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On my way back from Europe to Australia, I was lucky enough to be able to stop over in Delhi, India for a few days. And this stay was unbelievable precious towards a better understanding of the Indian car market, so I will share with you 3 specific posts: 2 Photo Reports and one Strategy article about the Indian car market and how understanding it better is the key to future success on the African continent for example. But let’s start with Delhi. And this may sounds obvious, but the first element that stroke me on arrival was how young the car landscape is: I would say around two-thirds of cars in circulation are 5 years of age or less. Note I said cars, as all trucks look like they are stuck in the seventies…
A young car landscape is after all totally logical, when you keep in mind the Indian new car market has been evolving at or close to record levels for the most part of the past decade. Delhi being one of the main poles of wealth in India it makes sense that the cars on the streets are new ones. It is so true that sometimes I felt I was watching the latest best-seller rankings in movement before my eyes. Illustration: within 20 minutes of arriving , I had already spotted one new generation Honda City, one Nissan Terrano and one Hyundai Grand i10!
There would be many more new gen Honda City over the next two days which confirms its exceptional success in the sales charts. In this context you would assume Maruti Alto crawling the streets by the dozen. Not so, and this was the main inconsistency with the best-seller ranking I saw in Delhi. Here it is worth noting that Alto sales are composed of the Alto 800 and Alto K10, and the ratio is close to 80/20 based on what I saw, only a handful of K10 during my stay.
Instead, the Maruti Wagon R and Swift / Swift DZire are by far the most frequent in Delhi streets, with a pretty clear advantage for the Wagon R. This is clearly a regional specificity, and I’ll have more insights on where all the Altos are hiding in the next Indian Photo Report. Other models I spotted more often than I expected include the Toyota Innova (mainly as taxi), Honda Amaze (literally everywhere), Brio and Maruti Ertiga.
Another big surprise was the frequency of the Toyota Etios in Delhi. Based on what I saw you would assume the nameplate ranks among the Top 5 best-seller in the city, which is a stark contrast with its lukewarm performance nationwide. It is fair to describe the hatch/sedan ratio as hatches being mostly private cars and sedans being mostly taxis. It also looks like the Toyota Etios is progressively replacing the Tata Indigo as the one of the most frequent taxis in circulation in Delhi. What makes me say that is the near-absence of Tata Indigo Manza (the new generation) as taxi whereas the previous gen was ubiquitous. So not such a bad performance for the Etios in Delhi.
But let’s be fair, the most frequent vehicle in Delhi is potentially still the auto rickshaw, present in many different brands but always the same green and yellow colour scheme. The one above is manufactured by TVS Motors, Bajaj, Mahindra, Piaggio, Force Motors, Kerala Automobiles and Kumar Motors are also represented.
My taxi driver Gagan shared with me his impressions on the different car brands on sale in India. For him and without the shadow of a doubt, Japanese brands are the best, with Toyota on top of the list. And as a taxi driver the Innova is seen as everyone’s guilty pleasure, in other words the best taxi you can drive in the country. Honda comes next and is seen as premium, clearly more expensive than Toyota. In this context the success of the new gen City is all the more impressive. Interestingly, Gagan wasn’t sure whether Hyundai was Japanese.
As far as Indian brands are concerned, Maruti logically comes first – it holds almost half of the new car market here. The most important element here is how easy and cheap Marutis are to maintain, with the quality of the cars themselves not considered as great. As a taxi driver, Gagan’s favourite Maruti is the Swift DZire: good design, great diesel engine, reliable and easy to maintain. However according to Gagan, Marutis mainly attract middle-class families.
Tata comes next in Gagan’s ranking of Indian brands, and he speaks with experience as he drives a Tata Indigo eCS with the ubiquitous chili and lime lucky charm hanging from the front grille. Mahindra on the contrary is almost frowned upon! Apart from the Scorpio, the only good model from the brand, Mahindra have weak engines and are not to be relied on…
The Photo Report continues below.