The hits and misses of 2013

Except when there is an Auto Expo, the first half of a year is always less exciting than the latter half that has the festive season and a rush of new car launches leading up to it. The first three months (January-March) is when the marketing teams are busy shoring up numbers and launching cars is often a distraction. The next six months till September is the annual lul period when consumer sentiment is low either due to the weather or annual vacations.

Even then, the number of cars being launched every year in India is so high that invariably a number of cars hit the roads in the first 6 months. Around 10 new cars found their way into the market in the first half this year. Here is a look at some of them and how they have performed at the box office.

Chevrolet SAIL U-VA
Verdict : Disaster

The Sail U-VA carried a lot of hope for the US car maker but the slowdown in the economy did not spare the car. Entering the fray at the meat of the small car segment where the competition is anything but cut throat, it was not helped by the fact that GM was embrioled in a needless recall fiasco. As a result the temporary suspension of production of the car for quality issues, just when it looked like it may gain some traction completely derailed its chances. With sales of less than a tenth of what segment leader Swift easily achieves, this one is an unqualified disaster.

Volvo V40
Verdict : Average

The small crossover was the Swedish-Chinese car maker’s answer to the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. The company’s limited presence in the market however, meant that it always had a challenging path ahead. A good looking vehicle with decent ride and handling characteristics and safe as a cocoon, the V40 would have done much better had it got the marketing muscle of some of the other companies.

Honda Amaze
Verdict : Blockbuster

Amaze is a car that has transformed an over 10 year old company from relegation to a position where it is challenging some established leaders. Till last year Honda was down in the dump. The lack of diesel engine alone was a handicap that was big enough it was also unfortunate to grapple with problems like the earthquake in Japan in 2011 and floods in Thailand later on in the year. Its leadership across segments had been washed away in the process but Amaze has turned the clock back. With over 30,000 cars on the road in 5 months and a waiting period of over 6 months, Amaze has ensured workers at Honda’s Greater Noida factory are anything but sitting idle.

Chevrolet Enjoy
Verdict : Flop

General Motors launched the Enjoy looking to wrestle part of Maruti Ertiga’s pie. But the tell tale deficiencies of the car undermined its prospects. Neatly packaged and surprisingly spacious, the car’s underwhelming design and cheap looking interiors meant individual customers would stay away. And any commercial buyer who would look at it would invariably be a traditional Tavera customer. Instead of damaging other companies, Enjoy ended up hurting its own stable mate. That too, not by much.

Ford EcoSport
Verdict : Hit

The EcoSport is nearly as big a success as the Amaze with just one small difference. The feedback from its customers isnt as helpful as the Amaze. Within a month of its launch Ford had to suspend bookings of the petrol variants and for the diesel the waiting period stretches up to 6 months. That is testimony of its demand. Whether it can sustain it is suspect that only time will tell.

Mercedes A Class
Verdict : Above average

Having lost marketshare and podium positions in the last 3-4 years, the A class has single handedly put Mercedes back in the game. Within 10 days of its launch, Mercedes received 400 confirmed bookings for the car, easily the most successful launch in its history. Yet, there are sceptics who insist that a small car for over Rs 20 lakh does not work in India and that is a hypothesis that needs time to nullify. For now, BMW has also brought its hatch back in India which suggests Mercedes may not be too wrong. After all, imitation is the best form of flattery.

Tata Indica Vista D90
Verdict : Flop

What do you do when an ageing brand decays under its own weight? You try to spice things up with technology and features. That is exactly what Tata Motors attempted with the Indica Vista and its D90 variant. While the intentions were honest, the execution was typical of Tata Motors–half hearted and callous. So while the car has a lot more punch, it suffers from age old problems like bad build quality and poor attention to detail. Only the brand equity of the car saved it from being a disaster.

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