Carmakers add luxury features to low-priced cars in a bid to push sales – Economic Times
Over the last three-to-five years, cars have become costlier by 5-10 per cent but the level of features added are commensurate with a 20-25 per cent increase, experts said. These include bluetooth enabled audio systems that integrate seamlessly with the driver’s phone, some of them even store contact lists; side mirrors that retract at the touch of a button; rear air-conditioning vents; cooled glove boxes and mood lighting. These features are now becoming standard on cars priced as low as Rs 2 lakh.
With a certain quality standard which is taken as the base line, carmakers are trying to differentiate themselves from the crowd by offering better features. This kind of trickle-down process isn’t new, only this time it’s happening in cars even lower down the food chain.
The trend is unique to emerging markets such as China, India and Indonesia, unlike the more mature markets of Europe and the US, where people are comfortable with a functional car at the lower end, said experts.
This mirrors the way in which, for instance, smartphones are gaining a wider customer base in India as users seek out better features offered by brands such as Micromax at a lower price than an iPhone or Galaxy S4.
Features such as air conditioning and power steering, optional a decade ago, have become standard in cars today. Now, it’s the turn of Bluetooth connectivity, push-button starting, antilock braking systems (ABS) and electrically adjusted outside rear view mirrors to make the migration, thanks to growing R&D capability in India.
The Indian market has evolved from the car as the basic mode of transport at the lowest price in the 1990s, to value for money from the mid-2000s until about 2010, experts said. Now, buyers are looking at factors beyond that in the form of brand strength, style quotient or high-tech additional features. The feature sets are broadly divided into four categories — safety, comfort, convenience and design embellishments. An example of a car being loaded with goodies at a little extra charge is Ford’s Figo.
The company launched the premium hatchback at Rs 3.5-4.8 lakh in March 2010 and gave it a facelift two years later with a Rs 34,000-80,000 increase in price and more than 100 enhancements, including ABS, electronic brake force distribution and steering-mounted audio controls.
Four years ago, features such as air-conditioning, power steering, power windows, central locking and keyless entry were present in 35-70 per cent of cars. This is now up to 85-95 per cent. Others set to attain such ubiquity include electrically adjusted outside rear-view mirrors, steering-mounted sound controls, audio systems integrated with the dashboard, rear parking sensors, push-button starting and safety features such as airbags and ABS.