How Tata Motors turned around the Harrier’s fortune to make it one of the highest-selling SUVs of the brand

The Tata Harrier SUV that comes based on the Land Rover platform, missed out on some popular features like a sunroof, an Automatic Transmission and an All-Wheel Drive at the time of its launch, and out of these, the first two bits were something that most Indian consumers wanted. Here is what all Tata Motors did after which the fortunes of the Harrier SUV changed quickly.

By:Updated: Nov 05, 2020 1:23 PM

 

Few models can claim to match the pre-launch hype that the Tata Harrier enjoyed and that remains true till date. The excitement around the model wasn’t overblown by any means as this was a car that looked absolutely smashing in its concept form and spy shots suggested the production form wouldn’t be far off. In addition, it was based on a Land Rover platform and promised a good list of features as well so unsurprisingly, Indians were looking forward to the Tata Harrier. Subsequently, the SUV was launched and that’s where the hype didn’t manage to transform into high numbers after the first few months. The reason for this wasn’t an issue with the Harrier itself but the way it was packaged by Tata Motors. At the time of its launch, the Tata Harrier missed out on some popular features such as a sunroof, Automatic Transmission, All-Wheel Drive. Of these three, the first two were something most Indian consumers wanted.

Good thing was that Tata Motors acknowledged the same and said they were working on plugging the gaps and they did that in phases, after which the Harrier’s fortunes changed quickly. How this transformation happened and what helped up the sales of the Harrier is something that intrigued us and in order to know the story, we spoke to Vivek Srivatsa, Head, Marketing, Passenger Cars, Tata Motors. Mentioned below is a summary of the insights provided by him to Express Drives.

Vivek Srivatsa, Head – Marketing, Passenger Vehicle Business Unit, Tata Motors

The journey of bringing in newness for consumers started in October 2019 when Tata Motors launched the Harrier Dark Edition, said Srivatsa. ” The Harrier Dark Edition was a unique and new offering for the customers in India. It was an all dark edition with black alloy wheels and the all dark theme gave a new personality to the product, he added. This variant translated into good sales instantly as in October 2019 the company witnessed a high uptake for the Dark Edition. Later, Tata Motors moved to BS6 emission norms and this is where they played it smart by utilising the chance to upgrade the Harrier not just mildly but significantly. Explaining the changes, Srivatsa told us that the company used the emission norm upgrade to enhance the output of the Harrier’s engine from 140 ps to 170ps. The much-needed automatic transmission also was introduced along with the largest panoramic sunroof in the segment, Srivatsa added. There were other introductions as well including new alloy wheel design and safety and convenience feature to improve the Harrier’s appeal with respect to the competition.

While one would expect that these changes might have led to a busy order book, the unfortunate spread Covid-19 across the globe and the subsequent lockdown meant that pretty much nothing moved for the next three months or so. However, once the unlock started, Tata Motors witnessed increased traction from consumers and a growth in sales due to the Harrier, Srivatsa said. Putting this growth in numbers, Srivatsa told Express Drives that on Y-O-Y (year-on-year) basis, Harrier sales are up 50% from last year. October sales compared to the same month in the previous year are up by 25%.

Watch our 2020 Tata Harrier Automatic BS6 video review:

Like I wrote earlier in this report that not having an automatic transmission was a big miss for the Harrier, the extent of this can be gauged from the growth coming in due to the availability of an automatic transmission. Srivatsa told us that the Harrier AT today accounts for between 50 to 60% of the total Harrier sales, thereby proving any modern premium vehicle cannot be successful without an automatic transmission.

That leaves us with just one feature that the Harrier misses out now in comparison to its rivals – an All Wheel Drive (AWD) system. However, Srivatsa isn’t too excited about the prospects of this system contributing to the higher sales. He said that the cost of the system is quite high and for less than a percent of penetration in some cases, that higher cost has to borne by other consumers as well. He added that the Harrier already comes with Terrain Response Control, which gives it better off-road capabilities than many other two-wheel-drive SUVs. That said if the company sees enough demand for the technology it can be introduced, Srivatsa concluded.

With the download from Srivatsa, the key takeaway for us was that Tata Motors has been able to turn around the Harrier’s sales performance only because the company listened to market feedback early on and acted quickly to make the changes happen. The pandemic, of course, has hit us all including the carmakers but like we’ve seen earlier the Harrier’s story once again proves that as long as the vehicle is feature-packed, competitively priced and appealing, the Indian car buyer will happily pay for it. If more carmakers could understand this simple concept we could soon start seeing lesser duds being launched in the market.

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