New Delhi: As the Indian car market has today become highly competitive auto companies are using every marketing tool in their arsenals to persuade buyers to choose their models.
Apart from the usual advertising there are many special promotions with free accessories, low interest loans or insurance packages, service schemes, seasonal discounts, special prices on trade in cars, loyalty bonus, special edition models, etc. All these can however only bring the buyer to the showrooms and not necessarily result in a sale.
Murad Ali Baig, Auto expert & columnist
Test drives have been proved worldwide to be a very useful tool for finally convincing hesitant buyers to select a particular model. The buyer may have been quite convinced by all the advertising, editorial reviews, TV programmes and opinions of friends but these only appeal to the mind.
The driver can only get the feel of a car when he actually gets behind the wheel and drives it to feel good about the selected model’s road presence, power, styling, space, comfort, features and handling.
When buyers bring their wives and children for the drive, their likes or dislikes are significant pointers to their preferences and needs. Buying a car is a big event in every family because a new car is usually the most visible public statement of their social status or aspirations.
Much more extensive test drives are organized by all the car companies whenever a new model is launched. It may cost anything from $300 to 900 million to produce a new car and the initial acceptance is vital for a model’s long term success.
Auto journalists who enjoy public respect for their knowledge about cars are important influencers and the much larger tribe of less auto savvy business writers are often guided by them at the time of the actual launches later on.
So auto companies go to great length to arrange fantastic test drives with both excellent driving conditions and wonderful scenic settings to make the accompanying photographs or TV clips even more eye-catching to the readers or viewers.
So test drives through scenic areas of Austria, Brazil, California, Thailand, Spain, France, Korea or Japan, or on Formula 1 test tracks, offer a wonderful motoring experience and encourage writers to wax eloquent on both the drive experience as well as the car.
Many test drives in India have also been very successful, including drives from Mumbai to Goa, from Cochin to Periyar in Kerala, drives to Jaipur, Agra, and Simla or to the game sanctuaries of Corbett or Siriska.
Driving challenges can also be impressive. A set of six Sonata saloons were recently driven 1,000 kms from Bangalore to Mumbai on a single day to make the journalists appreciate how luxurious it could make the long drive feel. Mercedes Benz drove a set of cars from Leh to the world’s highest motorable road at Khardungla to demonstrate the excellent qualities of bio diesel extracted from the Jetropha plant.
On a long drive, the driver can get the complete feel of a car. Its pickup and performance, it’s handling on winding roads, its ride over bad patches, its braking efficiency as well as its fuel consumption pattern.
Recently, Mercedes Benz organized a 4,000 km drive with their seven diesel models over the golden quadrilateral not so much to promote their cars, rather to highlight the strides modern diesel engines have made in the auto industry.
Their international rvial, BMW too organized a series of big whole day drives with 47 cars at the scenic Amby valley airstrip. Five groups of about 60 auto journalists, existing and potential clients were given driver training by professional trainers on how to take SUV’s through rough terrain, saloons through extreme braking and cornering, apart from having a great driving experience.
Indian car buyers have much to look forward to, given the highly sophisticated and price sensitive offerings that are consistently pouring into the market.
Murad Ali Baig is one of India’s foremost auto experts. Feedback to his column can be sent at firstname.lastname@example.org