If hatchbacks were the wheels of choice some years back, it’s the sports utility vehicles that rule the roads now. Accordingly, car makers are steering their offerings in favour of the big machines.
While market leadership in the SUV segment has remained with Mahindra & Mahindra, which commands close to 40% of the market, the entry of the Hyundai Creta in 2015 and the Maruti Vitara Brezza in March this year have seen significant shift in customer preference. The launch of the Creta was among the major reasons, apart from brand fatigue, for the decline in sales for its closest rival in urban markets, the Renault Duster. The launch of the Vitara Brezza forced Ford to cut the price of its best-selling sub-compact SUV EcoSport by up to Rs 1.12 lakh.
The latest entrant to the compact SUV market in the country is the Honda BR-V, through which the Japanese car maker is aiming at accelerating its sales growth, which stood much lower than the market in 2015-16. While the passenger vehicle market in India grew at 7.2% in 2015-16, Honda saw its sales grow at a marginal rate of 1.6%. With the launch of the new SUV, the company is confident of outgrowing the market in 2016-17, says Jnaneswar Sen, senior vice-president (marketing & sales) at Honda Cars. The industry is expected to grow at a rate of 6-8% during the year, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.
The BR-V will compete with the likes of Creta, Duster and Terrano. The Creta has been the most successful SUV in urban markets in 2015-16. Honda has now priced its new offering in a way that it stands out to be cheaper compared to the Creta as well as the Duster when it comes to diesel variants, and is priced in between the two leading models for the petrol variants. The BR-V is powered by a 1.5-litre engine and is available in both petrol and diesel variants.
The Creta and the Duster are powered by 1.6 litre engines.
In 2015-16, the utility vehicle segment saw a sales growth of 6.25% with a share of 21% in total passenger vehicle sales, which was at a similar level the previous year. For Hyundai, the share of SUVs went up to 13.4% in 2015-16 compared to a share of less than 1% in 2014-15. For Maruti Suzuki, the segment saw a growth of 38% in FY16, with share in total sales volume going up from 5.8% in FY15 to 7.2.% in FY16. The premium SUV segment, which includes the Creta, XUV500, the Duster and the Terrano, saw a growth of 39% in FY16.