The biggest voids in the mainstream Indian car market

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The car customer in the Indian car market was never so spoilt for choice. From the time when you had to buy your Maruti 800 in Black in the 80s, we have shifted to a phase where carmakers are ready to deliver the car of your choice at your doorstep, with free insurance and a big discount thrown in. Now, being able to choose a car from a big options list is one thing, and to have the car that exactly suits your requirement in the list is another. Even with so many options in the market, there are times when you realize that you don’t have a car suiting your requirements. The wide options of cars in popular segments notwithstanding, there are some voids which need to be filled.

Here are a few segments which we think carmakers can introduce a product in, and generate good volumes

1.    A small diesel automatic

For someone who wants a small car for his daily commute to work with an automatic transmission, there are only two options available in the market as of now – the i10 and the A-star. Both of them are petrol powered and both of them don’t seem to have a chance of getting equipped with a diesel engine anytime soon. So what do you do if you find the price of petrol too high, and yet, can’t compromise the comfort of an AT for manual in the harrowing city traffic? Well, you can do nothing, but wait! Until one of the carmakers read this piece and realize the demand.
Beat and Figo diesel AT’s should sell in good numbers if their respective makers think about the opportunity seriously.

2.    A premium compact SUV

So what if you have a budget of Rs 15 lakh, and want a compact premium SUV / crossover for yourself, probably with an auto transmission? And please don’t point me to the Scorpio, for it isn’t a premium product. Yes, it’s well built. Yes, it’s got a good engine. Yes, it has an auto option. And yes, it’s great value, but I won’t be caught dead in it at a social function with my family. It’s just not polished enough. Hopefully Mahindra only will plug this hole with their upcoming World SUV.

I would like something on the lines of the Toyota RAV4 or the Mitsubishi RVR filling this gap for us.

3.    A sub-10 lakh sedan with an auto transmission

Being an auto journalist, I keep getting queries from people about which car to buy. Of late, I have observed that a sizeable chunk of these queries are about automatic transmission cars. Working eight hours sitting in your office chair takes a toll on your back, and people don’t want to ride the clutch on their way to and back from work. People are looking at automatics in affordable sedans – the cars that most working executives can afford to buy.  Unfortunately, opting for an Auto in any of the sedans (Verna/City) will set you back by more than 10 lakh rupees. What if one had a budget of Rs 7-9 lakhs for an automatic sedan? Why couldn’t a Dzire and an Etios Liva be fitted with an automatic? There is a market out there, I cannot for the life of me understand what stops mainstream carmakers from going ahead and cracking it

4.    A genuine Alto competitor

It’s a shame that there isn’t a single genuine competitor to the most successful car in the Indian market. The Alto sells more than 30,000 units every month, and yet, no carmaker could sell half as many cars for any of their models. And what are the options if you don’t like the Alto? Zilch! Zero! Nada! The reason? It’s simply impossible to match the Alto when it comes to fuel efficiency, low maintenance costs, price and most of all, resale value. Point me to the Chevy Spark and I would say it’s neither as cheap, nor as efficient, nor as well valued in the re-sale market to be considered a genuine replacement. Nano? Ahem!

I don’t think Honda will, but a Hyundai or a Toyota can, and probably will pull this feat off in the times to come. As of now, however, it’s an opportunity that remains to be tapped.

These are just a few of the requirements which we thought remain unaddressed. If you think you have been looking for a car in the mainstream car market (upto Rs 20 lakh) and failed to find an option, do let us know. Enthusiasts with no buying intentions too should enlighten us about their views on the topic. Get commenting, we’d really love to hear from you on this one.

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