Car buyers: Priorities shift from functionality to form

The Indian car buyer of today is far more discerning than ever before.

By:Published: November 2, 2019 8:14:29 AM

As consumer demands and tastes evolve, vehicle buyers in India are shifting gears on what drives them to purchase a new vehicle, according to the JD Power 2019 India Sales Satisfaction Index (Mass Market) study, released this week.
The study finds that buyers place more emphasis (up 9 percentage points from 2018) on vehicle styling, both exterior and interior, when deciding on a model. Other aspects such as performance and reliability (both up 7 percentage points), as well as technology (up 5 percentage points), also play bigger roles in determining choice of vehicle. On the other hand, aspects declining in importance are price of the vehicle/instalments and the ability to obtain financing (both down 4 percentage points).

Customers with a monthly household income exceeding Rs 75,000 account for 33% of all buyers in 2019 (a marked increase from 18% in 2017). Consequently, customers are now able to cover the cost of a car with fewer months of income than before (15 months in 2019 versus 18 months in 2017). “The Indian car buyer of today is far more discerning than ever before,” said Kaustav Roy, director and country head for India, JD Power. “With clear expectations on vehicle design and features, today’s buyer preferences are shifting from price consciousness to those that are driven by vehicle looks and content.”

Prices on the rise, more so for small cars: Customers indicate that purchase price has been increasing over the past three years, with prices 5% higher than 2018 and 11% higher than 2017. This increase is most evident in the small car segment (9% higher than 2017) and relatively less so in the SUV segment (3% higher than 2017).

Fewer buyers experience sales pressure: A smaller proportion of customers indicate problems such as dealers being “pushy” while selling the vehicle (15% in 2019 versus 22% in 2018); attempting to change promised prices (11% versus 17%); or difficulty getting a “straight answer” on price (14% versus 18%).

Faster and smoother delivery: The time between booking a new vehicle to actual delivery has dropped to 10 days from 12 days in 2018. More vehicles are also being delivered without problems such as unwashed vehicles, scratches and dents, missing features and more. The study ranked Hyundai the highest in overall sales satisfaction with a score of 873. Mahindra (872) is ranked the second and Toyota (854) third.

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