Last lap for Hyundai Accent

Back in 1999, when the Accent was first introduced in India, there were few sedans of any worth in the market. Its two direct competitors were the Maruti Esteem and Daewoo Cielo. A little further up we had the Opel Astra, Ford Escort and Honda City. But one had to pay through your nose to get them. Further up, there was the Ford Mondeo that was to be joined later by the Opel Vectra. And then you had a couple of Mercs to round off the three box segment.

Starved of new products, the market stood up and took notice. Accent was also only the second car from Hyundai and Accent was expected to follow up on the huge success of the Santro. It never managed that but its existence in the market today, 13 years on, indicates it has some enviable brand equity.

Consider this. Almost all its competitors then barring the Honda City and including the Esteem are now dead and buried. In India and elsewhere. In the meantime a gamut of new sedans have ventured in–from Europe by way of Skoda and Volkswagen to Japan courtesy the Corolla, Civic and more importantly Etios. In between there were some cars that came, created a stutter and then departed like the Ford Ikon and some others like the almost defunct Chevy Aveo and Optra that only came and left. In all of this the Accent in its various avatars stood firm.

Its time however seems to have run out finally. Last month only 182 customers decided to go for the now increasingly dated looking car. It was Accent’s lowest ever monthly sales performance in more than 5 years. Since November-December 2006 to be exact. What had happened then? The Verna had been launched in October. What has happened now? Nothing. Only a slow death.

In its life cycle, the Accent has seen many ups and downs. Its peak year was 2005 when around 30,000 units. Its monthly peak was in March 2006 when 3500 units were sold. Those were the hey days though and a stark contrast from today. Since June last year, it has not found more than 1000 customers willing to put their money on it every month. Last year, over 11,000 new Accents hit the roads. This year it is expected to be less than half of it.

And there are many reasons for it and age is not the only one. Globally, the Accent brand is alive but the car as we know it in India is dead. It has made way for the Verna which is sold as the Accent everywhere else and is the successor to it. In India though, the car has lived on partly because there was enough demand (the Verna was and is expensive) and partly because Hyundai had extra capacity. It also helped that the predecessor to the Fluidic Verna had such bland styling that Accent looked contemporary in comparison.

As it happens with any brand that is no longer in service worldwide, the refreshes stop and the product no longer sees the regular cyclical facelifts. The lack of effort to make the car more contemporary hastens its death.

The entry of many new and exciting cars has also led to its downfall. Accent used to be one of the front runners in its segment in the first half of last decade. Then the Dzire came in and Accent could never challenge it. Recently many others have pushed it down as well. The Etios and Verito have found loyal fan following in the taxi segment, the Sunny has emerged as the choice for those who are aspirational and crave for space, the Fiesta offers economy and practicality. Most of all, Accent’s lack of a diesel engine that is now kept exclusively for Verna, does not help its prospects either.

These days, atleast 30 new cars are launched in India every year. Not as many but a fair number also see the end of the road. While a launch is always a grand affair, the phase out is timid…almost secretive. The Accent is set to get a similar treatment…a gradual, slow, almost invisible demise. But as the first refined, peppy and affordable sedan in India, its legacy would survive. And in the Verna, part of its essence as well.

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