Column : From two to four wheels

Written by Yogima Seth | Updated: Mar 24 2009, 03:33am hrs
Who will be buying the Nano This is the million-dollar question that has been doing the rounds amidst the automobile fraternity ever since the car was first unveiled last year. One group of thought puts the bet on two-wheeler owners, as the Nano is priced close to some of the bikes. But the fact that over 40% of total two-wheelers are sold in rural markets, and 60% of two-wheeler riders drive a bike for its sporty and macho look, could play a spoilsport to this theory. After all, the car cannot compete with entry-level two-wheelers in terms of pricing or maneuverability across the rugged terrains of rural India. Nor will its looks enthuse the youth who prefer more muscular and sporty steeds.

There is more bite to the theory that considerations of safety may drive female two-wheeler buyers, who generally prefer scooters, to the Nano. But since scooters constituted a mere 15.9% (or 1,00,789 units in February) of the 6,30,849 two-wheelers sold in the country, such a factor will have negligible impact.

Another group of speculators claim that its cars like the Alto and the Maruti 800 (the smallest car in India till date) that will feel the heat once the Nano is on the roads. But people who are already driving a car, whatever its size, are unlikely to go for a downgrade. Perhaps the Nano could emerge as a preferred choice for families that are planning to buy a second car, either for their young children or ageing parents. As for the Maruti 800, its sales have been declining for quite sometime anyway.

What all this amounts to is that the Nano will not have a major impact on either the compact car (Alto, Santro) or the mini car segment (Maruti 800).

Instead, it will create an all-together new segment, the ultra low cost car segment, which will have a distinct customer profile of its ownpositioned between the two-wheelers and the Maruti 800. By narrowing the price gap between two-wheelers and the existing cheapest car, it will prove a blessing for those who have been scratching their pockets to migrate from a two-wheeler to a car.

yogima.seth@expressindia.com