After cornering 45% of the country’s 25-lakh-unit passenger vehicle market, small car expert Maruti Suzuki is now targeting niche segments to further boost volumes and fend off new rivals. Under project code ‘YCA’, the company is completely overhauling one of its top-selling cars, the WagonR, by adding a third-seating row to make it a seven-seater and adding a diesel engine. The overall length, however, would be under four metres to avail excise duty benefits.
Sources close to the development told FE that YCA will take form as the third-generation WagonR, slated for launch in mid-2017. Priced aggressively around Rs 5 lakh, it will compete with the likes of Datsun’s upcoming Go+ and the Mahindra Quanto, both of which offer seven seats. The new WagonR will target annual sales of over 2 lakh units.
“Most of the work on the new WagonR is going on in the India R&D. The company sees major potential for a low-priced 7-seater vehicle coming with Suzuki’s reliability, especially in the rural market which is today almost a third of total sales,” a source close to the development said, adding that the new WagonR would also be exported to Indonesia.
Responding to queries on the new WagonR, a spokesperson said, “Maruti Suzuki, along with our principals SMC, Japan has ambitious plans for the Indian market. These include increasing the volume levels to over 2 million units annually. Such a plan has to be supported with new models as well as product refreshments for existing models. We will, however, not be able to say anything on the specifics mentioned in your query.”
First launched in 2000 and with over 15 lakh units sold till date, the WagonR is the third most-popular car brand in the country after Maruti’s own Alto and Dzire models. As of October 2014, Maruti had six car brands in the top 10 list. Incidentally, a concept of the YCA titled ‘Karimun WagonR 3 Rows Concept’, featuring an extended body, was showcased at the Indonesia International motor show (IIMS) in September last year.
Maruti’s strategy to diversify into new segments, yet stay close to its core market of small cars, comes on the back of recent successes, such as the Ertiga compact MPV’s launch in 2012. The company has several new models planned on these lines, like the YRA premium hatchback (positioned above Swift) and LCV ‘Super Carry’ for next year, a compact SUV for 2016 and a small car-based compact crossover (code YJC) for 2017.
“The recently launched Celerio, Ciaz, Alto K10, the refreshed Swift and the announcement to venture into the LCV segment are a reflection of the intent in terms of product technology and segmentation,” the company spokesperson said.
The strategy seems to be working fine. Though sales growth was flat, Maruti saw its market share rise last fiscal (FY14) to 42% from 39% in FY13, even as the overall passenger vehicle market fell 6% to 25.03 lakh units. This year, its sales in the April-October FY15 period are up 12.4% to 6.55 lakh units while market share has again risen to 45%.