After a long hiatus of 3-4 years, Tata Motors launched much-hyped Zest and Bolt models last years to redeem its lost ground in the mass car segments. But what it has been ripping now isn’t any convincing. Both the sister models have failed to persuade buyers in their respective segments and their sales figures are consistently low in recent months. Poor brand image and dealer service, unsatisfactory pricing, and stiff competition from rival brands hamper both the cars in spite being much-improved and competent as none before.
It’s been almost a year since Tata started selling its brand-new compact sedan, the Zest, after unveiling it at 2014 Delhi Auto Show amid huge campaigning and fanfare. The Bolt hatchback was launched in the beginning of this year. Tata Motor believed that twin-models would bring in real fortunes for the brand that was gradually losing market shares in its stronghold segments – hatchback and entry-level sedan segment – in recent years, coupled with the absence of any new models after Vista and Manza in 2008.
However, both the cars have fared poorly in sales consistently since their respective launches. The Zest has remained stagnant in the first few months after commencement of sales in August 2014, and has witnessed a steady drop in sales from March up to July this year. In terms of sales figures of January-August 2015 peroid, the Zest stands at 16,714 units. This is pathetic because the top seller of the segment Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire has made 19,533 units just in the month of January alone! Honda has sold 22,000 units of Amaze in the first quarter of this year. The compact sedan market is reaching new levels lately, thanks to numerous models and competitive pricing.
Tata Bolt hatch, on the other hand, is a bit more worse. The inaugural month of January 2015 saw its best sales figure of 2,457 units and have steadily declined since then. In July this year, Tata motors have sold a mere 433 units hitting new low for the model that was barely six months past from launch. In the April-July period, Bolt sold only 2,240 units while some of its contenders like Maruti Suzuki Swift (71,822 units), Hyundai i10 (36,565 units) and VW Polo (11,024 units) have done fairly well. Ironically, the old-generation Indica hatch has performed better with 11,527units, way higher than the Bolt hatch (although both cater for different sets of buyers).
So what makes these two models a mediocre in sales in spite of being fairly new, adequately equipped, neatly built and decent in performance? I think its the ‘Tata’ again this time. Both the Bolt and Zest have entered the segments that are already crowded with products and thereby very stiff competition exists among alternatives. Therefore, even minute factors and symbolic sentiments makes a huge difference in making sales numbers.
Tata being a local budget brand suffers hugely from poor image among certain new car buyers, especially in metros, who expect upmarket products and better brand value. This is very much true in compact sedan and premium hatch segments, where the customers have better choices and negotiating capacity. Brands like Honda, Hyundai, and Volkswagen have pitched their products in upmarket and chic tones owing to their past legacy and symbolic capital, putting others at the disadvantage. In fact, even Maruti Suzuki suffers from this phenomena in some sense. Undeniably, there also exists concerns on Tata’s reliability due to such lack of ‘symbolic’ mileage in trust on the brand. Thus, however attractive and awesome the equipment levels, technologies, and features are, buyers prefers those alternatives that possess a better ‘feel-good’ feeling.
Further, Tata’s pricing is not convincing at times either. The company should try to move towards a better pricing approach so as to entice buyers. Their dealer network is fairly well established, yet the services they provide and customer satisfaction is certainly not the best. A brand that aims to go premium up in the ladder must address such structural bottlenecks and improve customer’s trust on it. As Tata Motors is gearing up for an another unprecedented model – the Tata Hexa crossover – next year, it is time they work on reforms and improvements, else the Hexa may mimic the tragic story of its predecessor the Aria once again!!
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Images Credit: Driveinside, Whichcars, Carblogindia.
Statistics Chart Credit: Financialexpress