Maruti looking at lower priced small car variants to take on big players

Maruti Suzuki is planning to introduce refreshed variants of its best-selling cars Alto, WagonR and Swift to take on global majors Toyota, Honda and Volkswagen that are planning small car launches in India.

The move is seen as a bid to defend its turf and retain its leadership position against the big players.

According to analysts, with the latest move Maruti, which makes every second car sold in the country, is seeking to queer the pitch for the new entrants in the world's largest small car market.

In CEO S Nakanishi's view, 2010 would be the toughest year for Maruti and it needs to gain volumes to protect its market share against global competition in the compact car segment.

The new variant of Alto, set for launch in the next three months, will be cheapest variant to date as it has been widely held that Maruti will need a product to take on Tata Motor's Nano, with its cheapest car as the M-800 not to be sold in the 11 cities that will adopt Bharat-IV emission norms. The new variant will see the market leader position itself better in the sub-Rs3 lakh segment.

It is not for the first time that Maruti is taking such a step. It had earlier re-designed Zen Estlio, which was at least Rs50,000 cheaper than the outgoing model and additionally the new multi-purpose vehicle Eeco priced Rs2.59 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) sold at Rs1,00,000 less that the Versa.