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Old 29th April 2021, 10:51   #1
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Default The evolution of car brands in India in the last decade

The last decade has been the most exciting for the Indian car market. Cars have become better in terms of safety, performance, features, and comfort. Moreover, the gap between what is sold in India and what is sold in the global market has shrunk significantly. But some car companies have fared better than the rest, while some have been an utter disappointment. Here is my take on how some of the car brands have evolved in the last 10 years.

The biggest improvement: Tata Motors

I think Tata Motors dominates this category hands down. Tata has been pushing the envelope of how good a home-grown Indian car brand can be. With a country obsessed with fuel economy over safety, Tata’s safety ratings have changed the opinion of millions of Indians. Tata has also excelled in terms of design and manufacturing capabilities, making their flagships (Harrier and Safari) real head turners. A lot of these improvements have been observed after Tata’s strategic acquisition of JLR, which has helped Tata’s design and engineering capabilities.

Misses: Tata’s service is still a hit or miss. At this stage, a service-level improvement will help the brand more than a product-level improvement. Another sore point is Tata ditching the ladder-frame Hexa/Safari and going completely monocoque. I hope to see this return in Tata’s future line-up.

Close second: Mahindra & Mahindra is not too far. I believe the launch of the next-gen XUV 700 will level the playing field.

Giving the customers what they want: Hyundai group (KIA included)

Whether it is ventilated seats, wireless chargers, massive touch-screen infotainment systems, panoramic sunroof or oversized wheels, long list of engine and transmission options; Hyundai has been the one company that gives the people what they want. The way these things are packaged and presented, people are often happy to pay the premium.

Misses: There is still some room for improvement in the underlying engineering quality. People have often faced issues with brakes, steering assemblies, etc. that are less common with other Asian brands.

Product line-up and service network: Maruti Suzuki

Even after ditching the diesel engines, MS has a massive product line-up to choose from. There is something for everyone, almost everyone. Service center access can be found in the remotest parts of the country. Hyundai can be considered second but the gap is huge.

Misses: Safety (except a few select models). What else I really miss are the fun and exciting Suzuki models that are discontinued - Esteem, Baleno (old sedan), Kizashi, Grand Vitara, Gypsy King. Can the Jimny be that one MS product that appeals to the heart?

The solidity: VW and Skoda

The Germans have been the undisputed leaders of this segment. Cars that feel well built and drive well would appeal to most drivers out there.

Misses: Ageing product lineup, expensive parts, and not as reliable as their Japanese competitors.

Close second: Ford. Provides comparable levels of quality and driving pleasure without costing as much. With few products, Ford is not able to cover the spectrum completely.

The workhorse: Toyota (excluding the rebadged Suzukis)

It just works! It will go on and on and on. The only thing that could render it useless is the scrappage policy. Scores well on comfort, safety, practicality, reliability, and service experience. One thing is for sure, my next car will be a Toyota, regardless of the product line-up.

Misses: The flagships are extremely overpriced. The only sensible offering Yaris might be discontinued soon due to poor sales.

The niche: Isuzu

With a very specific product line-up, Isuzu is not for everyone. But for some, there is no other alternative. But I am glad that Isuzu is bringing in the much-needed diversity.


The biggest disappointment: Honda

There is no better way to say it: Honda shit the bed in India. Honda started strong in India by bringing in world-class products that decimated the competition. While doing that, Honda also built itself as a premium and aspirational brand, up until 2010-2011. Rather than sticking to its core competency of building fun-to-drive, practical and reliable cars with silky smooth engines, Honda tried to be the next Maruti of India. It introduced poorly built, small cars and far from perfect diesel engines; the segment that already had established contenders like Maruti and Hyundai. Honda was so late to the diesel party that by the time they launched diesel, the cost advantage of diesel was already dying and there was no point in buying a diesel. There was a time when the City was Honda’s most affordable offering. Today, the City is Honda’s most expensive offering. All this has severely diluted the customer experience at the dealerships as well as the authorized service stations. As an owner of the City (3rd generation) earlier and the CR-V(4th generation) now, I have experienced this first-hand. I wonder if it is even possible for Honda to redeem itself in India?

The new kids in town: Jeep, MG, Citroën

With exciting first launches and a growing pipeline, they can become serious contenders in the next decade if they play all the right cards.

What do you think the next decade would look like? Looking forward to reading your replies.

Wishing you all happy and safe driving. Cheers!
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Old 29th April 2021, 16:09   #2
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Default Re: The evolution of car brands in India in the last decade

An interesting topic.

The things I am happy about:
1. Maruti retaining its VFM over competitors
2. Honda sticking to the sedan market despite dwindling segment numbers
3. Toyota maintaining its quality of service
4. Indian manufacturers trying hard for better cars and numbers

Personally, I feel all Japanese manufacturers have been a disappointment in one or the other way.
1. Maruti- Lack of focus on safety and no successful strategy for premium products, especially when recent entrants have raked in a lot of numbers.
2. Toyota- Simply gave up the mass market under 10 lacs. Its rebadged Marutis now.
3. Honda- From an enthusiast's dream (City, Civic, Accord, CR-V), it turned its focus into selling more at the expense of brand value it had. They're happy selling Amaze.
4. Nissan (and Renault)- Everyone expected more from them. From selling aspirations like Teana and X-Trail, they're now competing solely in the overcrowded sub-4m crossover segment.
5. Mitsubishi- Oh lord where do I even start. Lancers and Pajeros were bedroom posters for many of us. They do not have a single vehicle on sale today. There was news some months back about partnering with a supplier in Jamshedpur but there seems to be no further development to the story.

Now coming to one more international manufacturer who has disappointed me. Ford in India has only a handful of models on sale and we have no clear visibility of what is next from the company. It has been half a decade since they needed to plug the gap between the EcoSport and the then-new Endeavour but they are yet to do so despite having suitable products in other markets.

Lastly our desi brands. It really seems disappointing that they are yet to iron out minor quirks and niggles that have been hanging over their heads for many years, despite having some great designs and cars recently. In this age of social media, I wonder if they are truly incapable of solving this or are just ignoring as long as they make enough money.

Last edited by Researcher : 29th April 2021 at 16:11.
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Old 4th May 2021, 19:37   #3
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Default Re: The evolution of car brands in India in the last decade

Excellent thread to bring sum up the decade gone by!

While we speak of the last decade as brand's evolving themselves, the later part of the decade (2015-2020) comes across as a consolidation period for brands.

Maruti Suzuki - how much of bashing and hatred this brand receives, we got to accept the fact that MSIL sure knows the pulse of India's automobile industry. Nobody knows the sentiments of the market better than MSIL. As rightly said above, they have something for everyone. From a humble 3.5 Lakh Alto to a 14Lakh Ciaz (this is the bracket where close to 70% of the sales happen).
MSIL has been able to retain it's number-uno position throughout the last decade, and I'm sure there's no challenger to it's domination in this decade, too (2020-29).

Hynudai + Kia - Excellent products, class leading features and refinement levels that can put cars from higher segments to shame.
Has retained it's #2 position through the decade gone by, and will retina the same position in the coming decade, too.

TaMo/MnM/Kia/Honda - 4 brands that have held #3 position at various times in our market in the last decade. Honda lost it's way in the middle (2013-16), TaMo coming up with world class products, MnM relying on it's old workhorses (though XUV500 's launch in 2011 did give them the momentum they needed to seal a spot in top 5, then), Kia entering with a bang, and straightaway galloping to #4 and #5 within couple of months, and consolidating it's hold there.

Toyota - brand that has milked it's line-up like nobody else has! Innova retailing from 12L OTR in 2010 to about 28L OTR in 2020, shows how Toyota has successfully milked it's star product. Same is with the Fortuner! Pretty happy to be at the #5/6 position, drawing hefty profits from the Innova + Fortuner sales. Did try with mass market products - Etios and Liva, couldn't succeed.
The coming decade (2021-30), white-label MSIL's products and make money without any(minimum) investments (I'm sure a Gujju is leading the management at Toyota )

Ford/VW+Skoda/Renault-Nissan/Fiat/Mitsubishi - showed promising starts in the early part of the decade (VW Vento, Ford Figo + EcoSport, Nissan Sunny), lost their way eventually, made themselves a single product brand (Ford), eventually being happy(?) doing decent numbers in exports (Nissan, Ford).
Poor Fiat shut shop, leaving a very capable product (Linea) to die a slow death.

For the decade gone by (2010-19),our Industry has seen consolidation in #1 and #2 players - MSIL and Hyundai, respectively. We haven't seen their positions threatened by someone else, nor will we be seeing that happening in this decade (2020-29).

The past decade has seen frequent changes at the #3 position (Honda, MnM, TaMo), and that's the only relevant fight we see in our market.

In the entire past decade (and the one we've just entered into), we have seen about 75% of sales coming in from #1,2,3 only. There's no real competition to these rank holders (in terms of numbers), as all of them are at an incremental gap of atleast 100% from eachother (#3 sales are at 25,000 odd units, #2 at 50,000 and #1 at 100,000 ++).

Though we have seen our industry becoming mature in terms of product adoption by newbies + our cars becoming more safer (read = TaMo) and feature rich, the industry sales trends have seen more consolidation, and the same trend will continue in this decade, too!

Last edited by jigar1791@gmail : 4th May 2021 at 19:40. Reason: Text was missing
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Old 4th May 2021, 22:56   #4
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Default Re: The evolution of car brands in India in the last decade

I would mention two more things:
Entry of French car brands(Inception of Renault around a decade back, & Citroen in current year)
And exit(Chevrolet) & probable exit(Ford) of American car brands!
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Old 5th May 2021, 07:06   #5
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Default Re: The evolution of car brands in India in the last decade

Mighty impressed with way Tata made comeback. All of their current models are generating good numbers (from Tiago to Safari). And for me, biggest disappointment are Honda and Toyota. They’ve some wonderful products in global lineup like CH-R, Corolla Hatchback, HR-V, Pilot but still they’re not launching them in India.
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Old 5th May 2021, 13:34   #6
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Default Re: The evolution of car brands in India in the last decade

Of all the brands, I'm quite impressed with the way TaMO has improved themselves over the years from pure commercial vehicle company to what it is today, though they still has a long way to go.

M&M is one company who don't seem to have any vision, just experimenting with take overs and then discarding them without utilising. This is in stark contrast to takeover of JLR by TATA.

Volkswagen/Skoda has a huge potential with their excellent products, but need to work bigtime on their quality and cost of service.

There are many other vision less companies who are just surviving by one or two products like Nissan and Renault.

Honda was the biggest disaster of the last decade, but it still has a good brand recall and can come back with good product line up.
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Old 5th May 2021, 20:07   #7
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Default Re: The evolution of car brands in India in the last decade

Slightly off-topic, but I have also wondered why some of the popular American brands never made it to India. Many of them have a reasonably good brand pull in India like Cadillac, Chevrolet (the big ones), Chrysler, Pontiac, Dodge etc. Many of them are part of the GM and FCA families but wonder why weren't these brands introduced yet?
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Old 6th May 2021, 00:50   #8
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Default Re: The evolution of car brands in India in the last decade

Disappointing: Mahindra. TL;DR: Some good hits, but overall more misses than hits.

The XUV 500 made a statement in 2011 to the world that Indian companies are capable to compete on the global market. The M&M who made an amazing XUV 500 also made junk like the KUV, Quanto, Nuvosport etc. Mahindra missed a lot of opportunities offering cars nobody needed (KUV 100) or wrong power train options (TUV with the 80hp diesel and unreliable AMT; No AT in Marazzo) or kept flogging their designs for too long (Quanto -> Nuvosport)

They’ve redeemed themselves with the Thar. Fingers crossed for the new XUV 500.

Last edited by landcruiser123 : 6th May 2021 at 00:55.
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