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Carmakers out to sell compact SUV dreams

There is a mad rush among automakers to line up products in the compact sports utility vehicle (SUV) segment as no one wants to miss out on its promising growth prospects.

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There is a mad rush among automakers to line up products in the compact sports utility vehicle (SUV) segment as no one wants to miss out on its promising growth prospects. Compact SUV as a market category may be relatively new, which explains its limited product offerings. But the upcoming Auto Expo may change all that. Companies like Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai India, Ford India, Renault are all working overtime to showcase their smaller SUVs, which will open up a new front for auto makers as well as customers.

The SUV segment as a whole is moving more or less at a fast clip, growing at about 12% this year compared to 13% last year. This is in stark contrast to small cars which continue to contract. In fact, in terms of growth, SUVs have outpaced all other formats, making it an attractive model for companies to step up. 

It all started with the sub-4 meter Premier Rio. With other market players now gauging the market potential and plotting their steps with care, the competition is bound to hot up in days ahead. “SUVs have gained a lot of acceptance in India in the past couple of years. Compacts will be more preferred as SUVs generally are bigger and more expensive. For a city customer, it can be an ideal product,” said Arvind Saxena, director, sales & marketing, Hyundai Motor India. The company is planning to come out with a compact SUV concept during the Auto Expo in Delhi. Saxena said the product would take at least 3-4 years to hit the market.

Similarly, Maruti Suzuki will take the wraps off its smaller SUV concept at Delhi Expo. That the carmaker is aggressively pushing things forward became clear when it announced its designs about the multi-purpose vehicle, Ertiga, and the compact SUV. “We will see the feedback for the compact SUV at the Expo and accordingly, take a decision of manufacturing the same,” said Shashank Srivastava, chief general manager (marketing) for Maruti Suzuki.

Other automakers like Ford India and Renault India are stepping on the gas, too. It is expected that Ford’s EcoSport will be its next big thing after Figo. According to AutoCar India, the American automaker will unveil the product at the Auto Expo and will price it at Rs7-9 lakh. After India, this sub-4 meter SUV will then be headed for Brazil. Ford refused to comment on the future product offerings. Nigel Wark of Ford India said, “Every segment has changed and customers requirements are also changing. There are opportunities in future in a segment like this if a product offers value for money and is stylish at the same time.”

Abdul Majeed, Auto Practice Leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers sees price here as a big determinant as far as buyers are concerned. “It is a niche segment, which has a potential to grow. It is a good option for many customers who cannot buy bigger SUVs. OEMs are showing interest, too. Pricing will play a major factor, ” said Majeed.

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