Hyundai Motors calls a public interest campaign, critics
dub as a corporate interest campaign.
By Mohini Bhatnagar
small car segment is seeing some action with Hyundai Motor India upping
the ante against rival Maruti Udyog in the small car segment.
the recent past, the Chennai-based subsidiary of the Korean car major has
been running an aggressive print and radio ad campaign against market leader
Maruti Udyog''s small cars Alto and more specifically the Wagon R, dubbing
them as four-seaters, since they have just four seat belts in the car.
Motor''s campaign for Santro cautions buyers to ascertain the seating capacity
of a small car before buying it has kicked off a controversy. Hyundai''s
assertion in its campaign that Santro has been certified as a five-seater
by the Automotive Research Authority of India (ARAI) forced the homologation
body to protest being dragged into what Balraj Bhanot, director of ARAI
says is "Hyundai''s marketing gimmick."
a telephonic conversation with domain-b,
Bhanot said, "ARAI has certified a number of small
cars as five-seaters including the Maruti Zen, the Tata
Indica and the Hyundai Santro."
said, "We don''t want to be associated with this campaign. We asked
ARAI to be clearer about which cars are being referred to as we felt that
that the ad implied that Santro is the only five-seater model in the compact
industry sources said that the seating capacity of a car is certified by
ARAI based on the Central Motor Vehicle rules and after considering the
various aspects such as dimension and safety aspects, when a vehicle is
sent for homologation.
to Bhanot, the certification by ARAI is given based on the rear capacity
of the car, since the front has specified two seats, and the number of seats
and seatbelts given for the passengers."
Santro has a width of 1525mm while MUL''s small cars Zen, Wagon R and Alto
are each 1495mm wide. Hence Santro buyers stand to gain a tiny 30mm from
buying the car. Funnily enough, the Zen, which is also 1495 mm wide, has
also been certified by ARAI as a five-seater while the Fiat Palio, also
certified by ARAI as a five-seater, is 1620mm wide.
According to Bhanot, "Apart from width, we use other parameters for
certifying cars as five-seater such as the number of seats, overall capacity
and the number of seatbelts available for passengers."
experts say the crux of the matter lies is in the number of seats and seat
belts available in the cars. According to Maruti dealers, the WagonR has
been certified to seat four persons, including the driver. This could be
because the WagonR has split seats at the rear and hence has seat belt points
for two persons in the rear.
to B V R Subbu, president, Hyundai Motor, consumers are not clearly informed
about the seating capacity of cars as certified by ARAI which could create
problems if traffic regulators raise objections for carrying more than four
people (including the driver) in a four-seater car. He said Hyundai had
issued the campaign in public interest.
according to him, carrying five people in a four-seater car would deny the
safety of a seat belt for the fifth passenger the person seated in
the middle in the back. Seat.
officials also said the company did not plan to take the issue with transport
authorities and that the intention of the campaign was only to educate consumers.
In a country
like India where cars owners are happily oblivious and uncaring of such
seating rules and traffic authorities unwilling to enforce them, such concerns
seem a trifle misplaced.
industry experts say the campaign puts pressure on buyers, owing to issues
related to traffic rules and could force some buyers to opt out of buying
the Wagon R or the Alto.
campaign targets the innate preference of Indian buyers for roomy cars by
creating hype around the seating capacity say industry insiders. They say
that though the campaign tries to pass off as a passenger safety campaign,
Hyundai is essentially trying to improve the market share of Santro through
the campaign, they say.
far MUL has kept quiet and refused to be dragged into the controversy.
the heart of the matter is the fact that Hyundai''s sales have been falling
in the past few months and it has been steadily losing market share to MUL''s
Wagon R and the Alto.
the year ending March 2005, Hyundai Motor posted cumulative sales of 2,
24,243 cars a growth of more than 30 per cent over the previous year. The
accent was on exports as domestic sales registered a rise of 9.5 per cent
with the sale of 142,150 cars. Exports grew by 95 per cent in 2004-05 over
In March, this year, Hyundai recorded its highest ever, cumulative sales
of 23,669 units a growth of 23.2 per cent over March 2004. This figure
doesn''t look as bright for the domestic market where Hyundai achieved total
sales of 16,315 units, a growth of 18.3 per cent over March 2004. The company''s
exports for the month stood at 7,354 units, growing by 36 per cent over
the corresponding month in 2004.
comparison, Maruti Udyog sold 5,36,301 vehicles during 2004-05, a growth
of 13.6 per cent over the previous year, the largest number of cars sold
since it commenced operations two decades ago.
the B segment comprising the Alto-WagonR and the Zen it''s sales were up
47 per cent in March and 54 per cent for the year.
March 2005, MUL sold a total of 54,613 cars, including 3,920 units of exports,
the highest ever in a month by the company. Further,
March 2005 sales figures were shocking for Hyundai India when its Santro
sold 11,833 units against the Alto''s 14,577 units, a 23 per cent difference.
and Matiz were launched in the country in 1997. Daewoo Motor''s troubles
led to the demise of its small car, the Matiz, and the Hyundai Santro ruled
in a monopoly market till the Alto and the WagonR were launched in 1999.
the last six months high decibel marketing moves, coupled with exciting
promotions and offers, have turned Alto into the largest selling car in
the country. In February 2005, WagonR''s sales were higher than the Santro''s
and in March the Alto stole, too, the Santro''s thunder.