Owning an automobile is no longer a matter of luxury; it has rather become a necessity of today's fast paced life. The burgeoning economy that has opened up new vistas of employment that promise attractive pay packets coupled with convenient loan products have contributed to this increasing demand for automobiles. The automobile manufacturers see India as fast growing market place with immense untapped potential and they are seen vying with one other to catch their share of the pie by introducing new models with improved features in quick succession.
A car, to many, is a prized possession. Ardent lovers of cars are found lavishing their time and money to maintain them in perfect condition. From technologically improved parts that promise a smooth drive to a whole range of accessories for the car's interiors, the market is flooded with multitude options for the buyer to choose from. To cater to the different categories of buyers, car manufacturers come out with different models in the small/entry, medium and large cars segment. The price of cars is largely based on the features enshrined in the car and varies from company to company. There are also options available in the fuel used in the car, ranging from petrol and diesel to even LPG.
If one goes by the different models that are seen plying on the roads, Kerala market appears to be a welcome recipient. According to D.Somanathan, Proprietor, Sarathy Motors, Kollam, which deals in Maruti cars, the most moving cars are those in entry level. He says, "The availability of easy loans has increased the number of potential car buyers". Maruti 800 and Alto figure in small segment with a price range of Rs.1.90 to Rs.3 lakhs.
According to Shyam Thankappan, Sales Manager,
Kulathunkal Motors, it is the Indica model of Tata Motors that finds great favour among their customers. Indica is bracketed among the medium range cars (priced between Rs.2.59 and 5.5 lakhs) of this company. He says, "Our customers include NRIs, business people, Government officials and IT employees". Among Hyundai cars, it is the Santro that is the most moving, according to V.Yathindran, Manager (Sales), Hilton Hyundai. This medium range car with four variants is priced between Rs.2.69 and 3.77 lakhs (ex-showroom price). On preferred car colours, he says, "The metallic colours are more popular".
It is the top-end variant that figures high in the sales of the Scorpio of Mahindra & Mahindra, according to G.Suresh Kumar, Sales Manager, T.V. Sundram Iyengar & Sons Ltd. This vehicle, priced over 8 lakhs, has special features like voice message, tiltable steering, de-fogger, fire resistant seats and wooden paneled dashboard. Speaking on the new variants of Scorpio cars, says, "the new variants have 43 changes compared to the previous ones".
Coming to car loans, a quick scan reveals that the percentage of takers is high. Says Somanathan, "Nearly 90 per cent of our customers use loans for purchasing a car". Agrees Suresh, "Only 5 to 10% of our customers pay cash for buying a car, the rest avail loans". A similar picture is also drawn by Shyam and Rathindran. While it is around 80% of Kulathunkal's customers, Hilton Hyundai has 90% of its customers going in for car loans.
There is also available for purchase a whole range of vehicles in the used car segment. With different models of cars to fulfill varying requirements and multiple loan schemes, it appears that car buyers have never had it so easy.