Good old Santro gets a new lease of life, courtesy Mumbai cabwallah

Next month, the ubiquitous black and yellow Premier Padminis doubling up as taxis on Mumbai roads would ride into the sunset. And the car that is benefitting the most from the government’s decision to not allow cars older than 25 years, is the good ‘old’ Santro.

One would have imagined that after a 15-year-old long spell and especially after the launch of the i10, Santro’s days were numbered. From being once the second largest selling car in India after the Maruti 800 in the early part of this century, Santro today is clearly dated, archaic and out of sync with competition. For many months after i10’s launch in 2007, the car survived due to the export volumes to neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan.

The phase out of the Accent, another dated Hyundai model, earlier this year also raised questions on the Santro’s longevity. Like the Santro, Accent was globally discontinued a few years back to be replaced by Verna (i10 was the global replacement for Santro).

It is clear though that Padmini’s loss seems to be helping Santro’s cause. Its sales in the last 12 months have been more or less stable. A good chunk of the demand is coming from Mumbai where taxi drivers are preferring the Santro over its rivals like Estilo (erstwhile Zen), Alto or Spark. The Hyundai car’s sales have dropped 14% in the first half of this year compared to the same period last year. During the same period, sales of the Spark, Estilo and Alto declined by 60%, 37% and 15% respectively.

The demand for a car from the taxi segment is fickle. There is very little chance of a repeat buying and when it concerns only one city in particular, the bonhomie generally does not last very long. So Santro’s luck will eventually run out but for the time being it may have just bought itself a bit of time.

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