‘This is a tried and tested method of maintaining the excitement in the market’

Faced with one of the worst slowdowns in the past decade, car manufacturers are pinning hopes on the new launches to attract buyers to help rev up sales.

Although car sales declined for record eight months in a row this June, falling 9 per cent to 1,39,632 units in the last month, the industry witnessed a string of big launches during the last few months such as Honda Amaze, Ford EcoSport, Datsun GO, Mercedes E Class and Audi S6.

Tried and tested

“This (new launches) is a tried and tested method of maintaining the excitement in the market, and get customers to buy automobiles. If you look at the launch of Maruti Suzuki Ertiga, Renault Duster, and, more recently Ford EcoSport…data proves this fact,” Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) Director General Vishnu Mathur told The Hindu.

``Not just new launches but “refreshing of models” as well is an effective tool to woo customers,’’ he added.

During the past months, Maruti Suzuki introduced a sporty version of its premium compact Swift RS, CNG variant of multi-purpose van Ertiga — the Ertiga Green, and limited edition of its model Estilo. Skoda announced special edition of its sedan Rapid, Rapid Leisure. Nissan launched its new and improved Micra series, among others.

For car makers such as Honda, Ford and General Motors, new launches brought in some cheer.

Honda Cars India (HCIL) posted over 9 per cent increase in domestic sales at 11,342 units in May, driven by its new sedan Amaze, even as the industry saw a decline of 12.26 per cent in sales. During the month, the company sold over 6,000 units of the model.

The good run for the company continued in June with over three-fold jump in domestic sales at 9,297 units. “We are extremely delighted with the consumer response to Amaze, which has surpassed all expectations and is further gaining momentum. We already have more than 18,000 happy Amaze customers,” HCIL Senior Vice-President (Marketing & Sales) Jnaneswar Sen said.

General Motors India also had a good May post the launch of its new models SAIL and Enjoy with 39.82 per cent increase in sales at 8,500 units. “We were able to register the 40 per cent growth only because of the good response to our newly-launched ,” GM India Vice-President P. Balendran said.

Likewise, Ford, too, launched its EcoSport SUV, attracting over 30,000 bookings in just 17 days of its launch.

Five-fold

“We have been observing healthy growth in the compact SUV segment, which is expected to rise five-fold by 2020. We believe that the EcoSport’s launch in India has been appropriately timed, and will help us take advantage of the opportunities that will continue to exist in this segment. We are expecting that the forthcoming festive season will be busy for us,” Vinay Piparsania, Executive Director, Marketing Sales and Service, Ford India, said.

Puneet Gupta, Principal Analyst (India Automotive) at global analysts firm IHS, said, “New launches always help ignite the market, and are the best way to create excitement in the market for any car manufacturer.” Additionally, Mr. Gupta said the potential of past few new launches in this year such as Honda Amaze and Ford Ecosport had yet to be realised.

“These models have heavy waiting period, and increased production will help OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to push sales; helping industry to have a much better second half of the year,” he said.

Nissan also resurrected its Datsun brand after 30 years with the unveiling of small car Datsun GO in India.

When asked about the timing of the launch keeping in view that the slowdown has hurt this segment the most, Nissan Motor Co Corporate Vice-President, Datsun Business Unit, Vincent Cobee, said, “To my knowledge, the segments that have grown in India in the last six months are the segments that have seen product innovation. It is not so much the question of price; it a question about product attractiveness…A good product defines its own demand.”

In the course of the next 4-5 months, the country will witness new launches, including Hyundai’s new version of the i10, Skoda Octavia, Mauruti Suzuki New A-Star along with Nissan Terrano, BMW 1-series, Mercedes B-Class diesel and Audi Q3.

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