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Old 11th July 2009, 13:53   #1
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Default Do powerful cars really sell in India?

Most reviews these days pay a special amount of attention to the performance of a car. Most often than not, the critics (test drivers) are never fully satisfied with this aspect. A little more grunt, a bit more torque, a bit more drivability etc are always the usual lines.

We all know that a powerful car is fun to drive. Heck, even the manufacturers know! But why don’t these manufacturers install powerful engines and solve everybody’s desire?

Now do we really need powerful and affordable cars? Eh… Oh Yes!

Let’s look at the history. Let me list a few “powerful” affordable cars sold in India.
01. Palio 1.6 / GTX
02. Getz CRDI
03. Ikon 1.6
04. Fusion 1.6
05. Accent / Viva 1.6
06. Aveo 1.6
07. Baleno
08. Fiesta 1.6 / 1.6 S
09. Optra 1.8 P
10. Optra Magnum
11. Cedia
12. Octavia RS

I may have missed a few, but I guess this list would be sufficient.

One look at this list and it strikes you that none of these have really set the charts on fire. Manufacturers clearly know this phenomenon in India.

The diversity of the above list is also worth noticing. All of India top manufacturers have their contributions to this list.

The list is predominantly petrol biased, but then powerful diesels entered the market only recently. It’s also ironic that the two most powerful vehicles in the list are diesel powered!

What does all this indicate to? Do powerful vehicles really sell in good numbers in India? Or is the Indian buyer too fuel economy conscious? Is it only the so called enthusiasts who end up buying the relatively powerful cars?

Let’s now look at the list a bit more carefully. What do these enthusiasts buy? Honestly, judging by the sales of the above cars we don’t really have many enthusiasts in our country! In fact it is an extremely negligible number when compared to the overall car sales numbers.

Let’s look at another list:
01. M 800
02. M Van
03. M Zen
04. Alto
05. Wagon R
06. Santro
07. Indica D
08. Swift D
09. Ambassador D (36 bhp)
10. H City

We are talking about cars only here and hence vehicles like Scorpio, Bolero are not included in the vehicle. It is also understood that in the SUV / UV segment, petrol doesn’t stand a chance.

The second list is obviously of the chart busters. There are only two relatively powerful cars in this list. The question to be asked here is: Is it in the list because of its power? Let’s look at H City first. The badge “H” stands for luxury and comfort in India. “H” has also consistently ensured that their cars are far more expensive than the rest in the segment. This obviously has had a positive effect on their brand image! Coming back to the discussion; do the vast majority of new car buyers buy City for its performance? May I dare to say a humble NO?

The only other powerful car in this smash hit list is the Swift D. Its euphoric demand in its initial days led to a waiting period of about 8 months! Everybody wished to own one. I own one too! What was leading the diesel hatchback market until then? The Indica D with its coarse, weak engine! What if Maruti had provided an equally ordinary diesel engine for the Swift? Would it have outsold the best selling Indica D? Would it still have become a smash hit? I think the answer is fairly straight.

Cars like Baleno and Cedia are relatively more fuel efficient than others in their category. The fact that cars like Getz CRDI and Magnum, even with their diesel advantage, sell in miniscule numbers proves us that Performance is an attribute that Indians generally consider nonessential.

It is safe to say that light weight, affordable, petrol / diesel, very fuel efficient, average performance, backed with a good service network is what majority of the Indian look for.

Last edited by sushanthr77 : 11th July 2009 at 14:00.
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Old 11th July 2009, 14:18   #2
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Expectations, on the whole, are fairly low, and wallets are pretty well controlled.

People talk about the Swift D as being a powerful car, but it's acceleration is 0-100 in over 11 seconds (I think). Not that diesel engines are greatly known for raw acceleration from a standing start, of course, but still it is called "hot" by people. "Heat" begins, for me, with acceleration in single figures of seconds for 0-60MPH!.

Quote:
It is safe to say that light weight, affordable, petrol / diesel, very fuel efficient, average performance, backed with a good service network is what majority of the Indian look for.
Probably, yes. What if Maruti gave us a 1.6 swift... or even a 1.8? In Europe, the VW Golf is available with 3 litre (might be more, it is a long time since I looked) engine!
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Old 11th July 2009, 14:36   #3
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Originally Posted by sushanthr77 View Post
It is safe to say that light weight, affordable, petrol / diesel, very fuel efficient, average performance, backed with a good service network is what majority of the Indian look for.
I think you have summed it up pretty well. Add to that rear space/luggage space, Maruti 800 being the exception but it still "seats" five, and a carrier for luggage.
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Old 11th July 2009, 14:53   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sushanthr77 View Post
It is safe to say that light weight, affordable, petrol / diesel, very fuel efficient, average performance, backed with a good service network is what majority of the Indian look for.
Yes. And why should not they be?
Not everyone of us can afford fuel economy of 8 kmpl. Not everyone of us gets roads worthy of 100bhp in everyday city runs. Not everyone of us is interested on racing on streets to satisfy false ego.
Not everyone is thinks that environment and global warming are something we can keep ignoring for long.
Why just the people, even the governments need promote fuel efficient and vehicles based on alternate fuels. Afterall Petrol and Diesel is non-renewable and we can't afford to be dependent on this forever. Big, powerful and fuel inefficient vehicles only adds to the problem.
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Old 11th July 2009, 14:58   #5
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In my opinin the cars didnt fail caz they had power and Indian buyer didnt have the appetite for it, but due to other factors plagueing the manufacturers or the model. Lets just look at the failure of each car in more details:

01. Palio 1.6 / GTX

This car was plagued from the begining due to Fiats lackluster commitment to India and poor A.S.S. It was launched close to 6 lakhs in its prime and than saw regular price cuts. By the time it became affordable the market had newer hatches from Hyundai and MUL which had new looks, fresh interiors and were backed by strong companies as opposed to Fiat which had threads going on in this very forum that the company might pack their bags and leave. Not only was Palio 1.6 was failure, but also its lower powered sibblings.


02. Getz CRDI

Its not the power that let Getz CRDI down. By the time Hyundai plonked a diesel in Getz, the car was beyond its prime. The pathetic school boy like beige interior job didnt do it justice either. Coupled with zero safety features, lack of availability of test drives, long waiting period and an exhorbitant price to begin with. Swift Deisel already was capturing the market and this car made its life easy.

But to conclude it was rejected due to more power is bollocks. If going by this argument Getz 1.1 with Santro heart should have been a runaway success with Indian audience who based on your conclusion want cheap cars and couldnt care less about power. We all know Getz 1.1 died a very measly death.

Its only off late that the pricing of this car has been corrected. But with newer players like Punto, i20 in the market and features like ABS and Airbags becoming increasingly important in ppls buying decisions, Getz has no chance to survive this onslaught.

03. Ikon 1.6

A true drivers car in its time. Again plagued by poor F.E. and Fords poor service support. If it was diesel things would have been otherwise.

One more point here is that when you have a same chasis with multiple engine options, one begining at 4.5 lakhs and the other one at 6.5 lakhs, it effects the branding of that car, and the users of 6.5 lakh budget look elsewere.

Another important fact is that Ford discontinued the Fiesta 1.4 as opposed to the 1.6 despite increased 15k excise on the 1.6. This goes against your argument that lower powered vehcles sell and higher powered ones are a dud.


04. Fusion 1.6

Fusion would have died an early death even if it was a 1.4. Thats more to do with the sedan fixation of Indian buyers. And the 1.6 was a measly 100 bhp unit that still does duty on Fiesta and its not justice to call it powerful, else we can say that SX4, Fiesta, ANHC are all powerful cars and doing well in their segments.

05. Accent / Viva 1.6

The korean horses and figures make me very skeptical. The torque lovers choose the CRDI and the badi gaadi lovers choose petrol. I dont believe a power enthusiasts would ever buy and accent and feel content.

06. Aveo 1.6

The 1.6 doing rounds in Optra is a very coarse unit and Aveo in all its forms was a dud in Indian market, thanks to GMs global sinking reputation. Even the Aveo 1.4 failed and only those who were on a 6 lakh budget chose Aveo 1.4, those with higher budgets who could afford Aveo 1.6 went for the old workhorse the NHC as Honda offered a lot more.


07. Baleno

Baleno is what I think MUL getting it all wrong. Like Navjot Sidhu says, jis daal pe baidhe the ussi ko kaat diya. They had a terrific engine in this car but they priced it all wrong in its initial launch. It took them years to come up with an LXI model and fix the price. By that time the interiors were drab, dated, and boring. The safety standards world over had changed.

Again the car didnt fail as it had power, the car failed due to MULs strategy. BTW the car that has replaced it has more power on tap than Baleno did. Albeit a coase engine the SX4 does pump out more horses and is more succesful than Baleno even with less FE.

Lastly, even the Esteem was a relatively very powerful car thanks to the power to weight ratio being close to a ton. The car sold in hordes till it was discontinued.

08. Fiesta 1.6 / 1.6 S

They still sell in decent numbers. But the cars are due a platform change and cant compete with new bigger cars in the segment that look significantly bigger and are priced relatively lot closer like the Linea and the ANHC.

09. Optra 1.8 P

Optra in all forms even in its 1.6 form cant be claimed as a success. Again the reason the 1.6 sold more than the 1.8 is that it was more accesible to ppls budget and less to do with the power. The ppl with more money went and bought the Civics and the Corollas. The ppl on a Honda City budget lapped upped Optra 1.6 as they got the snob value of a relatively higher segment.


10. Optra Magnum

The car is a nightmare to drive in City with no VGT. The turbo takes its own sweet time to kick in. By the time this car was launched the model already begged for a complete makeover rather than the grill job that Chevy did.

11. Cedia

Cedia is not a powerful car for its weight and size. The Corrolla and the Civic are both more powerful, more expensive and more succesful than this car.

12. Octavia RS

Octavias badge and terribly high priced spare made this car a super flop. Having said that thi is prolly the closest to a drivers dream car that you would see on Indian roads. The Petrol TPI model now sells at 9.35 lakhs and I for one can sign the cheque for this car if only Skoda gives a 4 year free maitainence pack.....

The other cars that are powerful and doing well that that you have not mentioned are.....

1) Honda City Vtec (old)

2) NHC Vtec

3) All New Honda City

4) Hyundai Verna

5) Honda City 1.5

6) Civic (*if Cedia is powerful than this definitely is)

7) Altis

8) Skoda Laura (torque torque torque)

9) New Skoda Laura

The Indian market is more mature than taken at face value. Even my freinds who know nothing about cars after test drivng Punto felt its underpowered. The VW Jetta 1.6 Petrol never took off as ppl had much more powerful and loaded options at that budget. The i20 1.2 never took off and the Getz 1.1 was a failure.

Last edited by khan_sultan : 11th July 2009 at 15:03. Reason: Please don't type in all bold. It is considered as shouting and is also not pleasing to read
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Old 11th July 2009, 15:57   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aseem View Post
The other cars that are powerful and doing well that that you have not mentioned are.....

1) Honda City Vtec (old)
2) NHC Vtec
3) All New Honda City
5) Honda City 1.5
The H badge was included.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sushanthr77 View Post
10. H City

Quote:
Originally Posted by aseem View Post
The other cars that are powerful and doing well that that you have not mentioned are.....
6) Civic (*if Cedia is powerful than this definitely is)
7) Altis
8) Skoda Laura (torque torque torque)
9) New Skoda Laura
It is safe to say that, as one climbs up the segment ladder, the power of the cars also increases. Hence beyond a certain segement / price point, the topic of discussion may be rendered invalid, since all cars are adequatley powered for Indian road conditions.

I guess I should not have included the Octavia RS in the list. Simply bacause it is not in the range of our discussion (Interestingly enough, its relatively underpowered (not to be misunderstood) sibling the Octavia D, outsold the RS).
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Old 11th July 2009, 18:41   #7
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The common man looks for FE, easy/low maintenance and VFM. For them "all cars are adequatley powered for Indian road conditions" as mentioned by 'sushanthr77'.

Those who can afford otherwise go in for Hondas, Skodas, Toyotas, Mercs, BMWs, etc.
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Old 11th July 2009, 20:29   #8
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The vRS/TPi died because of how great the diesel powered Octavias were/are. For a 'measly' 90BHP unit, it never feels underpowered, it has tremendous economy and is VFM even with the diesel power plant.

Because of the Government subsidies for diesel, petrol cars with even a halfway decent diesel brother all die a gruesome death.

Performance cars are a small piece of the market, even in developed countries. Manufacturers don't produce them and expect volumes. It is slightly sad that the so called powerful cars in India are all bottom end economy minded beaters elsewhere, but we have to make do with what we have I suppose.
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Old 11th July 2009, 21:38   #9
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Do we know how many powerful cars are sold abroad? My guess is that the lower powered cars outsell the powerful ones there too. How many Punto 1.3 MJD sell in EU compared to the 1.9 or 1.6 120bhp one? When I was selling cars in Canada, the Jetta 2.5L 150hp variant outsold the 2.0 TFSI 200bhp one by 5:1. Even the Golf GTI doesn't sell half as much as the Golf Tdi's out there. Because auto sales are much higher abroad, you see 'many' GTI's there but if you compare the numbers between TDi and GTI you will see that 'ordinary' cars outsell the performance variants out there too. Sure, insurance plays a major role out there but still it's the boring ones that sell more out there too.
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Old 11th July 2009, 21:56   #10
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Powerful variants of bread and butter cars never sets the sales charts on fire, but they are made to showcase/project the brand with people who are interested in automobiles, who inturn influence a lot of buying decisions of the normally disinterested masses. However, the average indian car buyer these days look for lower costs only, to run, to maintain, to own. Enthusuasts are best avoided when making a car buying decision!
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Old 12th July 2009, 07:03   #11
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The typical Indian Mindset is"mileage kya hai?" If its less compared to the general average, it must not be a good car ( I know this from my days of owning the RD350, Uno and Palio) and look at the vehicle with disdain.

I guess too each his/her own.

I for one would like to have a decently powerful vehicle ( Bought the Bolero CRDe which has 50% more power than the popular selling one) but wouldn't mind a bit of more FE it can be extracted without comprising on power.

At the End of the Day coming back from work, the pleasure that is derived from the little dab of the throttle is what I prefer more.

Cheers
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Old 12th July 2009, 08:55   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DCEite View Post
Yes. And why should not they be?
Not everyone of us can afford fuel economy of 8 kmpl. Not everyone of us gets roads worthy of 100bhp in everyday city runs. Not everyone of us is interested on racing on streets to satisfy false ego.
Not everyone is thinks that environment and global warming are something we can keep ignoring for long.
Why just the people, even the governments need promote fuel efficient and vehicles based on alternate fuels. Afterall Petrol and Diesel is non-renewable and we can't afford to be dependent on this forever. Big, powerful and fuel inefficient vehicles only adds to the problem.
A perfect answer. I still suffer guilt pangs about the Pajero I bought a year ago! Indeed, in India, what is needed is better mass transit systems. We cannot afford to ape the West in every way. Even if we had the resources to.
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Old 12th July 2009, 19:15   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Abes View Post
The common man looks for FE, easy/low maintenance and VFM. For them "all cars are adequatley powered for Indian road conditions" as mentioned by 'sushanthr77'.

Those who can afford otherwise go in for Hondas, Skodas, Toyotas, Mercs, BMWs, etc.
+1 to that and to give a numerical perspective from manufacturer's point of view
From another post
Quote:
Originally Posted by sanagg1 View Post
Discussion on Performance vs FE

If total prospective car buyers are 100,000 (say)
=> Hatch segment ~50,000
FiAT enthusiast ~5,000 (Max) for Hatch
Now the big question is
CAN any company servive on these numbers ? No and NOOO.
cheers

Last edited by sanagg1 : 12th July 2009 at 19:17.
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Old 12th July 2009, 22:49   #14
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Nearly 80% of my weekly drive is in 1st or 2nd gear. So no prize for guessing what I want. I drive a NHC (idsi) which fits the bill perfectly.
The otherday I was trying out a friends civic and was cursing myself for buying a tortoise. But, hey, I bought the car with my head and not with my heart.
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Old 12th July 2009, 23:06   #15
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Well to answer this, I think its first important to restrict the discussion to variants of the same car like the Palio 1.2 and 1.6. Comparing different cars is futile as the other factors like looks, interiors, ride and handling, FE, *** etc. impact sales decisions.

Among these variants, its pretty obvious that the less powerful engine sells better because of two main reasons. The number one reason is price, followed by FE. But, the powerful variants do have customers across the board, irrespective of segment. The Palio 1.6 did not fail, the OHC and NHC VTEC sold well, the Getz 1.3 actually does better than the 1.1 and so on. So they do sell if you ask me; just not as well as their lower power versions. This trend probably changes significantly at higher prices as budgets are generally more flexible there.
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