Vitara Brezza sales have declined drastically, but is confident of staying ahead of rivals
Sub 4 meter compact crossovers have been raging in the Indian automotive market for quite some time now. Better practicality and affordability make this segment as popular as it is. Add to that, nothing beats the road presence of an SUV, even it it is small; hence people want to own an SUV even if it means shedding an extra few bucks over a hatchback or a compact sedan.
Maruti Suzuki Vitara has been the segment leader in the sub-4 metre SUV space for a long time. The Vitara Brezza which debuted in 2016, was the second SUV in this segment after Ford EcoSport. For a major portion of its reign, it had just two competitors- the EcoSport and later the Tata Nexon. However, things have changed drastically now, with many new products in this category.
With a few more offerings from other manufacturers on the way, the competition has increased many folds; so have the demands for consumers in this space. However, Maruti Suzuki India is confident that Brezza will maintain leadership position in the segment.
In an interview recently, Maruti Suzuki’s Executive Director (ED) for Sales and Marketing, Shashank Srivastava explains that sales of diesel sub 4 meter SUVs have come down drastically this year. This segment used to register 85% diesel sales just 3-4 years back. But this year, it has come down to below 25%, says Maruti’s ED. Though this is partly due to the fact that Brezza diesel is no longer on offer anymore.
What stands for Maruti Brezza
Srivastava says that Vitara Brezza will remain a strong contender in this segment thanks to Maruti’s extensive sales and service network. Maruti has over 2,600 Arena outlets which retail Vitara Brezza in 1,900 cities across the country. The massive footprint gives Maruti an advantage over its rivals.
The entry-level SUV space currently accounts for 13 percent of the total passenger vehicles which is huge. To put things in perspective it was 2-3 percent in 2014. In spite of having only petrol engine option, Maruti Suzuki has managed to retail 19,824 units of the Vitara Brezza this fiscal (April to August 2020). This is slightly lower sales than segment leader Hyundai Venue, selling 20,372 units. Venue is offered in petrol, diesel and multiple transmission options.
The reason people don’t mind buying a petrol sub 4 meter SUV is that for most buyers in the segment, “it is the high ground clearance, driving stance, and raised bonnet that defines the image of SUV. It is not necessarily the off-roading capability. For any product to be successful and to get the large numbers as the Brezza has, it is first and foremost about the product. But it is also about the marketing, network, aftersales and consumer retention and satisfaction,” says Srivastava.
The challenge for Vitara Brezza remains its single powertrain option. We all know that Maruti Suzuki has done away with its diesel models and for a considerable future, we won’t be seeing a diesel car roll out Maruti Suzuki’s facility. This means it is left with a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine which is decent enough. However, it is not as punchy as the smaller turbocharged motors which offer better drivability.
Almost all its compatriots get either a turbocharged petrol unit or a diesel mill or both as options. Thus Vitara Brezza lacks a number of options as far as powertrain is concerned. Young and enthusiastic drivers would surely opt for a diesel or a turbo petrol mill as they provide better torque and better fuel-efficiency (at least on paper).
Other offerings in this segment
The sub-4 metre SUV segment comprises Maruti Brezza, Hyundai Venue, Ford Ecosport, Tata Nexon, Honda WR-V and Mahindra XUV300. The latest addition to this segment has been Kia Sonet and Toyota Urban Cruiser. That is not all, in the coming months there are going to be two more entries into this segment- Nissan Magnite and Renault Kiger. With so much competition incoming, will Maruti maintain lead? Only time will tell.