Diesel for petrol?

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Fiat India has kick-started a unique proposition, one that is designed to prep up footfalls in the Fiat section of Tata-Fiat showrooms and hopefully lead to improved sales in the coming months.

The idea is that if you win their lucky draw, then your diesel car will be available for the price of a petrol car (i.e. the corresponding trim). If you buy a Linea T-Jet, you get Rs 100,000 off on the ex-showroom price. There's more: all Fiat buyers in July will get three months of free fuel (with some riders), a discount on the first year of insurance and 50 months roadside assistance for free.

All of this may sound enticing to some, but it brings us down to the moot point – is the auto industry reeling under immense pressure? It seems to be the case if one witnesses the plunge in sales for the month of June for a large section of auto manufacturers. The trend was first witnessed in May, but the fear is that this could be something long-term. A few factors are possibly responsible for this – one is the increasing interest rates as the government tries to curb runaway inflation. The other is the spike in petrol prices, which may not be so much in percentage terms, but it's playing with people's minds psychologically.

Fiat India's marketing strategy at such a time is a brave move. But what would have been braver if this wasn't a lucky-draw. If it were the real deal – that would have really shaken-up the car market. Think about it, Fiat needs to make an impression on the car market as far as marketshare/volumes are concerned. What better than to offer a diesel car for the price of petrol variant, irrespective of what the scratch card or lucky-draw coupon has to say. It's exactly the kind of initiative needed to kick-start an industry staring in the face of a slowdown until the industry develops some momentum.

So can messrs Fiat or messrs 'other large volume car manufacturer' be a little brave and take the first step, please?