The potential target audience for the Nano does not seem as effusive as the media over the low price tag of the car, discovers Mohini Bhatnagar at the ninth Delhi Auto Expo
New Delhi: The hugely hyped launch of the Tata Rs1-lakh car has led to much speculation on Maruti Suzuki withdrawing the M-800 or, at least, reducing its prices substantially to compete with the Nano that is priced at half the prevailing price of the M-800. However, the ground realities may be different.
Walking towards the exit of the Delhi Auto Expo in New Delhi with a brief from my editor to get the views of 'king' consumer, I managed to get visitors at the Expo to talk about their views on the Nano and on the chances of their buying the Tata car.
The answers took me rather by surprise. Contrary to the euphoric and eulogistic tone adopted by the media, the consumers appeared more cautious and displayed amazing awareness about automobiles in general.
Furthermore, since most of the responses came from small businessmen, sales executives and taxi drivers, the likely target audience for the Tata car, the Nano may not exactly be a runaway success for Tata Motors.
Shyam Kapoor, who owns an electronics repair shop in Karol Bagh and his wife Aruna had come to the Auto Expo especially to view the 'lakhatia' (anything that costs rupees one lakh) as the Nano has been dubbed in New Delhi. Aruna Kapoor says she would prefer the family buying a second-hand Alto or WagonR from Maruti True Value because these cars would be bigger and more comfortable. Further Suzuki cars are known for being hassle-free and low on maintenance. Kapoor also said prices of used car were also around the Rs1 lakh slot.
Taxi fleet operator Vinod Kumar has reservations on the pricing of the Nano. Saying he doubted that the company would stick to this price till its actual launch, he emphasised that the Maruti 800 came at an introductory price of Rs45,000 that was increased to Rs120,000 and even higher thereafter. He also doubted the 'great mileage' offered by the Nano, adding that the Indica is being sold with the claim of giving 25km per litre but, even though it never manages more than 15km.
Shailendra Tripathi, an executive with a leading consultancy, said that in his experience the Tatas never got a car 'right' with their first model. In his opinion the Sumo and the Indica were a major 'headache' for their owners when they were first introduced, adding that the company finally got the Indica right with the V2.
Taxi owner Shyam Singh said that the Indica, even now, was not a very comfortable car to drive, with the drivers' seat being so low that it restricted visibility of the road ahead. Singh also said that the Indica's greatest advantage was its sturdiness, its high ground-clearance and the fact that it had a diesel variant that made it an economical car to drive.
Other opinions ranged from the Nano not inspiring confidence with its delicate looks to utter disbelief that a car could be sturdy and reliable at such a 'low price.'
And, finally, would people continue buying the M800? Some felt that the car would continue to sell because it had proved itself over the years as being a reliable and sturdy product though Suzuki might have to slash price if the Tatas finally launched the Nano at around the announced price.
In fact, taxi driver Vinod Kumar opined that the Nano was more likely to become a second car for middle class buyers for city driving, instead.
While accepting that the views of such a small sample was not an indicator of the larger opinion, particularly in the smaller towns, one needs too remember that those polled by domain-b come from precisely the target audience that Ratan Tata has in mind for the Nano - the middle and lower middle-classes who todeay take their families for an outing on scooters and motorcycles.
What would be interesting, however, would be to track how the Nano sells in different geographical markets across the country. For example, Delhites have a "you are what you drive" attitude, with 'economical' cars not looked up very favourably when it comes to displaying social status. The most conspicious way of doing that is choosing the car they drive. A small car from Honda, yes. But a Tata Nano might just be the gauranteed way to purge yourself from the guest list of your neighbour's celebrations, and changing your brand image to a "Nano driver".
Space-starved Mumbai, with its more practical, 'bindaas' attitude, is likely not to attach an image problem to the Nano and may even welcome the car for its ease of parking. Maybe it would be a hit down south, then again, maybe not. At this point, anyone could be right, or everyone could be wrong.