I agree small displacement is the way to go. So give us the option to put our money down for whatever we want. Give us the 7 engine options and the DSG box. Who cares then if its a 1.2 TSI with 106 BHP??
By dumbing us all down to meet the lowest common denominator, the people who can afford the choice cannot choose anything other than the one variant. (Honda Jazz, anyone??)
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