Not such a grand start for the Grand i10

It has, or if I daresay, had all the markings of a winner. Decent to look at, a capable engine, loads of features and an aggressive price tag. And with the backing of a network as wide as Hyundai’s, the success of the Grand i10 was perhaps a given.

Yet, the 10,000 bookings it has notched up in the first fortnight of its launch feels a tad underwhelming. True, the market is not in its best of shape. For 9 months on the trot between December 2012 and July 2013, car sales had registered a decline. Also given is the fact that the small car segment where the i10 ventures into, bore the brunt of the consumer’s apathy to buy cars. It does not quite dwarf the fact that it should have got off to a better start at the hustings.

First, the five digit figure itself is being contested. Not only by competitors like Maruti, Mahindra and Honda but by some of Hyundai’s own prominent dealers. One dealer in Delhi openly wondered if all these prospective customers deliberately decided to skip his showroom when booking the Grand. And he has the biggest Hyundai shop in NCR.

Second, Hyundai said it has received nearly 1 lakh enquiries for the car at their showrooms across the country and over 80,000 test drives have been conducted. Even, if we take these numbers at their face value it works out to an abysmally low conversion ratio of 10%. And at best it only indicates that while there is excitement surrounding the car, thanks to the giant billboards and full page advertisements on sundry newspapers, blogs, magazines et al, all of that has largely stayed on paper.

Third, the figure pales in comparison to the bookings other cars have received over the last few years (see table). When the over hyped and incompetent XUV5OO was launched during the same period in 2011, it notched up 8,000 bookings in a jiffy before Mahindra suspended fresh bookings altogether. Three months later when the window was re-opened, it notched up another 25,000 bookings in slightly longer time. Mind you, the XUV costs more than 2 times what a Grand i10 comes for and hence affordability is a key issue here.

Similarly, the Duster received 18,000 bookings within two months of its launch in July last year. It did break open a new segment and there was pent up demand but at Rs 7-12 lakh, it wasnt available at a single swipe of your credit card.

Closer home, if we look at the Swift, a direct rival to the Grand i10, then this discussion becomes a travesty. The Suzuki, arguably the most successful ever, got over 1 lakh bookings within a month of its launch in a new avataar in 2011. That is roughly the same as the number of enquiries Grand has received so far.

Hyundai’s defense, if it can be called that, has been that the market conditions are particularly bad right now and the days when you got 30,000-50,000 bookings in a week are gone. That may be true but the success of the Honda Amaze and Ford EcoSport earlier this year raise doubts about that hypothesis. Besides, one would have assumed the Grand came in at the right time when the festivities were just starting up — Onam down South and Ganesh Chaturthi wide West.

It doesnt quite mean that the Grand i10 is a failure already. A lot of the cars on the list like XUV5OO, Ford Figo and to top it all Nano, got off to flying starts but fizzled out later. And there are a few examples like the Santro, Alto and WagonR which had tepid starts but went on to become bestsellers.

With the navratras around the corner, time will decide if the Grand i10 too falls into that category.

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