Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

The GenX Nano, a generation too late

The plain fact is the Nano in all its avatars is at least 25 years too late

The Nano is here or rather it is here again. And it is dubbed the GenX Nano, making it the perfect oxymoron. Gen X, short for Generation X, is normally the term used by demographers and historians to describe the generation born between the early 1960s and the early 1980s. That would make the youngest member of this club 34-35 years old. So what would this generation buy when it goes shopping for a car—size, style and performance?

The new Nano, for all its virtues, can hardly lay claim to these specs. Equipped with a 624 cc engine and capable of delivering a phenomenal 21 kms per litre, at 2.51 lakh this is as cheap a car as one can get in India. Except that if it had to sell on the basis of low ticker price the original Nano at 1 lakh should have been a runaway winner. It wasn’t. In fact, it has been a disaster, a consistent underperformer.

The plain fact is the Nano in all its avatars is at least 25 years too late. The Maruti 800 was the ultimate small car and at its height enjoyed a 70% share of the market. Its successor, the Alto, is still the market leader in the entry level car market but has seen sales declining appreciably in the last four years.

Indeed the market share for small cars such as Maruti Suzuki (India) Ltd’s Alto and Wagon R, Hyundai Motor India Ltd’s Eon and General Motors India Ltd’s Chevrolet Spark has been dropping. According to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam) the market share of cars priced at between 2.66 lakh and 5 lakh has shrunk to 20% in the first 10 months of 2014-15 against 27% in the same period of 2011. At the same time, sales of sedans and sports utility vehicles (SUV) has been galloping.

That’s because India’s Gen X is increasingly aspirational and is looking for an enhanced lifestyle. In an era of falling oil prices, the psychological burden of fuel efficiency has also been shrugged off. The car for most Indians is a status symbol and an object of pride. In March, consulting firm AWG Research.Driven.Strategy.LLC conducted its First Annual Indian Auto Owner/Buyer Smart Phone Survey as part of which it introduced its Edwards Commitment scale to India. The “Love scale" measures the strength and nature of the emotional connection between individuals and their experience with a service or product. It found that Indian car owners report a strong emotional connection: 43% report they “Love" their car (4X the percentage that “Hate" their car). For Indian car owners “love" is driven heavily by engine performance and interior comfort. While reliability is foundational to any experience, it doesn’t ‘drive’ commitment as strongly as “leverageable" aspects of the experience, such as engine performance or a well-appointed interior.

The GenX Nano is going to find it extremely difficult to find this emotional connect across a large enough swathe of consumers. Hopefully it will find its niche.