The new Creta was launched just before lockdown. Do you think that will affect sales going forward?
The response to the new model was amazing. A good number of bookings had been received and the deliveries had just started. In short, we were getting really good traction. However, I think the need of the hour is adaptability & flexibility and we, at Hyundai, have always believed in this.
The good thing is that Creta has gone on to become a ‘cult’ brand – the previous Creta sold about 460,000 units. For the new model, we had received close to 20,000 bookings and we’ve been in constant touch with these customers and, to our joy, most customers are simply waiting for the lockdown to end as they want their car as soon as possible. Luckily, in some regions, dealerships have started operating again and, likewise, deliveries have also begun. So that’s positive news for us.
The Kia Seltos has been a huge success ever since it was launched, and that’s great for the Hyundai Motor Group HQ because it’s a sister company but it is a challenge for you in terms of giving you competition on the ground, isn’t it?
Yes, of course. I think Kia is a worthy competitor, and they’ve done really well after their recent entry into the Indian market. However, I have always believed that good competition always brings out the best in us at Hyundai. I think the new Creta, not only in terms of the product, but the way the whole packaging has been done, in terms of positioning, price, communications platform, in terms of the views we got on YouTube when we launched the advertisement, the first drive that happened with some journalists – the reviews have been fantastic. So, the results are very good and, therefore, we are confident that the new Creta will receive our customers’ love & affection, which will put us back in the leadership space.
A lot of your competitors have given up on diesel cars, especially in the small car space, whereas you are one of the few companies that have come out with BS-VI diesel engines in your smaller cars. Will that be a big competitive advantage going forward?
If you look at the last ten years of the Indian automotive industry, there are a whole lot of customers who swear by diesel engines – and they simply want to own a diesel car. Not only in terms of efficiency, but also in terms of the surge of torque they get when they drive a diesel car. Diesel has done well, and, in certain segments, especially SUVs, the demand for diesels is still much higher than for petrol. So, we thought that, as Hyundai, because we have the capability to develop a BS-VI diesel engine, and also because we were able to offer a BS-VI diesel at a price difference of only about ₹20,000 more than the petrol, in terms of the BS-IV to BS-VI shift, I think it was a win-win decision for us, because the general industry talk was that the price increase would be to the tune of about one lakh, or so.
Secondly, we were able to get out a complete range of BS-VI diesel vehicles – starting with the Grand i10 Nios, followed by the Aura and, of course, the Venue, Creta and the Tucson. So, our customers have multiple model options if they’re looking for a BS-VI diesel car.
Third, all those who are already driving diesel vehicles would want to upgrade to another diesel car. So, with us, they have the option of exchanging their old diesel vehicle for a new BS-VI one.
I think this is a great opportunity for the brand, and this is one way for Hyundai to announce to India that, yes, as a global brand, we can develop fuel-efficient, more powerful & more economical engines and the entire range is there – from petrol BS-VI, diesel BS-VI to CNG BS-VI & EVs as well. So, we’re moving ahead very strongly in terms of environment-friendly cars.
Do you think the online channels for both sales & service will see a permanent shift, or will people slowly revert back to a more brick & mortar kind of experience?
If we see the last three years, people were talking about online in auto, but it was limited to the pre-sale exploration. It was limited, at best, to booking. I think Hyundai, with its ‘Click to Buy’ platform, for the first time launched an end-to-end platform where a customer, while sitting at home, could explore, book and take delivery of a vehicle. Of course, customers also have the option of taking help from dealer executives online. Of course, when we had launched it, we had no idea that it would soon become such a relevant thing due to the Covid-19 crisis, and I now see more-and-more people using the digital platform. In terms of the April website visits, I can tell you that, on most days of the month, the number of people visiting the ‘Click to Buy’ website was higher than the visitors on our regular corporate website. This is a very motivating start for us.
Also, global market analysis suggests that more-and-more people are interested in purchasing a vehicle online, and the fact that a lot of OEMs in India are starting similar digital initiatives only goes to show just how quickly this trend is picking up.
Also, during a standard retail purchase, a customer can interact with as many as 15 different people – from the reception desk to the person who hands over the vehicle at the time of delivery. Now, though, they would prefer not to meet so many people. In fact, now they would like to have a single point of contact. Not only will the system become more efficient this way, but also that single sales executive might remain the customer’s contact for life! The kind of connect he or she will have with the customer will be much stronger. I think all these learnings should help us move forward.