Hyundai Prime, DZire Tour, Platinum Etios: Automakers rebrand cars to steer clear of ‘taxi’ tag.
When your dream car comes to your door as a cab, you don’t aspire to buy that model anymore.
To resurrect this dropping aspirational value of its entry-level products, Hyundai will sell its newly launched Xcent only to families, while continuing to sell the older version to commercial owners.
“We will continue to sell the old models to commercial fleet operators under a new badge called the Prime. So there will be Eon Prime, i10 Prime, Xcent Prime, etc. They will be different from the new models that we have launched recently,” Rakesh Srivastava, director of marketing and sales at Hyundai Motor India Ltd. (HMIL) said.
While the company eyes selling 5,000 units of the new Xcent per month, plans are to sell around 2,500-3,000 units of Xcent Prime to fleet-owners. The company sold over 2.5 lakh units of the last edition of Xcent launched in 2014, out of which roughly 7% went to fleet-owners.
“It’s a complete family sedan with premium features and affordable price,” YK Koo, CEO of HMIL said at the launch of the new Xcent, looking to define the car’s target customer -- family buyers -- and shed this “taxi” image that Xcent was developing.
Besides Hyundai, Maruti Suzuki also sells its older Swift DZire to cab-owners as DZire Tour, while the sub-four-metre sedan is sold only as a family vehicle. The DZire Tour, which is cheaper than the LDI variant of standard model by almost Rs 6,000, accounts for over 16% of total DZire sales, industry sources said.
According to SIAM data, Maruti Suzuki sold over 83,000 cars across various models to fleet operators in the last fiscal.
Toyota too rebadged its product Etios as Etios Platinum to distinguish between a cab and family car. A Toyota dealer said its MPV Innova Chrysta is “available for sale only as a family purpose vehicle and the company is not selling it to fleet-operators”.
It all began with Tata Indica, the first mass-market car from Tata Motors which became the taxi-owners’ first choice, thanks to its good space and affordability. As quintessential “kaali-peeli” taxi models such as Hindustan Motors Ambassador and Premier Padmini were phased out, the trend crept on to the likes of Toyota Etios, Maruti Suzuki WagonR, Celerio, Eeco, Swift DZire, and Hyundai Eon, i10 and Xcent in recent times. These cars had two positives for the cab owners: low-cost maintenance and high mileage.
With rising costs of ownership, maintenance in the city and parking problems, and availability of competitive services such as rentals, app-based cabs and self-drives, more and more prospective urban car-buyers are opting out of buying a car.
With bigger production volumes and cut-throat competition, automakers cannot rely solely on family vehicle buyers. Then they welcome fleet operators and cab aggregators like Ola, Uber, ZoomCar and Myles to cushion fluctuating sales. These companies are not only joining forces for fleet sharing for self-drives and car-rentals, but also are repositioning their products and sales strategies to help each other grow.
Last year, Mahindra & Mahindra tied up with cab aggregator Ola Cabs to provide its vehicles to more than 40,000 drivers across the country by 2018, at zero down payment and affordable insurance. Ola also tied up with BMW to bring more luxury cars within the booking reach of its app users under LUX category.
Ford too partnered with ZoomCar after leading a $24 million round of funding with the Bengaluru-based self-drive car-rental service.
According to ratings agency ICRA, “Original equipment manufacturers have realised the market potential and have dedicated sales team to cater fleet operators. Considering strong demand and increasing penetration of such players in smaller towns, Indian taxi market is poised for robust double digit growth over next 2-3 years.”
“In financial year 2015-2016, fleet sales (including cab aggregators) accounted for nearly 9% of Indian passenger vehicle sales, which is expected to reach 15%-17% level by financial year 2019-20,” the ICRA said.
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