It looks like a cross between a Maruti 800 and a Zen, but the hype generated by Maruti Udyog Ltd (MUL) prior to the launch of the Alto, perhaps embodies the big hope the company attaches to its new small car. No wonder, given the fluctuating fortunes of the car major in the Indian market in recent times.
However, while unveiling the Alto in New Delhi earlier in the day, MUL managing director Jagdish Khattar said that MUL was too big a company to pin its hopes on the fortunes of a single brand. Instead, he said the launch was aimed at plugging the hole between the Maruti 800 and the entry level Zen. Cannibalise sales of its other brands? No way; the Alto will only serve to augment the company's product portfolio, said Khattar.
With an ex-showroom (in Delhi) price tag of Rs 2,99,513 for the Alto LX and Rs 3,65,050 for the Alto VX 1.1, MUL's new small car is positioned as the aspirational car for the entry-level buyer. As Khattar puts it, "It stands at the top end of the A segment or the basic, entry level car for the B segment - whichever way you wish to look at it. Now, we have a portfolio where every buyer gets a car of his choice at Maruti. He should not look anywhere else, that's the idea."
While he was emphatic that the company is not planning to phase out either the Maruti 800 or the Zen, Khattar was non-committal about the company's sales target this fiscal or for that matter that of the Alto. However, the company brass was hopeful that by the end of the current financial year the company would be able to reverse the trend of falling shares and close with a 65 per cent-plus share of the overall market.
Both the company and the agency was tightlipped about the advertising budget for the new car for the first year. Rohtash Mal, chief general manager, marketing and sales, MUL, told agencyfaqs!, "We don't have a separate advertising budget for the product as such but we do have a substantial budget to take care of advertising and marketing. And the outlay will obviously be on the higher side in the first couple of months. We are looking at a figure of around Rs 5 crore over the first two months."
According to Preet K S Bedi, director, Lowe Lintas & Partners, the agency handling the account, the mass media advertising for the Alto will break out next week. In the first round, the advertising will highlight the Alto's features and harp on the technical superiority and aspirational positioning of the product.
He added, "The total ad budget for the product is nowhere near what is being quoted in the media. However, we would like to do more of the kind of stuff we did prior to the launch … the mannequins on hoardings all over the city and things like that… which help in generating a lot of word of mouth. And these are inexpensive too."
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