Monday, 24 June 2013

No more burying the ‘hatch’et?

A, A+, B, B+, C, D..It may seem like I’m talking about blood groups, but this is the basic system by which cars are segregated. While it was devised on the basis of size, in the Indian mentality it has become some kind of sub-conscious discrimination.

Hatchbacks are no longer the poor man’s car. Several small cars offer more features, greater performance and sometimes more space as well. Don’t believe me? Try sitting in a Hyundai Accent and then have a seat in a Honda Jazz. Carry along a little luggage and you will still find that the car.rar is the Korean. Looking at the growth of this segment, luxury car makers like Mercedes-Benz brought in the B class followed by the A. Audi will have the A3 here soon enough and BMW will bring in the 1 series as well, forming a fair sized premium hatch family. So how is it that car makers are going gutsy and bringing in small cars at big tags?

To explain this question better let’s look at the mindset of current buyers in the 20 lakh bracket. In 1980 Rs. 2 lakh was enough to buy a nice 2bhk apartment. Come 2013 and the same amount will fetch an entry level performance motorcycle. Some of the younger readers will agree that when they tell their parents they consider a hundred bucks to be reasonable for a cup of coffee, the reply would be a tale of “back in my day a hundred rupees..”

Taking that same thought process you’d understand why in the minds of the typical Indian buyer, a car that costs Rs.20 lakh is not worth the price, unless it’s the size of a continent and you have to struggle to park it. Buy a Honda Accord, Skoda Superb or otherwise and the response is “wow that’s amazing”. Buy an A-class & you get labeled as a “badge buyer”. This tag may be true for someone who bought a VW Beetle because there genuinely are much better options and let's face it you ARE buying it for the 'Beetle' and not the 'Volkswagen'.

But let’s look at some facts here. These high end hatches may not be cheap, but they aren’t small either. Case in point; the A-class is 4292/1789mm while the Skoda Superb is 4838/1817mm. Evidently the Czech is bigger, but not by as much as you would expect at first sight. Now look at the image of Superb and Accord buyer. A 30 something man who’s starting to settle down, wants a salad of performance, safety and looks. Above all else, he wants a chauffeur. Hence, this segment gets the label of the aging man’s ride. Not a very attractive label when you’re one of the many young prodigies in India today who’d want Ed Hardy instead of SRS on their airbag. With every city choking on itself, a great build quality, zippy, stylish, easy to use and eye grabbing hot hatch is the trend of the future. Car makers are of course targeting different types of buyers, but with the current generation gradually turning into the next target demographic you can see why this the premium hatch is the perfect way to grab em young.    

It may take a while, but a time will come when men realize stuffing their undergarments doesn’t help much, women realize that stuffing theirs was never really necessary and when buyers with fairly deep pockets realize that buying space hogging mobile paper weights may not be the wisest option.

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