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Swift Dzire: A runaway success

July 21, 2009 13:59 IST
It is not every day that Maruti Suzuki stops producing a model to replace it with a new car. After all, the good old Omni and Maruti 800 are still being built and sold in reasonable numbers. So the decision to pull the plug on the quintessential Indian sedan, the Esteem, and replace it with what is essentially a booted version of the Swift came as a big surprise.

One year down the line, the Dzire has proved to be the second masterstroke from the largest car maker in India - second, that is, to the move to build diesel engines.

So what made the Dzire buck the recession and do 17,336 units in the period of April-June 2009 while the nearest competitors in the segment struggled to do even half (Honda City: 8,792, Tata Indigo: 8,923)? Well, there are many factors.

To begin with, the build-up to this fairytale sedan story was laid by an extremely successful Swift. Swift was the product that defined a new, aggressive Maruti Suzuki in India.

It looke unconventional and futuristic and pleased a cross-section of prospective buyers with drivability, refinement and dynamics. The launch of the diesel version ensured that the queues just got longer - what with its frugal drinking habits (20 km to a litre on highways, anyone?).

Also, the Indian Swift was developed in parallel to the European version with an Esteem power train to keep the cost low, and this worked wonders for the stylish hatchback.

Similarly, the Dzire is unique for India - it can be called the first car from Suzuki that was conceptualised for the Indian market. It is not yet sold in Europe or for that matter any of the global markets where Suzuki operates. Though there was some initial criticism about the "added boot" look and similarities of the front-end design with Swift, the car delivered on its promise of being a proper sedan that gives the all-important big car image.

And it was better than the Esteem in almost all areas - it was easier to get in and out, had more space inside and that boot was indeed enormous. "The Dzire gave everything that the customer expected or desired," says Maruti Suzuki Executive Officer (marketing and sales) Mayank Pareek.

In short, Maruti Suzuki could dig deep into the Swift parts-bin and develop a car that could proudly carry a higher price tag and then rely on the popularity of the former to successfully launch it. While its predecessor, the Esteem, was available only with a petrol engine, Maruti Suzuki could now attract the diesel sedan buyer (who would have normally opted for the Tata Indigo, Mahindra Logan or Ford Fiesta) to its showrooms.

That also meant that the Dzire price band could straddle two extremes - at around Rs 5.5 lakh ex-showroom Mumbai, the LXi petrol model is a value-for-money entry to the sedan world, that too with the assurance of a Maruti Suzuki badge; and, at roughly Rs 7.5 lakh, the diesel version has a waiting list of four months at present.

So the success of Dzire was about some bold decisions. One, to replace an ageing yet popular sub-brand called the Esteem; two, to develop an India-specific model; and three, to tap a wider audience by using petrol and diesel variants.

More than a specific communication exercise, it was word-of-mouth publicity that paved the way to the success of the Dzire. "Instead of concentrating on a huge campaign, we decided to follow the 'jo dikhta hai wo bhikta hai' maxim and tried to put as many cars on the roads as possible," says Pareek.

That meant the first real television campaign for the car came after one year. "We believe in customer engagement through test drives, events and similar promotions, and it has worked very well for all our new products," Pareek adds.

As for the negatives - well, the runaway success of the Dzire has affected the other sedan from the Maruti Suzuki stables. Though it is a bigger car with a contemporary design, sporty engine, good interiors and almost SUV-like driving position, the SX4 has not done well in the market.

"We follow a two-car-per-segment strategy and we have been doing well and as long as we are doing well in the segment, we have nothing to worry," says Pareek. A steep price tag and the lack of a diesel power train option could be doing the SX4 in. But a super successful younger sibling called Swift Dzire is not helping its case either!

Bijoy Kumar Y
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