Maruti Suzuki Alto is India’s largest selling passenger car. Still.
In an age when the content consuming population in the digital space is used to ‘listicles’ and ‘click bait’ headlines, that’s hardly a newsworthy start to an article. What’s more of a newsmaker is that the addition of one car made the mini hatchback segment jump back on the overall sales ladder of vehicles, beating the utility vehicle category from its standing as the second best-performing vehicle segment based on the corresponding last-month sales numbers of 2014.
Renault’s Kwid brought in the much-needed excitement in the mini hatchback space and, hypothetically speaking, if Renault had the production and network strength that Maruti has developed over the years, it would’ve created a seismic effect in the Indian hatchback automotive market. That said, the Kwid has been doing appreciable numbers since its launch — over 5,000 units for a relatively young and small brand is quite decent a figure — and ended the year on a high selling just 200 units shy of 7,000. That surely sets a great tone for 2016 — unless Tata changes the segment dynamics by pricing its upcoming Zica aggressively in the 3.5-5 lakh bracket.
The numbers of Alto notwithstanding, it’s the space of bigger hatchbacks that is the real story. Many critics had doubted the Baleno becoming an instant sales wonder for Maruti Suzuki. The first product under its premium brand Nexa, the S-Cross, didn’t do much for the brand, and its limited network across the country also didn’t help establish great faith in the strategy.
However, beating all odds, the Baleno became an instant hit and has grown from a little over 4,000 unit sales to 10,000-plus figure by December 2015. Together, the Hyundai i20 and Maruti Suzuki Baleno are rewriting the books and their sales, combined with the other B segment hatchbacks (that include the likes of big sellers like the Swift, Grand i10 etc), has given the upper B segment the biggest gains by volume across vehicle categories.
Hyundai scored big with another model introduction — the Creta. Ford with its sub-compact SUV EcoSport, and the first compact SUV from the recent past, Renault Duster were the first to impact the market positively. Hyundai moved the game several notches up with the Creta that’s been doing between 5,000-7,000 unit sales since its launch. Mahindra’s TUV300 and the new-generation Scorpio, too, bring big numbers to this space.
The year 2015 wasn’t all about superstar performances. Tata’s Zest and Bolt promised a great deal but failed to make any impact on the market. Tata ended the year with a bit over 500 units of the Bolt and 1,800 units of its Zest sub-compact sedan sold in December — a far cry from expectations. In a segment that’s clearly dominated by Maruti Suzuki Dzire, there’s a great chance for a worthy product to sell well (Aspire is a worthy product), but it has to be driven by very focused and clear sales strategy. Even Hyundai with all its might hasn’t really been able to make a noticeable dent in Dzire’s volumes.
While the industry continued to grow in 2015, December was overall a bit weak for mostly all automobile manufacturers owing to the floods in Chennai — the city where many major auto manufacturers and component players have their facilities.
This year already looks quite promising with two mass segments poised to get additions from big players — Maruti will launch its sub-compact SUV, Vitara Brezza, and Tata will bring in its hatchback Zica. The Auto Expo in February will have more exciting products. Will the auto industry go beyond the record-shattering 2011-12 levels? Perhaps not, but with many social issues and policies driving big alterations in the industry, 2016 will definitely be a very interesting year to track!