Is the car’s price in India the biggest concern before we actually buy it? Is that miniature wonder, the entry level hatchback from Maruti Suzuki, the Alto 800, such an accomplished product merely because of the Alto 800’s price? And, are we ignoring cars that sport the best safety features or other desirable traits merely because such cars are comparatively costly? Are the Indian carmakers exploiting this fact?
Unfortunately, the answer to the all the questions listed above is an emphatic YES. And, the problem isn’t about say the difference between the aforementioned Alto 800 and a much more exuberant hatchback, say the Maruti Suzuki Baleno’s price. No sir!! The average Indian car buyer’s pursuit to save some money will render him the very basic car model more attractive than its sibling variant placed just a few rungs above in the hierarchy and maybe tagged with a couple of extra thousands of rupees. We are used to justifying something as a good buy in terms of how little we paid for it. ‘Sasta and Tikau’ remember??
Carmakers Feeding the Frenzy
Whilst the carmakers aren’t entirely responsible for this (most are after all responding to the prevalent market trends) they are still responsible for feeding the ignorance and not being too proactive with regards to initiatives that propose the improvement of safety standards on cars that ply on Indian roads. Even the government is not overly concerned about car safety- having just recently mandated ABS and airbags across all car models (irrespective of their market placement) and the formation of a domestic New Car Assessment Program (NCAP)- both measures coming to fruition in 2017. Thus, after all this time, the car’s price will not be irretrievably meshed with the important concern of car safety. Thankfully!!
The Underlying Logic- From Basic to Sophisticated
For most carmakers, the Indian market is a strange puzzle to solve. An inherently quality product, but priced lavishly, is sure to flop amongst the larger price-conscious buyer population while a bare-bones product, attractively priced, will earn all the love and adoration. Thus, the entry level hatchback segment is where the fiercest automotive battles are fought and where the maximum sales happen. The highest selling car, month-on-month, for the last couple of years has been the Maruti Suzuki Alto and the same is priced between ₹ 2.67- 4.05 lakhs. Meanwhile, another entry level favorite, the Renault Kwid, manages just one star (of the total five) at the Global NCAP crash testing. That’s bleeding away all associative sensibilities of responsible car manufacturing.
What must you do?- Prioritize
When buying a car, ensure that your criteria extends beyond the car’s price in India. Look for options within your budget that also come with a healthy quantum of safety features, and cruise through the available car variants in a bid to find the perfect match. Avoid falling prey to immaculately structured sales pitches at the dealership and be conscious about discount sales, exchange melas and year end bonanzas wherein mediocrity is usually packaged in bright colors and sold as part of exciting deals. Remember, you don’t buy a car everyday and getting this right the first time saves a lot of trouble and heartache at a later date. Happy hunting!!