Mumbai: Aditya Pai, a 27-year-old banking professional, is willing to pay almost 60,000 more for the Hyundai Grand i10 hatchback than it would cost him to buy Maruti Suzuki’s Swift, the best-selling car in its segment, for a seemingly inconsequential reason: separate air conditioning vents for the rear seat. Similarly, 32-year-old filmmaker Tejas Karguppikar shelled out over 1 lakh more to purchase Maruti’s premium hatchback Baleno as the Ignis “had too much plastic".

The willingness of Indians to assign more value on comfort and aesthetics has increased with the rise in disposable incomes. While price and functionality still play a major role when buying a car, for a growing section of young consumers, the reasons go beyond their utility value.

“A large share of customers are now experienced buyers looking to upgrade their cars. As they can afford it, they are looking for more features," said Deepesh Rathore, co-founder and director at London-based Emerging Markets Automotive Advisors.

Automakers have taken note. Not only have they introduced premium features, they have also revamped dealerships to enhance the customer experience.

Hyundai Motor India Ltd recently decided to reposition itself as a premium car brand after 20 years of being a mass market brand in India, a move that follows one by market leader Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, which introduced its premium sales network Nexa in 2015.

“Today, a car is not just perceived as a mode of transport, it has become a carrier that personifies an individual’s style and persona," Y.K. Koo, managing director and chief executive of the South Korean automaker’s local subsidiary, said in an email response to queries.

Hyundai, he said, aims to provide “new value and experience to customers beyond their expectations".

While Skoda India Pvt. Ltd and Volkswagen India Pvt. Ltd will soon introduce a new range of premium products based on a highly localized platform, Mint has learned from three people with knowledge of the matter that the European carmakers are also undertaking a broad-based digitization drive across their showrooms to incorporate technologies such as augmented and virtual reality.

Maruti Suzuki also rebranded its mass market car network as “Arena" last year to include more interactive technology such as product vision touchscreens at the dealerships. About 100 dealerships have been rebranded across the country, with an aim to overhaul the remaining 2,000 in the next two-four years.

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