Move aimed at removing confusion among private buyers
Carmakers are realising the damage that strong association of a vehicle with the taxi segment does to long-term demand from private buyers. Firms are making conscious attempts to differentiate vehicles to cater to the taxi and the personal segments simultaneously.
Hyundai, the second biggest player in the domestic car market, is launching a new brand strategy exclusively for the taxi segment. A new brand, Prime, has been created as the mother brand for the taxi segment and aggregators. All cars being sold to this segment will be branded Prime and will have some differentiation.
Hyundai’s nearest rival, Maruti Suzuki, had introduced the DZire Tour for the commercial segment some years ago. But this was limited to just one of its many vehicles that are used in the taxi segment.
“Most of the time any vehicle that has gone into the commercial space has lost its appeal for the individual buyer. Either it sells in the commercial or in the individual space. A success in both is rare,” said Rakesh Srivastava, senior vice-president (sales and marketing) at Hyundai.
The South Korean carmaker wants to use existing vehicles but brand them separately. Prime will have the Grand i10 and the Xcent to begin with but it could have more vehicles in future.
Such a strategy is being undertaken for the first time by Hyundai anywhere in the world. Hyundai sells 17 per cent of its cars in India to commercial buyers. Srivastava said vehicles for the commercial segment could also be slightly different.
Toyota’s Etios sedan, too, was being increasingly identified as a taxi. Last September, the firm made a conscious attempt to reposition the Etios.
“We retained the old look for the taxi segment and brought a new look Platinum Etios for individual buyers,” said N Raja, director and senior vice-president (sales and marketing) at Toyota Kirloskar Motor. The Platinum Etios has been given a bold new design, better safety features and a stylish look.
Mayank Pareek, president of the passenger vehicle business unit at Tata Motors, which was at one time selling the bulk of its cars to the taxi segment, said the company would look at tailor-made solutions for aggregators.
“Historically, the taxi segment was looked down upon.
One of the reasons was that these cars were badly maintained. But aggregators’ cars are well maintained and are used by customers with a good profile. We will focus on the total ownership cost for this segment. For existing vehicles, we will offer tailor-made solutions to aggregators,” he said.