Monday, January 13, 2014
By John Andrew
New model introduced in Verna by Hyundai
A battle is brewing in the mid-size sedan space, with segment leader Hyundai Motor readying an offensive to retain its leadership position after Japanese rival Honda Motor launched its fourth-generation bigger, feature-packed and aggressively priced City sedan. Anticipating renewed competition, Hyundai Motor India quietly introduced a new top-end variant of the Verna, called SX (O), people with knowledge of the matter said. The SX (O) comes with features such as projector headlamp, 16-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels, illuminated power window switches and safety escort headlamps. Now that Honda has re-launched its most-successful car brand in India with an aggressive price tag, Hyundai intends to bring in yet another new diesel variant of the Verna, CX in the next few days with a 1.4-litre diesel engine .
The CX is likely to be positioned between the EX and SX variants. The new diesel Verna will boast of features like electro-chromatic mirror, rear parking camera with parking sensors, 2 DIN audio with bluetooth and steering controls, fully automatic temperature control, electrically adjustable and foldable outside mirror with turn indicators, anti-lock braking system and driver-side airbag. When contacted, Hyundai Motor India's spokesperson said: "At Hyundai , we continuously improve the price-value equations by refreshing all our existing models to offer modern premium image." Verna has sold more than 2.37-lakh units since its introduction in 2006. The car took the leadership position in the mid-size sedan segment post the launch of the Fluidic Verna in 2011.
The new fourth-generation Honda City has already garnered bookings of more than 9,000 units, in a segment where Hyundai Verna sells about 4,100 units a month. The older City had slipped to the third position in the segment, averaging about 1,800 units a month, but the Japanese car major now eyes a much bigger slice with diesel as a key option. At the end of 2013, the fluidic-designed Hyundai Verna had a market share of 36.70% in the mid-size segment, followed by the Volkswagen Vento at 16.45%. The Honda City had a market share of 15.89%, but then, the Japanese car maker only had a petrol-powered offering in the segment. In an interview with ET, Hironori Kanayama , president and chief executive of Honda Cars India said: "I think we should aim at double-digit growth in 2014. We have to achieve segment leadership with the new City and our growth should not slow down." Car makers have become more agile than ever before as a sluggish economy has made customers elusive, and everyone in the auto market is trying to outwit the other with new launches and big discounts. Last April, just a day after Honda launched its compact sedan Amaze, Maruti Suzuki India introduced a limited edition Regal variant for its Dzire to keep customer interest alive.
The mid-size sedan market had to bear the brunt of the overall slowdown in India's auto market in 2013 with sales falling by a steep 27% to 1.35-lakh units. Sales in the overall passenger car market fell 9.5% to 1.83 million units during the year. Sales of the Verna fell 12%, but that was far better than the segment's overall performance. The fight would not be limited to the City and Verna in the segment, which is set to see the launch of a lot of refreshed or improved variants through 2014. Maruti Suzuki will be launching a new SX4, while Volkswagen and Skoda have lined up their Vento and Rapid facelifts for launch during the year. Fiat and Ford also plan to bring in their Linea and Fiesta facelifts.
Source: Economic Times