What would you call a brand that has weathered many storms and remained as strong as ever? Whether it is labour woes, product recalls, ownership woes, a vacuum in the top management or a slowing car market, Maruti has really seen it all. The entry of global brands, the incessant din of upmarket competitive models, the marketing blitzkrieg and the overall aggression shown by rivals such as Volkswagen, nothing has thwarted Maruti’s hold on the leadership position in the automobile market in the country.
Six of its models, including the newly launched mid-sized sedan Ciaz, featured in the top 10 selling brands in October. According to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers Association, while entry level model Alto continues to lead the best selling model chart, Maruti’s compact sedan Dzire moved up to the second spot ahead of popular premium compact Swift, which has slipped to the fourth spot behind WagonR.
Even in today’s crowded auto market, every second card sold in the country is from the Maruti stable. Maruti still has the widest and the best network of service and spares support. The country’s largest car maker reported a 19.5% year on year increase in its total sales to 110,147 units in the month of November 2014. It had sold 92,140 units in November 2013. Domestic sales during the month stood at 100,024 units, up 17% from 85,510 units in November last year. Exports in November 2014 stood at 10,123 vehicles, up 52.7% compared with 6,630 units in the same month last year. “Imagine shoring up the automotive sector with one company’s growth figures. That is what Maruti achieved in 2014,” says our panelist Kiran Khalap, co-founder of end-to-end solutions brand consultancy Chlorophyll. “Like all great brands, it continues to reinvent its portfolio to meet the changing needs of the consumer. Retaining market leadership since 1983 in a category crowded with over 30 international brands is a stunning achievement…despite industrial troubles, ownership troubles, and top management leaving troubles,” he adds.
Another panelist and well-known marketing expert, Rama Bijapurkar says that she loves the fact that Maruti has stuck to its brand essence even as competition intensifies. “It is truly an authentic brand that has stayed who it is and not lost itself in its effort to keep up with the Joneses. That’s a big problem with Indian brands. As newer competitors crop up, the brand chameleon-like, wants to change itself in order to take on each one or stretches itself to be present in the space created by every new brand. It ends up losing its own identity and uniqueness,” she said. A Maruti spokesperson said: “For Maruti Suzuki, the year 2014 is marked by focus on the customer. This was reflected in the expansion of our product range to include auto gear shift technology with the Celerio and refreshing our portfolio with cars like the Ciaz sedan and new Alto K10.” Even as the company boasted one of the largest auto dealers network in the country, the spokesperson said the company expanded the dealer network further to reach out to more customers during the year. Maruti’s sales network expansion has reached over 1477 sales outlets in 1156 towns and cities. Maruti’s strategy to diversify into new segments, yet stay close to its core market of small cars has been a smart move for the company. Shripad Nadkarni, founder and director of MarketGate Consulting says that the company has bounced back from several manufacturing issues to re-emerge a winner in the auto market. “A flurry of innovative launches has only cemented their position as the most consistent and meaningfully innovative company in this sector.”