Sucheta Dalal :Grande Punto
Sucheta Dalal

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Car makers betting on premium hatchback to drive growth  

August 12, 2009


In the last few months, the country witnessed an array of launches in the price range of Rs350,000 to Rs750,000, revving up the country's car market.

While Honda came out with its much awaited premium hatchback 'Jazz' from its stable, Italian car major Fiat launched its premium small car 'Grande Punto' in both petrol and diesel variants.

The country's leading auto manufacturer Maruti Suzuki India Ltd also launched its 'Ritz', which is expected to heat up the competition. The country's second biggest car maker Hyundai Motor India launched the upgraded version of the 'i10', Hyundai 'i20' in this category last year.

"We were planning to sell 700 units of i20. But we have been selling 4,000 units per month and already 60,000 units have been sold in the last 12 months," Hyundai Motor India managing director HS Lheem told PTI.

According to industry experts, premium hatchback segment largely comprises Ritz, i20, Fabia, Jazz and Grande Punto.

Lheem was of the view that it was not only the attractive price of the vehicle that made it to be a 'best seller' but due to other auto-makers pricing of their cars.

Hyundai Motor India reported a 53.9% jump in domestic passenger car sales in July at 23,193 units as against 15,066 units in the same month of 2008.

Maruti reported a 33.4% jump in sales at 78,074 units in July against 58,543 vehicles in same month last year.

Jnaneswar Sen, vice-president, marketing, Honda Siel India said since the launch of 'Jazz' on 10th June, response to it has been 'encouraging'. The car which has a localisation content of 77%, has great drive-ability, fuel efficiency and safety.

Jazz is the best seller in Thailand and had already crossed their own midsize sedan Honda City sales, Sen said. He, however, declined to give figures. Honda Siel which launched 'Jazz' in this category in mid-June sold 1,037 units in July 2009.

According to Fiat, the company has planned to sell over 200,000 cars in the domestic market by 2015 and capture 8% of the total passenger car segment by that time.

"We want to be an important player in India. We are looking at achieving sales of 70,000 cars by the end of 2010 and hope to increase it by three times during the following five years," Fiat Group chief operating officer (international operations) Silverio Bonfiglioli said.

On sales target for aggressively priced Punto, he said the company was hoping to sell 2,000-2,500 units a month."We hope India will be No 3 market for Punto with a higher volume than Brazil," he added.

Company officials said the localisation content of the car would be increased from present 58% to 85% and that they are eying to capture 11% to 12% market share in the segment by the year end.

-- Sucheta Dalal