Maruti’s product range needs a tune-up

Maruti essentially ignited the automobile revolution in India when Suzuki introduced the 800 hatchback in 1983. It was the first company to sell a million cars in India. Its journey started with the 800, and the Omni, Gypsy and 1000/Esteem in quick succession. The 800 was the Ford Model T of India while the Omni was essentially the Indian minivan and the Gypsy was the first true competitor to the Mahindra Jeeps. Since then came the Baleno C segment sedan, the box-on-wheels Wagon R and on and on and on.

The original Maruti 800                                                           Maruti Gypsy

So, over the years, Maruti has quickly expanded its range to maintain its dominance over the Indian market. But its expansion seemed drunkenly haphazard … having two or even three cars in one price range while leaving large gaps in other areas. Maruti’s policy has been to never replace a car even if its successor has found its way to the marketplace. The worst example is the Alto. The current 800 was the first Alto. The current Maruti Alto was the 2nd gen Alto was the A-star is the current 3rd Gen Alto. All three are in production in India and mildly different price points.

Same is the case with the Wagon R and the Ritz. The Ritz, also known as the Splash in Europe, is actually the next-gen Wagon R but we have both models soldiering on here. A look at the price chart makes this amply clear. And surprisingly, MUL has left large gaps everywhere else.
For example, there is no 2 door hot-hatch for the youth market. The Indian market has evolved to a point that vehicles are not merely seen as utility vehicles but also as personal statements for the young and the restless. And, is Maruti going to wait around and wake up once Hyundai introduces a hot hatch? Or there is a large gap between the SX4 and the Kizashi. These gaps can be seen from the graphs below, comparing Maruti’s price/product graph with Suzuki of UK.

The lack of a successor for the Gypsy left me completely flummoxed. The Gypsy, introduced in India in the late eighties was essentially a renamed Jimny/Vitara. There have been 3 complete redesigns of the Vitara since then while the tired old Gypsy soldiers on. Predictably enough, MUL introduced the current Grant Vitara at a stratospheric Rs 15 lakhs leaving a big 10 lakh hole between the Gypsy and the Grand Vitara. Its only now that MUL will introduce the xA-Alpha. This long stretch of time has been enough for competitors to come in with the Dacia/Renault Duster, the Ford EcoSport and the Premier Rio. Again MUL has responded by becoming a follower.

Maruti Suzuki xA Alpha

I figure Maruti Suzuki is leaving a lot of money on the table by having cars that cannibalize sales from each other while leaving holes in its product range, big enough to drive a Gypsy through.


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