Tata Motors knocks out peers in SUV ring

Tata Motors, India’s third largest passenger vehicle maker, took pole position in the competitive sport utility vehicle (SUV) market in October, reveals the data from industry sources.

Riding high on the Punch — the sub-compact SUV offering launched on October 18 — the Tata group flagship sold a record 23,381 units in October, higher than 20,022 units sold by archrival Mahindra & Mahindra, 18,538 units sold by Hyundai Motor India, and 15,931 units sold by Kia Motors India.

Utility vehicles — that include SUVs and multipurpose vehicles — accounted for almost one in every two passenger vehicles sold in India in the first seven months of the current financial year, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.

It underscores the growing preference for the body type.

“The passenger vehicle market in India is getting sharply defined, based on body type and price, and new sub- segments are emerging,” says Ravi Bhatia, president, JATO Dynamics.

There are many crossover vehicles being defined as SUVs that meet the body type and ground clearance and high seating criteria, but not the performance metrics.

The high unit sales of the Punch conform to the trend that customers are favourably inclined due to the price being attractive, he pointed out.

Positioned as a sub-compact SUV, with prices starting at Rs 5.49 lakh, the Punch is based on the Agile Light Flexible Advanced (ALFA) architecture that also underpins the Altroz.

It competes with high-riding hatchbacks like the Ignis and the KUV100, and competitively priced compact SUVs, such as the Nissan Magnite and the Renault Kiger.

The Punch clocked a volume of 8,453 units in 12 days after it went on sale, becoming the second-largest selling model by volume for Tata Motors after the Nexon.

“Being the first sub-compact SUV, the Punch is attracting customers, primarily from adjacent hatch and compact sedan segments.

“It is being appreciated for its attractive SUV styling and features,” said Shailesh Chandra, president, passenger vehicles business unit, Tata Motors, adding that the company has got “an overwhelming response” for the model.

“Supplies today are heavily constrained due to some critical electronic components.

“We are in the process of ramping up production in the months to come.

“It is definitely a product capable of consistently doing five-digit figures on a monthly basis,” observed Chandra.

Puneet Gupta, associate director, I.H.S Markit, a sales forecast and market research firm, said, “So far, Tata Motors is the only passenger vehicle maker that has managed to launch SUVs at multiple price points, meeting the aspirations of buyers in one of the fastest-growing segments.”

As competition heats up in the segment with SUV launches by car market leader Maruti Suzuki India (MSIL), starting next year, it may not be easy for the company to retain its numero uno position.

“We have some models like the Vitara Brezza and the S-Presso in the compact segment.

“Of course, our portfolio is behind some other original equipment manufacturers.

“We are planning and have already started developing some models to launch in the market,” Kenichi Ayukawa, MD?and CEO, MSIL, told PTI last week.

He noted that the company is “a little behind in product development, but will cover that sooner or later”.

Photograph: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

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