Maruti Udyog Ltd, which makes half the cars currently sold in the country, introduced the SX4 model on Monday, its first sedan since 1999, as it tries to play catch-up in a segment where it lags rivals such as Honda Siel Cars India Ltd.
Maruti, which dominates the compact-car segment with four models and a 60% share, is No. 4 in the mid-size segment, lagging both Honda and Ford India Pvt. Ltd.
In 2006-07, Maruti had a 15% share in this segment with two brands—the more than a decade-old Esteem and the Baleno, which was withdrawn in December. The SX4 is the replacement for the Baleno.
Maruti has priced the base variant of the SX4 at Rs6.18 lakh (exclusive of insurance and local taxes), about 9% cheaper than the competing model of Honda City at Rs6.77 lakh.
Nearly a fifth of the one million cars sold every year in the country are mid-sized sedans, such as the Honda City and Ford Fiesta, both of which have a 20% marketshare. About 13 brands compete in this segment compared with nine in the compact-car market. The last 18 months have seen as many as five new models introduced in this segment, such as the Hyundai Verna and Mahindra-Renault Logan.
Sales of mid-sized sedans increased 4% to 197,064 units in 2006-07 from a year ago, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.
“The SX4 will help Maruti make inroads in this segment,” said S. Ramnath, vice-president at brokerage SSKI Securities. “With this product, customers looking to upgrade will come back to the showrooms.”
Maruti may introduce more models in this segment, according to managing director Jagdish Khattar. According to a five-year model roll out road map given by Suzuki Motor Co to its vendors, the company plans to launch a sedan version of the Swift hatchback in 2008. “You may see new models from this (Swift) platform in various forms and shapes,” said Khattar recently, without commenting on specifics.