The Hyundai Venue is a car that has all the features one would expect in today's 'connected' age and it's not the only one out there...
For the past two days, newspaper readers across India have been waking up to ads for Hyundai's newly launched connected SUV - the Venue. The carmaker has published print ads in national newspapers such as the Times of India and The Hindustan Times and has rolled out a new TVC that portrays the car as futuristic and smart. The ads highlight the car's features and the different ways in which it intends to make life easier for its users.
Earlier this year, before the Venue was launched, we spoke to Puneet Anand, the senior general manager and group head (marketing), Hyundai Motor India. He explained what the difference was between a connected SUV and a regular SUV and compared a car to a gadget, implying that that was what connectivity meant in terms of vehicles. He also mentioned that the car doubles up as a communication tool, enabling people to search for a location or place a call to a loved one through the car itself. This level of connectivity is made available in the cars with the help of an eSIM or electronic SIM that enables a vehicle to connect and display information from satellites and streaming platforms.
During the interview, we asked Anand what happened to using features such as fuel efficiency and engine power to market a car. He paused for a second before responding, mentioning that fuel, averages and other things are hygiene factors when it comes to marketing a car. He pointed out that these are expected from a marketer anyway. "While mileage is an important hygiene factor, design, technology and other factors also matter equally (to market a car)," he explained.
In India, MG Motor is planning to launch the MG Hector, which is poised to be its contribution to the connected cars category. The Hector boasts of almost 50 connectivity features including voice-controlled air-conditioning, geo-fencing, automated sunroofs and more. For the Hector, MG Motor India will collaborate with music streaming app Gaana to power the in-vehicle infotainment system. This collaboration enables Hector owners to access and stream a library of nearly 30 million songs across 28 languages.
To market the MG Hector, the brand roped in British actor Benedict Cumberbatch.
Autocar India also reported that Renault is actively working on introducing connected-car technology to models in the line-up that it produces in India.
When automobile brands talk about connectivity in their marketing messages, it's not necessarily a reference to the car itself being connected like some gadget. In-car connectivity using smartphones has been around since 2018. During that year, Maruti announced that it was launching its own connectivity service called Suzuki Connect. It was a service available to customers who owned NEXA cars. This it would enable the owner to connect it to a smartphone seamlessly and use features such as location alerts and would remind the owner when the car was due for a round of servicing.
Before that, in 2017, Tata Motors collaborated with Microsoft India to enhance in-car connectivity and to provide its customers with personalised driving experiences. Commenting on the partnership, Guenter Butschek, CEO and MD, Tata Motors, said, "We at Tata Motors, understand the need for a connected ecosystem that can integrate into the lives of customers. We are using Microsoft's connected vehicle technologies on Azure Intelligent Cloud to bring the digital lives of our customers into the cars they drive."
The advantage of using Microsoft Azure cloud computing in Tata Motors' case, was that it helped offer drivers and passengers access to features such as advanced navigation, pre-emptive maintenance alerts, remote monitoring of car features etc.
The advertising that most brands have undertaken in this space have a futuristic tone and emphasis on how the car and its features can make life easier for the consumer. However, in all probability, this is a marketing trend that will soon be replaced by another upgraded feature - whatever that will be. During our interview with Anand, we asked him how the digital medium has changed how cars are being bought and marketed.
He agreed that it had indeed changed the marketing landscape in this sector and pointed out that previously, a purchase of a vehicle was driven by offline activities. This included picking up brochures, going to a dealership for a test drive, looking for service warranty and so on.
"There's no need for that now. Nowadays, websites are able to provide you with the information that you need. A user can access information about different models, the features, test drive videos, verdicts and feedback from various media personalities," he said. He also mentioned that the availability of such content enables users to make a decision faster and shared that eighty-two per cent of people who bought cars last year, had already researched about it on the internet.