Its time for the crossover

By Mohini Bhatnagar | 20 Oct 2004


The new ''crossover'' vehicles coming into the Indian market may cannibalise the sales of earlier models.

An indication of the maturing of the passenger car mart is the increasing popularity of estate vehicles. Hyundai Motor India started the ball rolling by launching the Getz followed by Tata Marina from Tata Motors. Ford India has announced the launch of crossover vehicle, Ford Fusion, in December this year while Toyota Motor is planning to launch its Innova next year. The car has received excellent reviews in Indonesia where it was launched last month.

Estates are not new to India. During the ''70s, Premier Padmini and the grand old Ambassador had station wagons (as they were called then) or estate versions. Tata Motors or Telco, as the company was called earlier, had its Tata Estate while Fiat after launching the Siena in India introduced its estate version called the Fiat Weekender. General Motors has its Corsa Swing, the estate version of the Opel Corsa in the market.

Estates have never been very successful in India. Part of the reason is in the pricing. Carmakers have tended to add a premium for the extended rear portion. A notable exception, though is the Corsa Swing. General Motors introduced the Swing in the same price slot as the Corsa despite which its sales never took off. For instance, in June this year, the company sold just one unit of the Swing though sales have picked up since and the car sold 16 units in September 2004.

Another reason for the lack luster response in the Indian market towards estates is probably that these vehicles are based on the same platform as the sedans. For instance, the Siena Weekender is built on the same platform as the Siena, the only difference being its extended back instead of a booth. That is also the case with the Corsa Swing and Tata Marina.

The estates that are likely to make a mark are the Hyundai Getz, the Ford Fusion and Toyota Innova. All these are based on individual platforms and offer something extra in teerms of space, size and features at an affordable price.

The success of SUVs in recent times (the Tavera, Scorpio and Endeavour), has shown that the Indian consumers prefer slightly bigger and more spacious vehicles with high ground clearance. The Ford Fusion and Toyota Innova are likely to appeal to customers who want to combine the looks of a car with the spaciousness of an SUV.

Ford India has been touting the Fusion as having spacious dimensions 172cm in width with a length of 402cm against the Ikon, which is a good bit narrower at 163cm, but longer than the Fusion with a length of 414cm. The Getz on the other hand may look like the Santro from a distance but has a bigger engine and a body with an overall length of 381cm and a width of 166cm. The Santro is smaller at 356cm in length and a width of 152cm.

The Accent is 425cm long and marginally wider than the Getz at 167cm. However, with an 82bhp, 1300-cc engine, the Getz is priced at Rs4.20 lakh, which fills the gap in the market between the Santro and the Accent in price and overall technical specs.

The Tata Marina''s greatest advantage is its pricing, which places it in the same price range as the Indigo since the vehicle is basically an Indigo with an extended back, there was no reason to price it higher. Tata Motors may, however, find the Marina eating into the sales of its sedan, the Indigo. In the long run all the recent new launches are likely to eat into the sales of older cars on account of their newness and obvious advantages of space. Tata Motors has set a modest target of 4,000-6,000 units sales in the current fiscal which analysts say is highly achievable. Hyundai Motor has set a target of 8,000 units for the Getz, but its response has been so strong, that BVR Subbu, managing director, says the company is planning to revise the target upwards to 10,000 units.

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