Now, SX4 gets six-pack abs

Written by Malabika Sarkar | Malabika Sarkar | Alokananda Chakraborty | Updated: Nov 1 2009, 02:53am hrs
Maruti Suzuki is making a fresh bid for the leaders slot in the premium A3 category. The company has re-launched one of its more expensive models in the segment, the SX4 sedan, with the advanced variable valve timing engine technology, the one available with the Grand Vitara, plush upholstery and spruced up interiors. And of course, a new price: between Rs 6.68 lakh and Rs 7.71 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) for the manual variant and for Rs 8.02 lakh to Rs 8.36 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) for the automatic gear version. The earlier model of the SX4, which has been discontinued, was priced at Rs 6.46 lakh to Rs 7.48 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi).

With this, Maruti Suzuki is looking to improve the numbers for the SX4 which debuted in India in May 2007. We will be happy to make around 2,000 units of the new SX4 per month, says Shashank Srivastava, chief general manager, marketing (all brands), Maruti Suzuki. The old SX4 was doing 1,300 to 1,400 units per month. Last year, it sold close to 14,000 units. Obviously, if we compare the SX4 sales with, say, the Honda City, its obvious they are doing better than us. This is the reason behind the re-launch, and we do believe that the number would go up substantially.

By all accounts, SX4s early performance did stir up the premium A3 category. In May, July and August of 2007, the sedan left behind category leader (four years running) Honda City in sales. According to figures supplied by the company, in its first five months, the SX4 sold more than 15,000 unitslogging an average of 3,000-plus units a month.

Thats a big deal really. For a company that has a stranglehold about 55% of the passenger car market in the country, Maruti has a 35% share in the A3 (sedan) segment. Mind you, that 35% may look small but its a big jump from the 15% share the company had in the segment two years ago, just before the launch of the SX4.

Currently, Maruti Suzuki is the leader in the A3 segment, but history shows that small high-value cars is Marutis forte. Of course, the company had the Esteem and the Baleno in the sedan category, but they could never quite break into the big league.

As things stand, the SX4 leads brands such asincluding Tata Motors Indigo, Maruti Dzire, Fiat Linea, Hyundai Vernain the segment and trails the Honda City. The City sold 4,281 units in September and its cumulative sales from April to September 2009 stood at 18,875 units.

Remember the A3 segment is growing really fast and competitors Tata, Ford, GM are also looking at the segment aggressively. Therefore it is incumbent for Maruti to get the package right, add features according to consumer expectations and stay at the top of the game.

For example, Linea, a sedan from the FIAL (or Fiat India Automobiles Ltd, a 50:50 joint venture between Fiat Group Automobiles and Tata Motors Ltd) stable has sold 10,000 unit till end September this year. Linea was launched in January this year. This number is significant because during this period last year, Fiat had sold only 3,550 units.

There is a section of people who would want an aggressive and a high performance vehicle in this category with a touch of luxury, says Marutis Srivastava. Thats exactly what we have tried to provide in the new SX4. This will help us increase our volumes substantially with more conversions from other categories.

The SX4 is being manufactured at Marutis Manesar facility. The initial response has been positive, says Srivastava. The booking data is still coming in and in a weeks time we will get a clear picture. As of now, we have 1,100 to 1,200 consumers still waiting for the SX4 from the time we stopped production of the old model. The company plans to step up production after getting customer feedback to the new product.

A typical Maruti strategy is that it does not keep its product in the market for long, points out Abdul Majeed, leader, automotive practice, PricewaterhouseCoopers. That is how it is able to dominate the market.

Another advantage it enjoys is the ability to surprise. Maruti surprised premium hatch buyers with the Swifts refreshing design and build quality. No doubt the company will be hoping to recreate the magic with its new SX4.

Whats new in the SX4

The engine in the new SX4 is more powerful than the previous SX4 model. According to Maruti Suzuki, the VVT engine is more efficient and consumes much less power than the one in the original SX4.

It offers a definite change in driving dynamics. It will give a mileage of 15.6 km per litre. Like in the original, the new VVT engine in the SX4 is a 1.6 litre unit, but it generates a maximum power of 104.68ps @5600 rpm and offers a high torque of 145Nm @4100 rpm and is BS IV compliant. The environment friendly SX4 is among the first A-3 segment sedans to be BS IV compliant in the country. BS IV regulations will be introduced in the country in April 2010.

The car is available in both automatic and manual versions. While manual transmission has two variants, VXi and ZXi, the automatic transmission is available in ZXi variant with optional leather upholstery. The ZXi comes with safety features like ABS, EDB, dual SRS airbags.

The SX4 sedan is the tallest and the widest car in its class. It also has the largest fuel tank capacity at 50 litres. It comes with the widest tyres and a boot space of 505 liters. The ground clearance of the new SX4 sedan is 190 mm, the highest in the A3 segment. The new SX4 comes with a brand-new sporty honeycomb grille, 10-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels and dual Ms. The sourcing companies get access to low cost trained manpower, low cost engineering and large reserves of natural resources. This also opens up the potential of a large growing domestic market that is looking to ramp up demand.