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Old 21st April 2020, 11:41   #1
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Default Why it's important to offer the right engines + AT gearboxes + variants at the time of launch

Why it's important to offer the right engines + AT gearboxes + variants at the time of launch-collage2.jpg

Am mighty pissed off with how the prospects of some otherwise-competent models are ruined, simply because the maker didn’t do its homework! The most recent example is the Tata Altroz which is quite a capable hatchback, except for that puny + weak 3-cylinder petrol under the bonnet (review link). There have been many other cars too which left customers wanting for their choice of engine or gearbox. E.g. the Compass which offered everything in 2017, save for a Diesel AT which 20-lakh customers prefer (especially important as its Petrol AT was lame). By the time the Compass Diesel AT arrived in 2019, customers had moved on. There is also the Yaris which arrived with an ordinary petrol engine & was the only C2-segment sedan without a diesel.

No one understands the thread title better than the big guys - Maruti, Hyundai & even newcomer Kia - who roll out a wide variety of options at launch itself . When the Dzire was introduced, it came with petrol MT + AT and diesel MT + AT. Heck, Hyundai has been practising this forever (take a look at the offerings on the 2015 Creta or the Venue). Kia dialed it up a notch; not only did the Seltos come with 3 engines & 6 gearboxes (including a torque-converter, DCT & CVT automatic!!!), it also offered a mind-boggling array of equipment levels. So many trim levels that, even after proof-reading our 15,000 word Seltos review, I still haven't understood them.

One MUST strike when the iron is hot - this is only when the car is fresh in the market. I cannot think of a single car whose fortunes changed after a new engine or gearbox was introduced 2 - 3 years later. On the other hand, I can list many cars whose future was destroyed because it didn't offer the right engine or gearbox at the time of introduction.

Below are 16 reasons why the OEM should have it all ready at the time of the model's original launch. On the other hand, I challenge any manufacturer to give me ONE GOOD REASON for not offering the desirable engine / AT / variant at launch. In such a brutally competitive market, you can't arrive for the battle without your sword.

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• Hardly anyone from the aam junta comes back later to check if their “first choice of engine & gearbox” has become available. Once you are rejected by the customer, you are usually out of sight and out of mind. Odds are, by the time you finally launch that much-awaited engine & gearbox combo, the customer has moved on. No one has been holding their breath. Consider the Jeep Compass. All those who wanted their "mythical Compass Diesel AT" have already bought their XUV500 / Creta / Tucson / Seltos / Hexa ATs. By the time the Compass Diesel AT launched, it literally had run out of customers. Why would a customer wait anyway? Not like any brand provides fixed timelines on the yet-unseen engine or gearbox. Usually, it's an indefinite, frustrating wait. FCA India should stop building cars & write a book on "how to miss golden opportunities", based on their 25 years of blunders in India.

The customer doesn't come back. Customers don't wait for 2 years.

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• The original reputation sticks. It rarely ever changes. Mahindra foolishly launched the TUV300 with an under-powered motor. It was wrong on so many levels! Just 84 BHP in a 1,600 kilo body-on-frame UV. The "tank" quickly built a reputation on the street for being UNDER-POWERED (sad because it was otherwise a competent UV). Mahindra realised its folly & brought out a 100 BHP version later, then a "Plus" variant powered by the delicious 2.2L mHawk. Alas, it was too late (an agonizing 3 years in this case). The improved engines did absolutely NOTHING to its sales figures. With the Altroz as well, many people will permanently associate the petrol variant as being "under-powered" (even after the turbo-petrol is launched). Mahindra had the 2.2L ready, as did Tata the Nexon's 1.2L Turbo. To not use that ammunition when going to war was the most foolhardy decision taken by their respective managements.

The first impression is the lasting impression. You must always put your best foot forward when meeting your customer / client / life partner etc. the first time. If you goof things up, one rarely gets a second chance in either of these scenarios.

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While on this point, the Civic surely deserves the award for the WORST engine + gearbox combinations thinkable. Honda gave it a quick petrol, then mated it to a slow CVT. No petrol MT for enthusiasts or cost-conscious people either. The Civic got a 118 BHP diesel (low power rating for the segment), but not an AT which 2-million-rupee buyers love. In one stroke, Honda destroyed the fun-to-drive reputation of the Civic that was created by the 8th-gen model. It's as if Honda's chief competitor planned the engine + gearbox offerings!

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• All comparisons with competing products are made at the time of launch. Only enthusiasts bring out their calculators after 2 years when the upgraded variant comes. If you lose out to the benchmark cars when the attention is entirely on you, that's a major setback. How do you think the Altroz petrol compares to the erstwhile Baleno or Elite i20? Not a match in terms of refinement or performance. Ironically, many brands take a step backward with their latest too. The Captur was launched without an AT or AWD, both of which the outdated Duster (the car it should have been replacing!) had. There are so many stories of potential clients comparing the Duster & Captur in the showroom, then driving out in the former. IMHO, Renault should have launched the Captur as the "new Duster", and not a new nameplate at an unjustifiably higher price.

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• Fatigue: There is a chance that, by the time you finally bring the powertrain option that's in demand, your product is already “old news” or “yesterday’s story”. Prime example is the Beat diesel, Cruze AT or Corolla 1.4D. The introduction of these variants did almost nothing to their sales figures. Any gains were temporary. At best, they took away sales from existing variants, but didn't really add "new customers" to the family.

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• When its new is when your car has the maximum number of test-drives and people checking it out at the dealer. Almost every sub 20-lakh car debut leads to crowds at the showroom, and that's when ALL EYES ARE ON YOU. The crowd includes not just potential customers, but also enthusiasts, opinion-makers & those with more than a passing interest in cars who are test-driving for the fun of it. Again, I reiterate = this is the time when the "reputation on the street" is built. Tata showcasing unsorted Harriers at malls & dealerships severely damaged the brand. What's worse, a lot of that damage is permanent. The improved 2020 car wouldn't get even 10% of those original eyeballs.

Few customers ever return to a product they once rejected. Fact. Think hard = this would apply to you too. Once rejected, your car is out of the customer’s mind. Take some more time, but do it right. Tata hurried with the Harrier because they wanted to launch before the Hector & Seltos. Did it help at all??? The car is a borderline flop. An analogy from the restaurant industry comes to mind. One expert said "if I had to wait 30 minutes for a table, I'd still come back to the restaurant if they served me excellent food. But if I ate a bad meal, I'm never coming back (even if the waiting was zero)".

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• Lower potential = Because customers generally love "fresh new cars" and the latest-is-the-greatest mentality, any engine & gearbox combination has the maximum potential only at launch. To add some numbers to that thought, if you could sell 100 Petrol ATs at the time of launch, the number will probably be more like 30 Petrol ATs if the combo came after 2 years. A fitting example is the Amaze. Honda pulled off a master-stroke with the s-m-o-o-t-h Diesel CVT combination at the time of the 2nd-gen's launch. Sure stood out in a sea of jerky AMTs. Do you think it would have had the same impact if the Diesel CVT came, as an afterthought, in 2021?

Change yourself; do NOT expect the customer to change.

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• Your advertising will only be half as effective. For instance, if you have just a diesel engine and have spent 10 crores on advertising, that 10 crores has been spent on 40% of the target market (missing the other 60% which wanted a petrol). The latter would glance through your ad, but not bother with it. Remember the Jetta? The sexy sedan came with a 2.0 diesel in 2011, but not a petrol. VW did give the car a petrol a year later, although it was a puny 1.4L. Meanwhile, Skoda went from strength to strength on the basis of its creamy 1.8L TSI. Petrol customers happily chose the Octavia / Corolla / Civic instead of the Jetta. On the flip side, Ford launched the EcoSport really well; 3 engine options, and enough variants. There was something for everyone in the EcoSport line-up. More examples of cars without good petrol engines include the relatively new Nissan Kicks & Mahindra Marazzo. In a market that had sharply moved to petrols, these two showed up empty-handed...like arriving at a birthday party without a gift in hand. Because of its surprisingly car-like driving experience, I feel that the Marazzo would've done better with a good petrol & a smooth Diesel AT. A friend of Vid6639 absolutely loved the Marazzo, alas he was firm on a petrol. Result = he paid up for the BR-V.

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• Limited marketing budget. When originally launched, the car has 50 crores of publicity pushing it (including advertising, newspaper articles, professional reviews, TV, YouTube, vernacular media). 3 years later for a mere variant? Fat chance. Its step-motherly treatment in that way as the variant launched later will get just 10% of the marketing budget (of the original launch) and maybe, 5% of the eyeballs (as not all media will test-drive the new variant like they did the original launch). When your car is brand new, it’s newsworthy, hence every website + magazine + newspaper + TV channel will rush to cover it. A variant launched late? Yawn. Search and tell me how many people have reviewed the XUV500 Petrol AT. Heck, even media drives aren't held for the delayed variants.

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• Limited support from within the company! At the time of the original launch, the full weight of the organisation is behind the car. It has 100% focus of the top management, product team, marketing, dealerships and so on. But when you launch a variant 3 years later, other than the product guy in charge and a bored engineer, no one else has the time for it in a large organisation of 25,000 employees. The senior management is busy with other matters.

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• Could also suffer from bad timing. The initial product launch is timed to perfection! Lots of research & minds are behind it. But the later engines / variants / gearboxes are released whenever they are ready (and not necessarily when the market is hot).

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• Higher costs: Due to lower sales, the per-unit-cost of everything goes up. Audi launched the A6 with just a petrol (no diesel), FWD (no AWD), two variants and no big engine for enthusiasts (link). Because of the smaller volumes, Audi would have to pay a higher cost for the kits, the shipping would cost more, its advertising would be less effective / limited etc. etc. Note that this factor affects mass market models more than luxury cars as the sub-20 lakh segment is all about "efficiencies of scale", including part sourcing costs and the massive fixed expenses of the auto industry. There is a MAJOR DIFFERENCE in the total costing of a car selling 4,000 / month, versus one that does 8,000 / month.

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• Your own image & reputation take a beating. When you launch a product without offering the right engine / gearbox / variant, you might as well tell your boss & the competition that you haven’t done your homework. Case in point = the Altroz. What the heck was the product team thinking in bringing the car to market with that weak 1.2L petrol from the Tiago? The diametric opposite is Kia. When Kia launched the Seltos with a laundry-list of variants + powertrains, it gained instant respect in the market because of all the background work the company obviously did. From a "Korean might-be" company, the management now commands respect & fear in the industry.

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• Fact = ATs are fast gaining in popularity. Not just with regular folk, but even in the enthusiast community (related poll). If you don’t offer a good AT with your big-bang launch, you just missed the mark. An MT-only car is ignoring an influential & profitable customer base. Tata Motors says they expect 50% of Harrier sales to be from the AT - (link). We can safely rephrase that to saying that Tata ignored 50% of its target market when launching the Harrier sans an AT. Even so, don't offer a half-baked AT just for the sake of it. The XUV300 is a properly premium crossover in every sense. Post-launch, Mahindra noticed many customers walking away because of the missing slushbox. So, it put together an AMT, which frankly, is simply too jerky for anything other than an entry-level hatchback. Customers willingly flocked to the Venue & EcoSport instead, which offer butter-smooth ATs.

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• Letting down your brand’s die-hard fans & losing your followers. There are many brand loyalists who will only buy a Maruti / Tata / Mahindra / whatever. To them, their favourite brand (or two) conquers all. Some OEMs just don't get it though. Consider the WR-V where Honda is literally forcing Honda-loyalists to consider other cars because it won't give the car its tasty 1.5L or an AT (surprising, being how AT-friendly Honda is as a company). There are many people who wouldn’t look beyond a Honda in that segment, yet because of the company’s stubbornly stupid decision, Honda fans have gone ahead and enriched the coffers of Ford, Maruti etc. (must-read thread). Honda is afraid that an AT WR-V will cannibalise its other cars. Well, if you don't cannibalise yourself, someone else will gladly do it for you! One more exhibit = despite its shoddy after-sales service, brand Skoda does have a certain number of followers. Yet, many of them were forced to look at the VW Vento, because Skoda inexplicably never offered the hallowed 1.2 TSI & DSG combination in the Rapid. Why?

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• The more the delays, the weaker your competitive position will be. Reason? Every year, the goalpost is moved ahead. That's the truth and it's called "progress". Allow me to come back to the Compass Diesel AT. If Jeep had launched the Diesel AT in 2017 (with the main launch), its competitors would mainly be the Creta & XUV500. By the time that Jeep finally brought the variant, it had not just the Creta & XUV500, but even more contemporary competition like the Seltos, Hector (I know petrol AT, but significantly cheaper) and Harrier AT (just launched). Worse still, all these cars made the Compass look terribly overpriced.

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• Needless to say, it is equally important to maintain continuity of your existing + popular engines. VAG discontinuing their all-too-important 2.0 diesel is going to deliver a body blow to their big cars. How on earth do VW & Skoda not have their bread & butter engine ready in time for BS6? Cars like the Superb, Kodiaq, Octavia, Audi As & Qs are now petrol-only-offerings in segments where buyers love oil-burners! The Endeavour too will lose a chunk of enthusiast customers who bemoan the demise of that sweet 3.2L. Maruti not having the 1.5L Diesel is going to take thousands of sales away from the brand. Just wait for the markets to open up and you'll see. It was a rare big goofup from Maruti. A shame because their 1.5L diesel is simply amazing (review link).

P.S. Launching a top-end AT variant later is an acceptable strategy to avoid "sticker shock" at debut. Manufacturers do this to avoid showing the topmost variant's price as too high for the market to accept. They eventually release one later. Remember, the higher the variant, the higher the profits for the brand, so they also want to come out with a fully-loaded AT.

Last edited by GTO : 22nd April 2020 at 10:20.
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Old 21st April 2020, 12:01   #2
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Default Re: Why it's important to offer the right engines + AT gearboxes + variants at the time of launch

Just the other day I was wondering why auto-makers do not launch all their drive-train options in the launch editions itself. I believe these are antics of a by-gone era where during the long product life cycle of 15-20 years a face lift every 4 years and a drive-train update every 6-8 years years was the norm.

The times have changed now, updates come in every 2-3 years and usually are accompanied with drive-train changes.

With more players in the market it is imperative to come in all guns blazing which includes options like sunroof, automatic transmission, ESP, AWD and all engine options.
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Old 21st April 2020, 12:20   #3
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Default Re: Why it's important to offer the right engines + AT gearboxes + variants at the time of launch

One of the guaranteed success mantra in India is offer more combinations/options to choose from. Look at successful models like Creta/Seltos/Crysta/Fortuner/Ecosport/Baleno- all come with easily more than 10+ engine/gearbox/variant combination. With this even the so called overpriced cars have done exceedingly well. Also with different engine/gearbox it lets you attack different segment. The Seltos for instance can be bought from 12L to 21L.

Some exceptions though.
i20 1.2L is definitely slow but smooth. Did not come with AT either during launch and yet managed to sell well. 1.4L punch diesel did help though. That said situation is quite similar to Altroz.

SCROSS- At launch came with exciting 1.6L mill, unfortunately, its the lazy 1.3L mill that became popular. Eventually Suzuki pulled plug on 1.6L. The sales actually improved with new design.

Brezza- Came with just 1.3L mill which was just adequate. Competition offered far more powerful options and even offered AT. Brezza went on to become to runaway success, thanks to Suzuki badge.

That said these models were launched at a time when AT was just gaining popularity and options were limited.

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Old 21st April 2020, 12:26   #4
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Default Re: Why it's important to offer the right engines + AT gearboxes + variants at the time of launch

For any new product in the market, the initial reviews and word on the street matters a lot. To get positive reviews and interest among the public, the product needs to cover all possible the needs of the people. Once the model is old in the market, the initial interest dies down and the model is considered by public only if it is known to have USPs.

To have USPs, a model needs to have the fundamentals right. Engine and transmission are among the primary parameter for any automobile purchase. Hence it becomes all the more important to get it right the first time itself.

However, to give the OEMs some credit, the production constraints also need to be factored in. Economies of scale, prices, part sourcing, after sales support, all of these have to considered while launching a product and its variants. Offering the right engine variety (3-cyl, 4-cyl and so on), fuel type (petrol, diesel, dual fuel) and the transmission options (MT, AMT, CVT, DCT and TC along with number of gears). Think of these and you end with 15-20 variants (for example) for a single model like Seltos. Multiply it with all the color options for each model Then multiply that with the number of models and you will have hundreds of variants combinations.

This is why we see parts sharing - the 1.5L U2 diesel engine being used across different Hyundai models (and KIAs too). Or Tata using the Nexon and Tiago engines in the Altroz.

How do you gauge the demand and produce the right number of each variant? And then how do you have a batch size enough to manufacture that variant or that color? Tricky ain't it? That's why Seltos HTE variants had longer waiting periods. And even longer for that elusive Punchy Orange shade. Sorry for digressing here.

Last edited by ashis89 : 21st April 2020 at 12:29.
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Old 21st April 2020, 12:42   #5
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Default Re: Why it's important to offer the right engines + AT gearboxes + variants at the time of launch

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Originally Posted by GTO View Post
On the other hand, I challenge any manufacturer to give me ONE GOOD REASON for not offering the desirable engine / AT / variant at launch.
Excellent thread GTO.

As for the reasons from the manufacturers - The lamest and most common reason I've heard is that the product has a lifecycle and variants will be introduced down the line during the period to keep it up to date! And not so surprisingly - the last time I heard this statement was in a TATA Motors interview.

More often than not - sales of a product never recovers if it fails to sell during the initial honeymoon period! I wonder what is so complicated to understand in this - as the numbers simply have proved it time and again! Strangely enough - the companies that really get this (Maruti & Hyundai) are the ones that really don't need to. The others need to come to all guns blazing to make an impact in the market, but they seem to prefer a more cautious approach.

On a similar note, but a slightly different topic deserving equal amount is attention - is how some manufacturers (Once again, except the top two - Maruti and Hyundai) are very scared of in-house competition. Like we mention in many of Maruti's reviews - if you are afraid of competing with your own products, the competition will happily do it for you.

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Old 21st April 2020, 13:33   #6
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Default Re: Why it's important to offer the right engines + AT gearboxes + variants at the time of launch

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Originally Posted by CrAzY dRiVeR View Post
...Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara...
Couldn't help but notice that your signature is a very apt message to the manufacturers being discussed here.

Last edited by GTO : 21st April 2020 at 13:59. Reason: Adding his signature because guests cannot see it :)
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Old 21st April 2020, 14:03   #7
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Default Re: Why it's important to offer the right engines + AT gearboxes + variants at the time of launch

Thought of another example, guys.

After the TUV300's launch, Mahindra had mysteriously soft-launched the larger "TUV300 Plus". So shoddily was it handled that no one knew whether it is actually on sale, not even dealers. We finally saw the Plus in 2018, THREE YEARS after the sub-4 meter car's launch.

Now, the Plus variant was much improved, thanks to that wonderful engine under the hood & increased cabin space. In my books, it is superior to the antique & overpriced Scorpio. Problem is, 99% of Indians still don't know it exists. I'm willing to bet that 99% of you haven't even seen it on the road:
Why it's important to offer the right engines + AT gearboxes + variants at the time of launch-2018mahindratuv300plus05.jpg

Review Link
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Old 21st April 2020, 14:31   #8
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Default Re: Why it's important to offer the right engines + AT gearboxes + variants at the time of launch

Really enjoyed going through the thread and i have to agree with mostly everything that you have put down. despite the writing on the wall, it is sad to see so many automobile manufacturers still being plagued and living with the same problems and not changing. It's unfortunately for the most part a direct reflection of the leadership and the way they are conducting themselves and also partly thanks to a weak mid management level who would on any day rather get a "good job done" from their superiors rather than address the real business problem.

As someone who has spent his life in advertising, I have been involved, fortunately or unfortunately, with a multitude of car launches and consequently limited editions, new variants, etc. - the things you spoke about in your post and despite it being 2020 - your logic still hits home hard!

I would just add a few more points to this, which are in line with the logic you have put down but just provide a different lens to it as well, keeping in mind some of the companies and teams i have had to deal with.

VARIANTS

In most cases yes they will command only 10-20% of the original launch budget and given that it is far lower this is primarily directed towards lead generation activities and performance marketing - usually now led by digital, dealer outreach programs. However, there is a fundamental flaw in this and why such campaigns tend to be complete failures - A lead generation campaign will fundamentally assume that aspects such as Brand equity, awareness, positive disposition and interest in the product is already prevalent in the market - which it is not, disappointed consumers as you rightly pointed out have moved on , the brand is out of sight and mind and it will take far more than a lead generation campaign talking of low interest rate and easy EMI options to convert someone.

Then on the other hand we have certain companies which, silly as it may sound, will put almost as much money into a variant as they would into a new launch - the spectrum of stupidity is fairly large here - the variant could simply be a new color or something as insignificant as that but we will have 25-30 crores being put behind it and needless to say 1 month down the line when next to nothing has been sold a certain number of people and agencies will be held responsible for the more or less non existent ROI. It is dangerous when management views a variant as something which will save a product or a portfolio of products from dying - case in point, Limited edition Sail hatchback and Sedan launched in 2014.

I write this with still fresh memories of when the Cruze all black edition was launched in 2011 - at this time the Cruze was selling roughly about 150 units a month and the expectation was that a black edition with next to no changes mechanically would make this into a success story in India - that a certain "mass appeal" would be created for the car ... and clearly that was not the case to be. We had difficulty ensuring a certain number of press seats were filled so the leadership would not walk out to an empty hall.

ADVERTISING

Now this might sound silly to a lot of you who read it, but many times advertising - budgets and location is not determined by where your target audience is but rather by what is the route that the leadership takes between home and office. Yep, you read that right - if the leadership sees enough billboards , other placements they will assume that visibility is not a problem which further safeguards middle management - and no vendor or agency is going to bypass mid management and go to the leadership and give them the actual reality.

Advertising can be made more effective and we see this with changing technologies / digital year on year and made more ROI driven as well. The fundamental problem here is digital literacy - starting from mid management all the way upto the top. A majority of the guys who all themselves digital in India unfortunately are not (I am including ad agencies in this as well), and no amount of news reading is going to make you one. Reading does not replace experience. A luxury car company for example (will not name) in India right now develops its future marketing and product sales plans on a market research report that was conducted for them 5-6 years ago - the report is obsolete, the sample size insignificant, the country and category has changed yet that is still the go to report for the company as well as the agency who handles communication for them - the solution, easy, work with online MR agencies and partners such as YouTube to conduct market research at far lower costs with multiple times the sample size with all kinds of targeting options - do it year on year. The amount of money spent to make that one report 5-6 years ago will see you through for about 2, if not 3 years of fresh research every year.

The shift from diesel to petrol, the rising preference of AT's was there in the market to see - the trends were there, the searches were there , the videos including gaining popularity of UGC content was there - it just needed to be stitched together and the picture on ground was very very clear but...

And this is exactly why a lot of us found the advertising that MG did during the build up and at the launch to be so refreshing. The fact of the matter is that they actually did not do anything innovative or industry leading but what they did was Dot the I's and cross their T's and simply lifted their marketing plans to include a lot of the touch points that the new age digital ecosystem provides - I am not taking anything away from the product at all - the marketing folks did little origination in terms of approach but they worked smartly to see what was available out there. Calculate the ROI with Benedict Cumberbatch in the picture and I am sure the numbers are not great but show the buzz report internally and everyone will be over the moon. Objective achieved.

And just because we are on the topic - be it a launch or a variant launch, but it feeds into multiple points you have made across your post - all advertising is done with the intent of getting the consumer TO BUY IN to the brand and the philosophy and argument. WE will tell you why the car makes sense for you, why we make sense for you , why you should listen to us. If this is the underlying logic for the entire comms exercise, which it still is in many cases and not just Autos - comms is irrelevant from Day 1 especially if the product is not strong.

Thanks GTO for the informative thread!




Note from Support: Post fixed, excessive dots removed. Grammar fixed. Please run a spell-check before posting. Thanks!

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Old 21st April 2020, 14:42   #9
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Default Re: Why it's important to offer the right engines + AT gearboxes + variants at the time of launch

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Am mighty pissed off with how the prospects of some otherwise-competent models are ruined, simply because the maker didn’t do its homework!
Excellent points GTO. I think the manufacturers are actually guilty of a much worse business error (or should I say business crime) than not doing their homework - they underestimate their customers! There is some kind of naive hypothesis that many of the car companies believe in, that the Indian customer does not care for engines, gearboxes, and the mechanical specifications. The Indian customer only cares for bling and the superficial features. I think this hypothesis is just wrong.

When I as an individual customer make my opinions about newly launched cars, the engine + gearbox combination is often the single biggest factor that influences my opinion. In fact, when even my most non-car-enthusiastic friends ask me about a new car, their typical question is: "How is the engine? Is it powerful?". They may not even ask the question in right terms such as what is the cubic capacity of the engine or what is the horsepower output. But they nevertheless ask the same question in an informal way without using the specific terms. In essence, they want to know if the engine is powerful enough for their needs and they do care about this.

While on this topic, the worst offender that comes to my mind is the Ford Endeavour! I am a huge fan of Endeavour and keep dreaming (daydreaming, to be more precise) that one day I might buy one. However, how they keep getting the engine + gearbox combination wrong is really surprising. Till last year, they had the brilliant 3.2L engine, but with the ordinary 6 speed AT which was a slow and confused gearbox. And now they have the awesome 10-speed AT, which by all test drives and reviews is a brilliant gearbox, but mated to a smaller engine with lesser horsepower, driving such a massive truck! Thus, earlier they had a great engine + ordinary gearbox, and now they have an ordinary engine + great gearbox. What an irony!

And of course, I still can't understand how Audi thought they could sell expensive cars in India with a 1.4L petrol engine mated to their brilliant DSG gearboxes. If not the economy car customers, but definitely the customers who could afford an Audi do care about the engine size and specs! This to date remains one of the biggest design choice errors in modern times. Almost a canonical example of bad product specifications choice.

Last edited by Rudra Sen : 6th July 2020 at 08:03. Reason: typo edited
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Old 21st April 2020, 15:54   #10
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Default Re: Why it's important to offer the right engines + AT gearboxes + variants at the time of launch

There’s a iconic dialogue by Rajnikanth in the movie Baba “Even if I come late but will come as latest”. The car manufacturers should remember that the customers seldom give a second chance. You may have to delay a launch by 6-12 months but that doesn’t matter in the longer run, it takes a life time to make a name and a second to lose it.
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Old 21st April 2020, 16:07   #11
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Default Re: Why it's important to offer the right engines + AT gearboxes + variants at the time of launch

Great thread GTO. One area where our manufacturers never seem to get it right.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
[center]
No one understands the thread title better than the big guys - Maruti, Hyundai & even newcomer Kia - who roll out a wide variety of options at launch itself
I think Maruti and Hyundai are somewhat better off than others, but I think they also are guilty of the same. Diesel only variants, Poor choice and lack of AT options, inconsistent AT variants and trims are common with both Maruti and Hyundai. But they can also afford to stagger the releases as people would keep coming back.

The Kia model is the way to go. Honestly cannot think of any combination that they do not have which would have been relevant. All manufacturers need to be able to do that.
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Old 21st April 2020, 16:22   #12
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Default Re: Why it's important to offer the right engines + AT gearboxes + variants at the time of launch

I think the sole reason for Manufacturers not offering the right combinations at the time of launch is the absent mindedness of the Indian Masses. Don't get me wrong, but I know many people who bought a car just because of its external appearance or "mood lighting" or the fact that the stereo system has Bluetooth connectivity. Heck, I remember reading a post on the review of the Toyota Innova Crysta on Team-BHP where the user claimed that he crossed the Crysta off his list just because the passenger did not get a vanity mirror!

In fact, when we took a test drive of the Maruti Suzuki Celerio, the SA was more interested in explaining about the features of the stereo system than focusing on what's under the hood. Also, I know someone who has the Vitara Brezza AMT and he fell for the SA's claim that the Transmission is AGS (Auto Gear Shift) and not an AMT.

So IMHO, I think most of the manufacturers do not seem to be bothered by the right combination of engines and transmissions plainly because no one seems to be interested in what's inside the hood of their vehicle or what is the nature of the transmission of the vehicle.

Cheers,
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Old 21st April 2020, 16:54   #13
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Default Re: Why it's important to offer the right engines + AT gearboxes + variants at the time of launch

Super analysis and write-up. Our market demands that you launch all variants in one go, which would mean there would be at least one variant for everyone from budget-end to mid segment. Both, older Creta and Seltos with ex-showroom prices starting from 9.xx to 17.xx catered to a wide spectrum of buyers which resulted in higher number of sales month after month. And, in India, first 6 months' sales performance of any new car determines whether it will sell or sink.

As you have rightly pointed out, Tata's hurry to get one rolling off assembly line in a hurry killed Harrier. Being late to the party makes no difference. It actually helps. You can study the product, pricing, features, specs and better it. Being the first means nothing. Let us look at Tata's list of firsts. First MUV, Sumo. First SUV, Safari. First diesel hatchback, Indica. First sub-4 metre sedan, Indigo. First pick-up truck, Xenon. Where are they now? Their every first was bettered by rivals and pushed off the charts. Ford brought first sub-4 meter SUV, Ecosport which is bettered by both Brezza and Venue. Renault brought first mini-SUV, Duster, which is on its last legs, having lost big-time to Creta/Seltos.

Other than the Koreans, everyone else is launching cars half-heartedly. No wonder they are growing from strength to strength.
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Old 21st April 2020, 17:51   #14
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Default Re: Why it's important to offer the right engines + AT gearboxes + variants at the time of launch

Very relevant to some OEMs

Absurd as it may appear in India, sunroof (all the better if it is a panoramic) has been quite a trend. Like all trends they have to be capitalised in the now than later - unlike the Harrier where there were ridiculous after thoughts like a dealer option!

Even VW has identified and quoted this trend in the video interview with CarandBike
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Old 21st April 2020, 18:54   #15
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Default Re: Why it's important to offer the right engines + AT gearboxes + variants at the time of launch

Thank you @GTO for the thread. I often wonder irrespective of being such big and globally reputed companies, how do many manage to goof-up their product portfolio.

Just one point. Key aspect of positioning of product is to create local superiority, drawn heavily from Sun Tzu's "art of war". You can achieve it only when you understand where your brands true strength lies and build product that leverage the same.

One examples where things have gone horribly wrong is
Honda civic- if you think about the brand, what is the emotion that comes in? Sweet engine which set performance benchmark once. Great, radical looks. So when you bring in a newer version, ideally you should one-up on both aspects, and also do the same against the new competition.

An example where a company has done so well is Hyundai verna. Since its launch, it always had the most powerful diesel engine. It never ever tried for the best handler, and even tried their best to relinquish the best looker post their fluidic model . On same lines, even if they try hard, it is very very difficult to dethrone Honda city from having the best petrol engine, unless honda decides to to another civic.

On the same lines, it is important that you do not look at strength of your competitors and play a matching game. It won't gain you market, rather it will make you loose money by trying to re-position your brand.
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