Maruti Ertiga: Falling in LUV, again

Jun 28 2014, 09:47 IST
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Maruti Ertiga has successfully tackled competition in the form of Chevrolet Enjoy, Nissan Evalia and, of course, the Innova and Xylo. Maruti Ertiga has successfully tackled competition in the form of Chevrolet Enjoy, Nissan Evalia and, of course, the Innova and Xylo.
SummaryAs Honda readies Mobilio for an India launch, does the Maruti Ertiga need to reinvent itself?

When the Ertiga was launched two years ago, it created a new segment of compact, family-oriented MPVs in India. Yes, we did have MPVs—multi-purpose vehicles such as Toyota Innova and Mahindra Xylo—but these were big and occupied a lot of space on the road. Agreed, an Innova is a people-mover, but how practical an Innova is for a nuclear family that needs a seven-seater for that once-in-a-week trip out of town? Moreover, an Innova costs upwards of R10 lakh. So, two years ago, Maruti did what it does best—make a vehicle small and relatively affordable, in this case an MPV. Since then, the Ertiga has enjoyed a ‘sweet spot’ in the Indian market and has successfully tackled competition in the form of Chevrolet Enjoy, Nissan Evalia and, of course, the Innova and Xylo. But, soon enough, it is going to face some ‘real’ competition—in the form of the Honda Mobilio. We spend a few days with the Ertiga and here’s what we feel about this compact MPV.

Appearance

The Ertiga, which resembles both the Ritz and the Swift from some quarters, is a decent looking car. Its compactness is apparent from the front itself—looking at it head on, one may not be able to make out if it is a seven-seater vehicle. Step inside and the cabin is almost exactly like the Swift Dzire’s. Beige interiors mean there is that feeling of space in the cabin. Although it is a compact MPV, the space inside, especially at the front two rows, is generous. The third row, however, is best suited for kids and one has to push the middle row forward to make some legroom. (Probably that’s why Maruti calls the Ertiga a 5+2 seater, to differentiate those 2 last seats from the rest of the car!) But the third row isn’t unusable—it makes for an excellent luggage space. One nice touch is that there are ample cubbyholes for all passengers and the top two variants get second row AC. The spare tyre is mounted below the body and mounting and unmounting it can be an issue if you encounter a flat tyre. Overall, while the cabin scores good on usability, if Maruti can somehow make more space in the third row, the Ertiga will emerge as a complete MPV.

Behind the wheel

One question many people ask is: Does an MPV drive like a car? The honest answer is: Not all MPVs are car-like on the road. The Ertiga, however, drives pretty much like the Swift. In fact, it is just the high seating position that makes you realise you are driving an MPV. Yes, there is some amount of body roll when you approach a corner too swiftly, but that is controlled. The suspension is soft and the ride is planted even on bad roads. Because it is a compact MPV, steering it in city traffic is relatively easy. And while parking is not much of a problem either (its parking radius is 5.2 metres), we believe Maruti should give the Ertiga a rear-parking camera or at least rear-parking sensors across all variants. The Ertiga comes in three fuel options (petrol, diesel and CNG) and two engine options (K-Series petrol VVT and DDiS diesel). Both engines are rightly suited for a car this size and dimensions.

Verdict

Without doubt, the Ertiga is the most urban-friendly MPV in the Indian market right now. Agreed, it is not exactly a 7-seater like

the Toyota Innova is, but it is a very versatile family car and

that is one reason for its success in its segment.

Another reason is the pricing. The CNG model starts from R6.39 lakh, the diesel from R7.22 lakh and the petrol at a mouth-watering R5.8 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). As Honda readies its MPV Mobilio for an India launch, the Ertiga is going to have a ‘direct’ competitor very soon. In such a scenario, does it need to reinvent itself? The answer is best left to Maruti. In our opinion, the Ertiga remains a lot of car for little money.

‘The Ertiga is now expanding its presence internationally as well’

“We carefully positioned the Ertiga as a family-oriented, compact MPV with versatility in usage,” says Mayank Pareek, COO, Marketing & Sales, Maruti Suzuki, when we talk to him after spending a few days with the Ertiga. “Being such a lucrative package with the right mix of space, comfort and power, the Ertiga draws attention from all segments—sedans as well as MPVs and soft SUVs,” Pareek adds. In an interaction with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, he briefly describes the two-year journey of this successful MPV. Excerpts:

Maruti Suzuki created a new segment of compact, family-oriented MPVs with the Ertiga. Two years later, how satisfied are you with its performance?

Yes, the Ertiga is a success story. As a marketer, we can never be satisfied with the numbers—the more the merrier! Having said that, the Ertiga has given us good volumes, especially considering the spate of competition in the compact MPV segment and sluggish market conditions. The Ertiga, in fact, has helped us strengthen our market share; we closed the year with 42.1% market share in the PV segment.

Overall, while we have sold over 1,50,000 units in the domestic market, the Ertiga is now expanding its presence internationally as well. Customers have appreciated the overall package of compact size, contemporary looks, ergonomic design and the flexibility of 5+2 seating, while offering excellent fuel efficiency, plush upscale interiors and power. We are looking at opportunities in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East with the left-hand drive Ertiga. We are confident the Ertiga will help us build volumes in these markets too.

Of the petrol, diesel and CNG variants, which variant has traditionally seen maximum sales?

Diesel takes the lead with over 70% sales, followed by petrol at 21% and CNG at around 9%. In fact, the CNG variant was introduced only in 2013-14 and is limited by the availability of CNG fuel only in selected cities. The ratio in previous year, 2012-13, was far more skewed towards diesel—over 85% diesel and 15% petrol. This polarisation was primarily due to the big price gap between the two fuels. Also, traditionally, MPVs and SUVs are diesel-driven.

Was the Ertiga also able to attract customers from a segment above; customers whose first choice was a bigger MPV such as the Toyota Innova?

We carefully positioned the Ertiga as a family-oriented, compact MPV with versatility in usage. The Ertiga was a segment creator, it attracted intenders from both sides, above as well as below. Being such a lucrative package with the right mix of space, comfort and power, it draws attention from all segments—sedans as well as MPVs and soft SUVs.

Unlike, say, the Innova or the Xylo, we don’t see many Ertigas plying as taxis on Indian roads. Why?

We positioned the Ertiga as a family-oriented, compact MPV. In fact, it was a path-breaker segment especially created for Indian customers who were unhappy with bulky people-movers. The Ertiga’s compactness, good looks, easy manoeuvrability and fuel efficiency were some high points widely appreciated.

What are your plans as far as exports of Ertiga are concerned?

As I said, we have homologated the Ertiga for markets such as Africa, the Middle-East and Latin America. We are expecting good numbers there. In addition, we have been exporting Ertiga as CKD to markets such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

When the overall car sales dropped last year, did Ertiga sales also drop substantially?

Yes, we did experience a fall, but among the top five SUVs sold in FY14, the Ertiga was second in terms of volumes (over 59,000). Overall, the UV segment posted a fall of over 5% in FY14. (This segment had otherwise posted a double-digit growth in FY13.)

Very soon, the Ertiga is going to face some real competition. What are your plans?

The Ertiga is already in a competitive segment. Competition is good for customers, and healthy competition means the segment will grow. The compact MPV segment will be the space to watch out for.

Can Maruti’s famed EZ Drive technology find its way into the Ertiga?

We will keep you informed about the product developments as and when they happen.

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