MARUTI SUZUKI BALENO
How is the Nexa experience going?
Very well. There’s a lot of activity now because of the Baleno. Our dealers have had to make special arrangements because there were so many people coming to see the car and take test drives. So, dealers have ordered more test drive vehicles. And it’s very exciting because the product has been liked by the customer. In fact, customer excitement has been much more than we were expecting!
Are your non-Nexa dealers feeling envious of their counterparts?
Not really envious, because they’re not being left out. This vehicle is meant for the Nexa channel. However, existing dealers are free to book these vehicles. And if a customer buys the car from a Nexa dealer through the existing channel, the referring dealer also gets a share of the revenue.
Another big question mark before the launch was on the Baleno name. We had a lot of deliberation internally and with our friends from Suzuki. And, as they said, it’s a global launch – even though it’ll be produced here – so it should be a global brand name with global appeal. And we’ve been very clear that this product is totally different from the earlier vehicle – in terms of the technology, the platform, and the innovations by the engineering team. But all this has been substantiated by the customer response. As I mentioned already, no other Maruti product has got this kind of a response at the dealership level.
Now the next question that came from the people was about whether or not a product at 4.99 (lakhs) should be launched through the Nexa channel. Our thought process on this is that it’s not just the price that makes a product premium – it’s premium features, premium styling, the look and feel, technology, and even the category of the customer that the product is going to appeal to. And so all these differentiators should define whether or not we should give it to the Nexa channel or we should bring it to the existing channel. And in all these parameters, this product qualified to be in the Nexa channel. And now, looking back, we feel it was an excellent decision.
What next for Nexa? What else can we expect?
For Nexa you will have to wait, but for the existing channel we’re coming out with a wonderful product in the last quarter of this fiscal year.
The compact SUV?
Yes, and I’m sure we’re going to create a revolution in that segment as well. It’s a wonderful product, and we’re quite confident that even though our entry is late it’ll be a well thought out entry with a big bang!
There’s been big talk about reviving the Vitara name also?
Yes, that discussion is on-going. Some of these brand names are quite strong globally. Sometimes a product may not be as successful in a particular country, but then we’re working towards global branding of these products. So, from that point of view, yes, we are having discussions in that direction.
When can we see the new Ignis that we saw in Tokyo recently?
It’ll take some time before it comes into our portfolio. We’ve declared that there are fifteen products that are in the pipeline till 2020 – and most of these would be considered for India. On the timing, though, we’ll have to see to ensure that the customer excitement is spread over a period of time. We’re changing our overall approach towards the market. Hi-technology and innovative products that are first in the world is what we have planned – particularly with Baleno. Customer tastes are aligned with global tastes, so we’re trying to meet their expectations.
So you’ve been happy with the response to the Baleno so far?
More than happy – we’ve got 21,000 bookings already. So 1,200 to 1,500 bookings per day, which is a delight factor for us. It’s higher than our optimistic estimates, and it gives us a lot of confidence in the product.
You see, it happens very rarely that a global brand is launched from India. So Suzuki’s respect and concern for Indian customers, and the kind of importance that they are giving to customers here is a moment of pride for us. Before the world gets it, the Indian customer gets it. And with many firsts, like Apple CarPlay, which will appeal to young customers. When they come to our showrooms, they first say that they want to see Apple CarPlay and sync their phone, and only after that take a test drive. So this is creating a lot of excitement.