Consumer Fascination

Consumer fascination; pic credits:https://www.iconfinder.com/

Understanding the Indian consumers by analysing their most prominent needs and requirements.

The Indian automotive consumer segment is probably one of the most exclusive and unique segments in the world. Understanding their behavior and mindset is crucial to predict trends in the industry and to analyze if a brand would prosper or fail miserably.

 

The Indian consumers community was able to shut out the American car brand, Chevrolet and forced it to suspend operations amid falling sales and catastrophic failure. The same community has also allowed Japan’s Suzuki to evidently rule its automotive industry with record sales for more than 3 decades.

Attempting to understand the Indian consumers by analyzing their most important needs grants us access to the psyche of the world’s second largest population, which can very well become the world’s largest consumer of automotive products and services in the years to come.

 

In this excerpt we take a look in to the most important requirements of the automotive consumers in India, the basic necessities that they look for in a car, how these needs shape their behavior and how the automakers cater to them. We will look at some factors that define the Indian consumers, what they prefer and what they like and how they want that information delivered to them.

Consumer's most important needs;pic credits:httpswww.iconfinder.com

Consumer's most important needs;pic credits:httpswww.iconfinder.com

Automotive businesses looking to get into the industry and carmakers planning to launch new vehicles in the Indian car market can benefit big time from these findings and their analysis. They can ensure high sales volumes along with flourishing business and huge profits if they can grasp the market and retain happy consumers.

 1. Fuel efficiency

Indians are obsessed for cars that offer high mileage. It is one of the most important deciding factors while evaluating alternatives and making the purchase decision. 

Fuel efficiency; pic credits:http://geolocstar.com/

Fuel efficiency; pic credits:http://geolocstar.com/

  • Fuel prices are generally high in developing countries like India and have surged in the last few years. Owning a car that can yield a decent fuel economy becomes a necessity more than a luxury in such a situation, where it can save the owner a few bucks while filing up the tank.

  • With the evolution of technologies and drivetrains, today, most new cars offer incredible performance on the amount of fuel they guzzle up.

  • Average fuel economy for family cars in India ranges from about 18 Kmpl to 25 Kmpl, with some models claiming as high as 28 Kmpl.

  • Maruti Suzuki even launched an advertising campaign on local TV channels commemorating the popular Hindi phrase, “Kitna deti hai?” meaning ‘how much (Km) does it drives(in a litre of fuel)?

Video credits: Ajay Awasthi : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzW7Sxzkr1Y

  • It is also the reason why diesel cars became popular in India, during the period from 2010 to 2016. Diesel was priced comparatively much lower to petrol but yielded a much better fuel economy than petrol variants of the same model. However, as the technologies transformed and petrol-diesel price gap narrowed, petrol engines became more efficient and a preferred choice for private passenger vehicles once again.

 2. Favour Petrol Cars

 

Consumers in India tend to favour petrol vehicles over diesel ones. As found in a study conducted by AutoPunditz, petrol vehicles in India comprise a market share of more than 60% cars sales across India. Diesel accounts for a minority share of around 39% and alternative fuel cars (hybrid/electric) contribute a negligible 0.1% to car sales in India.

Indians favour petrol cars over diesel ones; pic credits:https://www.drivespark.com/

Indians favour petrol cars over diesel ones; pic credits:https://www.drivespark.com/

  • Petrol engines are majorly preferred for private and passenger vehicles as they provide smoother and a more efficient ride as compared to their diesel counterparts. Petrol cars are appreciated for a refined drive quality with silent engines and sound insulation, which is absent and is a big problem in diesel engines sold in India.

  • Petrol variants are generally cheaper than the diesel-powered variants which attracts the consumer big time. Small passenger cars see a price difference of as much as Rs. 1 lakh between petrol and diesel variants of the same model, and this gap can increase to more than Rs. 2 lakhs in some cases.

  • SUVs and other big vehicles in India are predominantly sold with just a diesel powertrain option and sedans generally incorporate petrol engines, while hatchbacks offer both petrol and diesel options to consumers. However, new generations require for new advancements in technologies which has led to Compact SUV segment to offer petrol-powered SUVs and Compact Sedan segment to offer both diesel-powered sedans.

Petrol vs diesel car sales breakup;pic credits:https://www.rushlane.com/

Petrol vs diesel car sales breakup;pic credits:rushlane.com

  • People are more aware of the happenings around the world and of the fact that petrol variants emit less impurities into the nature, which makes them more environment friendly.

  • Also, some states in India have regulations in place which do not allow people to own and drive very old diesel-powered vehicles. For example, in the nation’s capital Delhi, petrol cars are registered for a period of 15 years while diesel cars are registered for a period of just 10 years, after which the owners need to get their cars scrutinized and registered again.

  • It is also the reason why diesel cars became popular in India, during the period from 2010 to 2016. Diesel was priced comparatively much lower to petrol but yielded a much better fuel economy than petrol variants of the same model. However, as the technologies transformed and petrol-diesel price gap narrowed, petrol engines became more efficient and a preferred choice for private passenger vehicles once again. Petrol variants emit less impurities into the environment and hence are preferred.

 3. No interested in engine stats & numbers

 

Auto journalism in India is just numbers and digits, erratically focussed on a small percentage of the population which is interested in them.

  • The majority of the Indian automotive consumer population is not so keen on numbers and facts regarding the car’s engine and its performance specifications. Simply so because not many people actually understand their significance.

Not interested in numbers;picture:inconfinder.com

Not interested in numbers;picture:inconfinder.com

  • People are concerned with more tangible factors while making a purchase, such as the looks, colour, seating capacity, cost of running, etc.

  • What they do not pay attention to are the power and torque figures, the 0-60 Kmph range, the minimum braking distance and other performance related figures.

  • They do show enthusiasm for a few facts, though, such as the cost of the vehicle, fuel efficiency figures, the wheelbase and overall vehicle dimensions. Consumers in India are aware of the engine displacement numbers but their knowledge and interest seems to stop at that point. 

 4. Maximum occupancy

 

Being able to accommodate the maximum number of people in a particular vehicle is perhaps the one of the most common traits among all Indian families.

  • India is predominantly composed of the middle-income consumer segment which likes to extract the maximum value out of the vehicle.

Max occupancy in Indian cars;pic credits:https://www.carwale.com/

Max occupancy in Indian cars;pic credits:https://www.carwale.com/

  • According to latest findings, the average family size in India ranges from 4.66 persons per household in urban areas to 4.9 persons per household in rural households.

5 full seats in one of India's best-selling family cars, the Swift;pic credits:autocarindia.com

  • This data proves the observed analysis that consumers in India prefer cars that can sit up to five passengers more than cars that cannot. Consumers are attracted towards the model which can easily accommodate five adults comfortably, with minor adjustments in knee room, and look for this aspect while buying a car, whether used or new.

  • Cars that cannot sit five adults see decreased sales in the Indian subcontinent.

Climate control & music system in the Suzuki Dzire;pic credits:https://motoroctane.com/

Climate control & music system in the Suzuki Dzire;pic credits:https://motoroctane.com/

 5. AC & Music System are basic

 

Moving on to the accessories and standard features, air conditioning and a decent music system are the bare minimum necessary requirements in a high-sales-volume car sold in India.

 

  • India is geographically situated near the equator which makes it experience some harsh climatic conditions throughout the year, most prominent of them being the summers. Temperature readings are recorded as high as 49-50 degrees Celsius in the capital city Delhi (not even the warmest location) during peak summers.

  • This makes it more than necessary to make standardizations in the industry that cars come with factory fitted air conditioning. Even the smallest cars offer single zone ac catering to the consumer’s requirements.

  • Similarly, a basic music system has been standardized in the industry following up to the needs and requirements of the majority Indian consumers.

  • Prior to changes, only upper variants of models used to come factory-fitted with air conditioning and music systems, which seemed basic but were not in the range of the common man to afford. Ministering to the needs of the biggest consumer segment, companies started to avail these features as standard even in the lowest variant, to fulfill the gap and increase sales.

 6. Electrically powered controls are basic as well

Another set of accessories that were only available as options or in costlier variants that were later made as standard features are the electric powered windows and the power steering wheel.

Power windows in Maruti Swift;pic credits:https://hindi.cartoq.com/

Power windows in Maruti Swift;pic credits:https://hindi.cartoq.com/

  • Electric windows were popularized with the advent of new models in the Indian auto industry, with well-off consumers being able to afford the high cost variants. Power steering wheel was introduced as a feature in upper variants of many regular car models.

  • Once the consumers got hold of these features and experienced their easy functioning, there was no going back.

  • Similar to the ac situation, the companies had to either provide their customers with good quality factory-fitted equipment or see their sales diminishing, with customers opting for cheap aftermarket alternatives.

 7. Not too keen on Fancy features

 

Regular customers do not pay much attention to the new fancy features that are integrated in upper variants to justify high costs.

  • Features such as automatic headlights, rain sensing automatic windscreen wipers and push-button start/stop do not make the customers jump out of their seats and pay for them.

Push button start/stop in Maruti Brezza; pic credits:https://www.team-bhp.com/

  • Sure, they attract people and seem appealing, but most people prefer to avoid spending premium just for these few additions to their cars.

  • Most people who do upgrade models to avail these gadgets do so for a package deal where they might come bundled together and not just to get one of them installed.

  • Features like automatic climate control air conditioning and panoramic sunroof have seen increased popularity in the last few years, but they still do not qualify as features that the customer has to have no matter what.

Features like the panoramic sunroof have seen increased popularity in the last few years; pic credits:financialexpress.com

 8. Aftermarket Accessories

 

Indian consumers have a big appetite for aftermarket automotive accessories and services.

  • People absolutely love to get their vehicles customized and yearn to get embellishments installed.

Aftermarket car accessories;pic credits:https://travel2fair.com/

Aftermarket car accessories;pic credits:https://travel2fair.com/

  • Some of the most common accessories seen on Indian cars include fancy seat covers, decorations, roof rails, bull bars for SUVs, fancy license plates, upgraded headlights and taillights.

  • People like to get customized stickers and stamps posted on car body and windscreen.

  • Aftermarket alloy wheels and wide tyres are a huge hit among the people in India and you can virtually tens of hundreds of designs when you would visit a specialised marketplace.

Aftermarket interior accessories at a shop;pic credits:https://www.justdial.com/

Aftermarket interior accessories at a shop;pic credits:justdial.com

Aftermarket exterior accessories at a shop;pic credits:https://in.pinterest.com/

Aftermarket exterior accessories at a shop;pic credits:pinterest.com

  • Also, with regards to the inherent spiritual nature of the people in India, you can most likely find a miniature idol or picture of a deity next to a car perfume in at least 9 out of 10 cars running on Indian roads.

These are some of the areas that in reality define the Indian automotive industry. The needs of the people, the strategies that the carmakers undertake to meet these needs and fulfil them in an appropriate manner and the acceptance of such personalized products and services by the consumers. The Indian consumers withhold some unique desires and emotions when it comes to their cars, which they would not prefer any other way. There is great potential in this market for expansion and that is the reason why manufacturers and service providers attempt to keep the Indian consumers pleased.

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Autography created by Dhruv Aggarwal

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Indians favour petrol cars over diesel ones; pic credits:https://www.drivespark.com/