Maruti rides on Rs 3.69 lakh S-Presso to beat slowdown, repeat Alto magic

The country’s largest carmaker, Maruti Suzuki, has brought the focus back on the first-time buyer with the launch of an entry-level product at Rs 3.69 lakh. The first entry-level launch in a decade by the auto major is seen as a move to beat the severe slowdown in the sector.  
 
Entry-level car sales crashed by more than 56 per cent in the first half of this year as an ongoing economic downturn coupled with a rise in acquisition cost kept first-time car buyers away from showrooms.
 
The S-Presso is the firm’s first launch in the entry-level segment after 2010, when it had introduced the 1-litre version of its bestselling small car Alto K10. This segment is considered bread and butter for the firm as it rode on the popularity of these cars to become the market leader. However, sports utility vehicle (SUV) was the centrepiece in Maruti’s presentation on the S-Presso. With high seats, flattish hood and a bold stance, the carmaker has attempted to arrest the decline of entry-level sales while responding to the growing popularity of SUV among price-conscious buyers.  Auto makers have rushed to introduce cheaper, more diminutive sport-utilities in their lineups. These offers are aimed at giving customers a new entry-point into car brands as small-car and hatchback models fall out of favour. In some cases, auto makers are targeting younger consumers with smaller SUVs. With its price tag, the S- Presso will compete with French automaker Renault’s Kwid. Incidentally, a refurbished version of the Kwid with SUV features will be launched on Tuesday.
 
"We wanted to create something new in this segment, a fresh new vehicle for the first-time buyer, keeping in mind the trend that SUV is the fastest-growing segment with almost 27 per cent growth. We are positioning the S-Presso as a mini SUV," said Shashank Srivastava, executive director, sales and marketing at Maruti Suzuki.
 
The S-Presso is crucial in Maruti’s scheme of things. The carmaker has been the hardest hit due to its large presence in the entry-level segment. The market share of the firm during April-August fell by 2.34 per cent, to touch 49.83 per cent. The firm sold 5,53,064 units, compared to 7,57,289 in the corresponding months in 2018. Its flagship and most popular model Alto witnessed a steep 54.5 per cent fall in sales in August 2019 at just 10,123 units. “We realised that entry-level compact segment needs a fresh design language. With the S-Presso, we are creating a complete new segment called the mini-SUV. I expect this model will stimulate the market and reverse the decline,” Kenichi Ayukawa, MD & CEO at Maruti Suzuki said. The latest bet may not be fearless, pointed out an executive from a rival firm.