One of the most informative comment dialogues on this blog has been between Rohan, a branding expert and designer in India, and me. We were discussing the Indian car market, and covered everything from the Badal and Standard Gazel to the Reva microcar and the Dacia Logan.
What I learned was amazing. Levitt’s theories were strongly impressed on me at B-school, and since I was part of that MTV generation, I witnessed the homogenization of markets. The internet did much the same. So, if the world wants more fuel-efﬁcient cars, then shouldn’t India, which has plans for everything from a sub-$2,500 microcar to alternative-fuel, electric Revas, take a leadership role?
I believe it can, but such cars would fail in their home market. According to Rohan, Indian consumers do not want a “sub-car”, which Tata’s $2,500 car would be, and I would envisage Indian manufacturers trying to serve their domestic market ﬁrst. The Reva is a joke, and faces quality issues. What Indians really want is a respectable, proper car, like the Ford Fiesta or Dacia Logan, or the ever-popular Maruti Swift. They demand quality, not hand-me-downs that Indian buyers see through pretty quickly.
Therefore, attempts to unload second-hand, obsolete junk on to the Indian market, as Hindustan has done over the years with the Ambassador and Contessa (Morris Oxford and the last Vauxhall Victor), will fail today.
Perhaps the development of a great microcar in the vein of the Fiat bambina would be one mission that India may consider as a public–private partnership. If costs can be kept low, then I cannot see why the west would resist a well-built and less tossy challenger to the Smart. India has proven the expertise exists. It can run on something other than fossil fuels. The west wants such a product, but no existing manufacturer wants to give it a go; and the east at least has a clean slate and can conquer an entire segment should it adopt an export-ﬁrst attitude. And it needs a brand, for it could take the world by storm.
Del.icio.us tags: microcar India Reva fossil fuels alternative fuels electric car Smart future cars Posted by Jack Yan, 12:13
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