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Customers are keen to pay for anything that’s on the dashboard and not so much for things that are under the car hood, say automobile industry experts.
Customers are keen to pay for anything that’s on the dashboard and not so much for things that are under the car hood, say automobile industry experts.

Carmakers bet on premium features to draw customers as competition rises

  • Carmakers are increasingly bringing several features, earlier seen only in premium cars, to smaller and more affordable models
  • Hyundai Motors, Kia Motors, Honda, MG Motor, Tata Motors Ltd, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd and others are turning their focus towards offering mobile-app based features

MUMBAI: In an attempt to draw customers and consolidate their position across vehicle categories, carmakers are increasingly bringing several features, earlier seen only in premium cars, to smaller and more affordable models, several industry executives told Mint.

These premium features could be broadly categorized across safety, connectivity, interiors, exteriors, engine and transmission.

While safety features such as anti-lock braking system (ABS), airbags, rear-parking sensors and others were introduced under regulatory requirements for passenger vehicles; several carmakers are lining up an array of options under other heads.

For example, last week the launch of Kia’s sub-4 metre compact SUV Sonet was rolled out in as many as 17 variants offering two petrol and two diesel engines, 5 transmission options spread across two trim levels – Tech Line and GT Line.

Companies like Hyundai Motor India Ltd, Kia Motor, Honda Car India, MG Motor, Tata Motors Ltd, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd and others are increasingly turning their focus towards offering mobile-app based features under the connectivity umbrella.

“People are happy to pay for anything that’s on the dashboard and not so much for things that are under the hood," said Som Kapoor, partner, automotive, EY India. He added that Indian buyers are obsessed with their mobile phones and therefore connectivity-linked features in a car are their top preference.

“The R&D investments are visible on the dashboard and that is what the new launches tell us," he added.

Hyundai and MG Motor were early starters in introducing a host of connectivity features when they launched their respective sport utility vehicles – Venue and Hector –last year. Both companies offered in-built eSim and cloud-based interactive voice recognition services in an attempt to draw customers.

While MG Motor’s Hector brought these features within the sub- 15 lakh range for the first time, Hyundai went a step ahead to offer a pack of similar features it called Bluelink in the sub- 10 lakh range in its compact SUV Venue.

Hyundai’s Bluelink offered remote management of the car including engine start/stop, AC switch on/off, geo-fencing, vehicle theft tracking and immobilization for recovery. Just with the voice command the passengers can open or close the sunroof or get real-time information about a cricket match.

In June, Honda launched the fifth generation of its popular mid-sized sedan City, which came equipped with Alexa remote capability.

According to Gaurav Vangaal, associate director, light vehicle production forecast, IHS Markit, while MG Motor created a lot of interest with offerings around internet connectivity on the move, the connected car features are seen across most cars now just like safety features.

“Increasing adoption of premium features and commonality of parts and software across models is leading to economies of scale, which has benefited the overall pricing. However, the price points of the compact cars have also grown and it can be seen that feature-loaded models are now costing in the 8-12 lakh range," Vangaal said.

He added that even as exterior designs are improving, premium features such as electric sunroof, automatic transmission systems, cruise control, 5-star safety ratings are now offered in compact cars, all thanks to the stiff competition in the domestic car market.

“More than 30% customers are buying for connected car features. Similarly about 30% are buying models with panoramic sunroof, about 25% people are buying models with automatic transmission. They are buying for advanced features that also include an air purifier," Tarun Garg, director, sales and marketing, Hyundai Motor India said referring to the demand for Creta SUV.

“Although Venue SUV continues to fetch good numbers every month but still we launched the new IMT gearbox variant to enhance its appeal. We have to offer more value for money features to our customers in today’s scenario," Garg added.

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