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Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Editor-in-Chief
Dr. Arindam Chaudhuri
A.Sandeep Editor's Desk
A.Sandeep
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Now for The High Fliers
India’s Favourite Small Car Manufacturer is the envy of a Bevy of Premium and Luxury Players. But now Maruti Seeks to get into The Luxury Segment itself with The Kizashi. Is it The Right way forward?
Issue Date - 10/03/2011
 
But while the brand equity of Maruti will play a huge role in attracting the consumer from the Maruti family, the fact remains that the badge game plays a huger role in the segment that the Kizashi is pitted in. In candid words, Japanese rivals like Honda and Toyota are placed some notches higher on the chart of brand value in this segment. Honda Civic has posted a sales figure of 4,121 in the period from April 2010-January 2011, while Toyota Corolla has posted sales of 8,769 units in the same period. At an ex-showroom price of around Rs.17.5 lakh, Kizashi is positioned somewhere between the A4 and the A5 segments. The best part about Maruti Suzuki and its partners has been their frankness to recognise a threat the moment they perceive the issue. And that’s the case with Dentsu too. Kartikeya tells me, “We are aware that ‘badge’ value plays a huge role in this segment and we have prepared our strategy accordingly.” The corollary is that this being the first attempt of Maruti in this segment, it will be tough for the company – which largely carries a mass-car maker image – to prove its badge in the luxury space that easily.

Also, examples like Baleno and Vitara are still sore reminders of Maruti’s failures in the past when it came to moving up the ladder. In both these instances, Maruti’s aim of moving up the ladder simply collapsed. Maruti’s Mayank is quite confident that the past cases in no way are oracles of the future. He mentions, “We have taken our set of lessons from the failures in the past and we will implement it in the Kizashi.”

Perhaps, as I see it, Kizashi is only the means to a larger end for Maruti; to establish the aspirational value that the brand carried in the 1980s. Having premium brands in a portfolio has had a halo effect on mass brands in the past, a fact that has helped brands like GM, Toyota and Ford with their mass segment forays. Car makers who provide cross-segment offerings have more often than not kept today’s entry level buyers with the company as they move up the prosperity ladder. In summary, this is expected to be only a step in Maruti’s stride towards an ecosystem of luxury cars in its portfolio, which would keep it in the hunt for better times to come. But for that, the important balancing factor is what the industry calls the ‘Lexus point’. While the Etios will always be branded as the Toyota Etios, the Lexus is branded simply as the Lexus as the car is positioned at the premium market (it even has its own separate website) – and Toyota realiszes that its mass car maker image might interfere with the positioning of Lexus. But then, how does Toyota get advantage from Lexus if there is no connection brought out between the two? Well, the subliminal advertising issue works pretty well out here. Lexus is always touted (of course in small print) as being “a division of Toyota.” This is the point that Maruti has to somehow master, where Kizashi should not be sold as a pure Maruti Suzuki offering but should have a sales process that is quite separate and distinct from Maruti Suzuki sales points. Even the dealerships, preferably, should be separated from the general mass market sales system.

In conclusion, Maruti has supreme chance of creating an iconic positioning case study in the Kizashi. And it has its fans already chiming for it. “Maruti is underestimating the demand for the Kizashi. It’s a high-on-performance vehicle, which will become a huge success in the Indian market,” believes Sunil Sachdeva, Joint Chairman, Publicis Capital. And guess what, I totally believe him at this point.

 
“We have Broken Many Myths”
Mayank Pareek Firmly believes that all Doubts about The Kizashi’s success will be Dispelled as The Sales Numbers start coming in

The corporate journey for Mayank Pareek began with Maruti after he turned down a job offer from Bank of America back in the 1980s. While he joined the company as a Regional Manager in Chandigarh, he has climbed the management ladder at the Indo-Japanese carmaker to take charge as the Managing Executive Officer – Marketing & Sales. In fact, it was the Pareek-led rural expansion drive that helped to insulate the market leader from all negative fallouts of the economic slowdown in the country. And as Maruti is moving a notch higher with the Kizashi, he shares the backstage story on what makes Kizashi an important milestone in the journey of the company, in an interaction with pawan chabra

As a company, Maruti Suzuki has found it tough to move up the ladder in the past with products like Baleno and Grand Vitara. What makes you so sure of the fact that Kizashi will be a success in the Indian market?
Although Baleno, as a ca,r may not have been able to fetch us huge numbers, but what it did was that it gave us a very good learning about the segment. So, when SX4 came into the picture, it took little time in becoming the second largest selling model in the A3+ segment. The success of the model cannot be judged purely on the basis of numbers all the time; we have taken our set of learnings from the failures in the past and we will implement it in the Kizashi.

          
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