Entry-level hatchbacks may be losing market share to sport utility vehicles (SUVs), but the country’s largest passenger vehicle manufacturer, Maruti Suzuki, continues to focus on the category. According to sources, the company will soon reintroduce Alto K10, which was discontinued in March 2020. Currently, the car has been codenamed Y0M.
Sources said the Alto K10, which has an engine capacity of 998 cc, is being reintroduced because the company feels there’s not much competition and there’s still a good market in the segment. Today, apart from Maruti Suzuki’s own S-Presso, the only other entry-level hatchback in India is Renault’s Kwid.
Gaurav Vangaal, associate director, light vehicle forecasting, S&P Global Mobility, told FE that the current market share (7.8%) of entry-level hatchbacks is big enough to take in a new model. In FY22, Maruti Suzuki sold 211,762 units of Alto and S-Presso, and Renault sold 26,535 units of Kwid, making the entry-level hatchback a 250,000-unit-strong market.
With 4.3 million units in almost 20 years, Maruti Suzuki’s Alto is India’s largest selling car, in terms of cumulative sales. Launched in 2000, the first generation of Alto continued till 2012, when 1.8 million units of the car were sold during the period.
It was available in two engine options—the 1,061 cc that it shared with the Wagon R and the 796 cc that it shared with Maruti 800.In 2005, Alto replaced Maruti 800 as India’s largest selling car, a position it maintained till 2018 when Maruti Suzuki’s Dzire ended its 13-year dominance.
Alto K10 was launched in 2010. It had an efficient and powerful 998-cc engine (it replaced the 1,061-cc model), and this car sold 880,000 units until it was discontinued in March 2020.
In October 2012, the second-generation Alto was launched with a new name, Alto 800. It was also a replacement for Maruti 800 that was eventually phased out in 2014. It has till now sold over 1.63 million units.
One of the reasons K10 was phased out—but Alto 800 was retained—was because of falling sales. “K10 was priced between Alto 800 and bigger cars such as Swift. The buyer upgrading from a two-wheeler either chose Alto 800 (if the buyer was on a tight budget) or the Swift or even entry-level SUVs such as the Vitara Brezza,” an ex-Maruti Suzuki executive told FE, adding: “The K10 was bypassed by a section of buyers.
”This trend got reflected in the falling sale share of entry-level hatchbacks.In FY19, according to data from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), the entry-level hatchback segment formed 13.6 per cent of passenger vehicle (PV) sales, and had five models—Alto, the old Wagon R, Hyundai Eon, Renault Kwid and Tata Nano.
In FY20, their sales share dropped to 10.6 per cent, with the discontinuation of Nano and Eon, and Maruti Suzuki discontinuing the old Wagon R but launching S-Presso.
In FY21, the share further dropped to 9.8%, and to 7.8 per cent in FY22. The second reason was S-Presso, the SUV-lookalike hatchback that Maruti Suzuki launched in 2019 with the engine of the K10. It wasn’t a replacement for K10 but took away some of its sales as it had the same engine and driveability, but offered more cabin space at almost similar price.
The third reason was that falling sales of the K10 didn’t justify the investment that would have gone into making it BS-6 Alto K10 was taken off the shelves in March 2020, the name of Alto 800 was also changed to just Alto.