The curious case of the Maruti Alto and its pricing

Maruti launched Alto way back in 2000 in the price range of 2.7 to 2.9 lakh rupees. And now, 21 years later, Alto range still starts from 2.99 lakh rupees.

BHPian Emvi recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Few days ago, I stumbled across a thread which had a discussion about the pricing of cars when first launched, how steadily the prices have increased, and for how much the same cars are being retailed now. And it is quite obvious that Toyota Innova is the one name that pops up in the mind of most people and not without reasons. When launched in 2005, the ex-showroom prices of Innova across variants ranged from 6.8 to 10 lakh rupees. At present, the ex-showroom prices range from 16.1 to 25.5 lakh rupees! This equates to a price increase of approximately 2.5 times in about 16 years. Taking into consideration the relatively higher present-day road taxes and the insurance premiums, on-road prices probably have gone up almost 3 fold since the initial launch. Probably the same holds true for the Toyota Fortuner as well.

It's not just the Toyotas that have become pricier exponentially. In fact, most cars and even two-wheelers have in the same period. The fact that Innova still has no real competition and the fact that the price range actually covers couple of segments of vehicles probably highlights Innova more than the other cars. It may also be true that the percentage increase in the price of Innova might be the highest among all the cars. As clichéd it might sound, there are exceptions. In fact, there is one. It is none other than Maruti Alto.

Maruti launched Alto way back in 2000 in the price range of 2.7 to 2.9 lakh rupees. And now, 21 years later, Alto range still starts from 2.99 lakh rupees. Astonishing! Let's not forget, today even the base model is equipped with driver side airbag, ABS and reverse parking sensors. And yes, for once, let's not get into the discussion/argument regarding how safe/unsafe the car is. Over the period, Alto has undergone minor and major facelifts, changes to the platforms/body panels, feature additions and a lot more. One thing that hasn't changed much is the pricing! In fact, when Maruti launched the completely revamped model in 2012, if I am not wrong, it was priced cheaper than the outgoing version! While people have divided opinions about Maruti cars, I assume that not many can deny the fact that Maruti cars are generally niggle free, reliable, economical and easy to maintain. A perfect recipe for an entry-level car, IMO.

Twenty years is a long period and a lot of things have changed for sure. If I can summarise in one word, the production cost/input cost would have definitely gone up multifold. In spite of all this, an Alto still costs the same (well, almost) as it was 20 years back!

Here's what BHPian museycal had to say on the matter:

While Innova has gone upwards in looks, feel, materials, features etc. with every iteration, the Alto has moved downwards. Maybe the owners can chime in here, but from the limited experience I have with the Alto of mid-2000s, they look and feel solid even today. I am not sure about the latest-gen models though.

That's not to take anything away from the value proposition of an Alto though. An Alto was affordable, good looking, fun-to-drive, economical car back then, and it happens to be the same today too.

PS: I believe that just the sheer volumes that the Alto, Swift and Dzire bring for Maruti, MSIL may be able to apportion the inevitable price rise much gently for these models, of course backed by the advances in manufacturing technologies.

Here's what BHPian haisaikat had to say on the matter:

Essentially, Alto 2000 vs Alto 800 in 2021 is the same car whose platform is unchanged. When you keep the platform unchanged for 21 years, you have reached your breakeven of R&D cost way earlier and now it is just replication and profit munching. Yes, cost of materials have increased but so has the volumes of sale numbers in MSIL favour. Adding two airbags in the same platform does not help boost your NCAP that much and hence does not make it safer overnight. There was a reason why Alto K10 costed much more.

Where one should look at is how the service cost is as compared to 21 years back including parts duraility. It may be like buying those yesteryear colour inkjet printers where a subsequent cartridge used to cost as much as the whole printer + stock cartridge equivalent.

There are already several news elsewhere that MSIL may discontinue the Alto and come up with a newer platform car and when platform upgrades, definitely cost appreciates.

Since comparison is with Innova, the platform may not have changed but the power, transmission, internal trims have significantly gone up. When you upgrade power by more than 60-70% you have to upgrade your transmission, brakes, everything to cope up with that.

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