While the Tata group battles its biggest leadership crisis, Tata Motors is going all out to put the arclights back on its business with its super utility vehicle (SUV), Hexa. The vehicle is expected to be in the market by next month.
Hexa’s fate is critical to Tata Motors as the launch comes nearly four years after the debut of its last SUV, Safari Storm, in 2012. What’s heartening is that the Hexa launch would be on the back of successful sales figures notched up by the automaker’s mid-segment hatchback Tiago. Riding high on Tiago sales, Tata Motors emerged as the third-largest passenger vehicle seller in India in November. It edged past Mahindra & Mahindra which has slid to fourth position in the car market. Tata Motors sold 12,736 units in November.
With Hexa, the automaker is looking at replicating Tiago’s success story in a bid to further consolidate its position in a market which is dominated by Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai, which sold 126,220 and 40,016 cars respectively in November.
In the run-up to the launch of the SUV, Tata Motors is focusing on delivering a differentiated retail experience to potential high-end car buyers. Out of its total dealership network of 600 showrooms, Tata Motors has only identified 300 to sell Hexa. They have been picked on the basis of display area, availability of trained manpower and sales volumes recorded by them.
“Product display (for mass brands) at traditional showrooms is more about giving a lot of information about the car. People are interested in viewing the car and taking short test drives. But in case of high-end buyers, the focus has to be on providing an immersive customer experience,” says Vivek Srivatsa, head of marketing, passenger cars, Tata Motors.
To that end, he emphasises that the display strategy for Hexa focuses on providing buyers a clean, uncluttered and spacious view of the SUV. Hence, the publicity material at the point of purchase is minimal at the Hexa stores so as to facilitate customers’ direct access to the car.
The high-end car buyers are educated, given to research and look for products that fit into their lifestyle. Therefore, one needs to have sales representatives who can emphathise with them. For Hexa’s launch, Tata Motors has roped in 250 specialist customer executives trained in highlighting features offered by the SUV. Tata Motors dealerships are also offering Hexa test drives to buyers, including loyalists, for longer hours and on weekends.
The company is also setting up temporary experience centres — large fun zones with driving tracks in metros. One such centre in Gurgaon has attracted 2,000-odd customers.
Srivatsa says, “The experience centres offer customers a chance to test drive Hexa on tracks that are full of obstacles. A drive on tough terrain helps in showcasing the adaptability of our car in extreme conditions.”
Abdul Majeed, partner, PwC, is of the view that experience centres is one of the innovations through which a brand can engage the entire family. With this, a brand can convert all the members of a family into brand ambassadors. “Brands need to carry out such innovations on a sustainable basis. Often, we see that once a brand sells the vehicle, it’s not able to match the customer experience in the long run. A brand has to hold on to a person once it excites her with an appealing product,” says Majeed.
In case of high-end car purchases, the search for a product begins online. Tata Motors has created a dedicated website and mobile app for Hexa which offer buyers a 360-degree immersive gamified video experience of the car.
The key challenge for the brand is to draw the attention of high-end buyers in a non-intrusive manner, particularly when others too are competing for the same segment.
Srivatsa says that while communicating with buyers one has to respect the fine line between reaching out and spamming. Clear messaging which is not repetitive is key to reaching out. For promoting Hexa, Tata Motors is tapping selective buyers through a short video message through tablets that are delivered by its executives.
Tata Motors has kept the car prices under wraps. As per industry sources, Hexa’s base model is expected to be priced at Rs 11 lakh and its high-end version pegged at Rs 18 lakh. It will compete with the likes of Mahindra Scorpio, Hyundai Creta and Ford EcoSport.
Expert take: Experience-based differentiation
In top-end vehicles, apart from the product offering the consumer experience that a brand is delivering also matters. A high-end buyer expects differential treatment, hence customised services is important. Right from the display to ambience, the retail environment has to be inviting and engage buyers.
As a high-end brand communicates with buyers, it has to have clarity about the strength of its product vis-à-vis competitors. Messaging has to be clear and crisp, one needs to avoid information overload. A brand cannot say it is the best in all product parameters. A high-end brand has to identify its unique selling point and convey the same effectively to buyers.