Maruti Suzuki Ciaz
The past year has been tough for the industry, but the recent results have been very positive for Maruti. How have you managed that?
We have a couple of inherent strengths in our portfolio. One is the number of models that we have. The second is that we go on refreshing our products – whether it’s minor modifications or major changes, or the introduction of an altogether new model. And while doing so, we take a highly customer centric approach based on market feedback, based not only on the aspirations but also the expectations of the customer – taking care of his pain points and concerns. For example, with the recent three models that we’ve launched, our focus had been on fuel-efficiency because fuel prices have been going up and this comes down very hard on the customers’ pocket in terms of running cost. So, we launched the Maruti Ciaz with best-in-industry mileage. Subsequent to that, we improved upon the mileage of the Swift by 10%, and with the latest launch – the Alto K10 – we’ve improved upon efficiency by 15%. So, our focus is always on the customer, plus our widespread service network certainly helps us as the customer knows that we’re going to provide him service right at his doorstep. Another thing is low cost of ownership, not just in terms of fuel efficiency but also in terms of cost of parts as well. Our endeavour is to ensure that the customer always feels delighted and never regrets his decision to purchase one of our cars. We’re also expanding our sales network. Today, we have more than 1,400 sales outlets – so, again, delivering the car to the doorstep of the customer makes all the difference. So, put all these things together, and it creates delight for the customer and helps us in expanding our market.
The Ciaz is a great product that feels premium. But is the product enough change to the mindset that Maruti is a small car manufacturer?
This product is packed with all kind of features. If you talk about the exteriors, they are highly futuristic and very trendy – keeping the younger generation in mind. In terms of performance, again, the shape plays a very important role. It’s the most aerodynamic car in our portfolio, which not only provides a good grip on the road, but also good mileage as it ensures reduced wind resistance when driving at high speed. Likewise, the interiors are excellent. There are a number of features that are of a premium nature. Certainly, these features, put together with the technology, the drivetrain, and the engine, ensure that everything is excellent in this car. It also provides a wonderful driving experience to the customer, so it has an overall feel of ‘premiumness’ all throughout. So, I’m sure that we’ll be able to break into the premium segment with this car.
Is there a difference in the customer experience with this product versus some of your others?
We divide every segment in two parts – in this case, A3-minus and A3-plus. In A3-minus, we’ve done pretty well with the Dzire. In the A3-plus category, the customer looks for finesse, power, and aesthetics. All these have been provided in this car, and I’m sure that it’ll be appreciated by our customers – and so I’m sure that the success that we’ve had in the A3-minus segment with the Dzire will be replicated with the Ciaz in this segment.
Looking at the next year, when are we likely to see your all-new compact SUV?
We’re working on this, and we’ll stick to the timelines that have already been declared.
How do you see next year playing out, and what are your plans for 2015?
Well, last year, the industry de-grew by 6%. In the first half of this year, the industry growth was about 4.3%, though we have grown by 14.7%. So, if you look at the industry growth, it’s not as per expectations. But, certainly, sentiment is changing if you compare it with last year. But the pace at which the market is showing positivity is a little slow. However, yes, we are optimistic about the future. The government is pushing through a lot of the right policies. The direction is correct, and certain positive parameters are taking shape at the macroeconomic level. For instance, inflation is coming down and fuel prices are showing some decline. Going forward, if the interest rates also come down, and the projects that the government is clearing on the fast track get into the execution stage, they will create more jobs and generate a positive vibe in the market. Certainly, in the span of six months to one year, things should start improving. But, as of now, we don’t expect a big-bang improvement in market sentiment.
Finally, what is your reaction to the recent Global NCAP tests that have been conducted?
Well, you know from country-to-country there are different specifications for vehicles – and the same thing holds true for crash tests also. Whatever models we’re producing in India conform to Indian regulations. Each and every model we launch is tested by ARAI, and is certified for road-worthiness. However, as I said, these vary from country-to-country. Some countries have more stringent norms. We are exporting our cars to these countries, and our vehicles meet the norms in these countries. Moving forward, in case there are any changes to the existing rules, we will ensure that our vehicles meet those requirements.