Franco-Japanese duo sets sight on Maruti's Alto

Bookings of the recently unveiled stylish hatchback Datsun RediGo was not supposed to be opened until the start of next month. But the floor was thrown open last weekend as dealers found it too tempting to let go of the opportunity to cash in on consumer excitement for the compact car.

The RediGo has seen nearly 150 bookings in just four days from Mumbai alone despite there not being even a display model of the car at any of Nissan-Datsun dealerships. The RediGo will be commercially launched on June 1 with prices starting at Rs 2.5 lakh.

Its sister model made from a common platform Renault Kwid (priced around the same level) is already sitting on a huge pile of bookings that swelled to 120,000 units (as of this month) since its September 2015 launch. 

The French company has more than trebled Kwid's monthly production rate to 10,000 units in the hope to bring down waiting period but demand continues to outstrip supply. 

This Franco-Japanese duo has not just revived the entry car segment but has infused fresh competition for its segment leader, which has had a near free run for the past several years.

Maruti Suzuki's largest volume churner and its only sub-Rs 3 lakh car Alto is gearing up to face perhaps its toughest challenge yet. Both the RediGo and the Kwid are positioned as direct challengers to the Alto armed with new-age styling and features unusual to this segment.

Touch screen infotainment system, in-built maps, GPS navigation with voice commands, Bluetooth connectivity and digital speedometer are features that are usually seen on expensive cars but are offered on the Kwid. 

Datsun has not revealed details of creature comforts of the RediGo yet but since the car is built keeping the youth in mind the market expects it to debut with all the bells and whistles as seen on the Kwid.

Finally, both the challengers have zeroed in on one area that has become the biggest unique selling proposition of what Maruti has come to be associated with, mileage. As per ARAI (Automotive Research Association of India) test figures the Kwid runs for little over 25 kms on a litre of petrol, while the Alto sprints for 22 kms before asking for re-fuelling. The RediGo is expected to deliver around 26km per litre.  

However, the car market leader is not losing sleep, just yet. “Entry segment customers gain a lot of confidence if the product or offering has shown good performance in 1-2 years of running. The initial euphoria may subside if the product fails to live up to expectations in first two years there are several industry examples”, said a Maruti Suzuki spokesperson. 

 The Delhi-based company says the entry of new players has not impacted Alto demand given Maruti Suzuki’s massive distribution reach which at 1800 is more than nine times than that of Renault. Nissan-Datsun is around the same level as Renault but is adding dealerships at a faster pace.   

 Over 65% of the 21,000-22,000 per month Alto volumes come from 800cc variant (the balance of come from the 1000cc variant K10) which indicates the demand for small and affordable entry level cars. 

With car penetration levels being 18-19 per 1,000 individuals in India compared to 800 in the US and over 600 in Europe the country remains underserved with headroom for growth for all players.