Indian carmakers are now exploring a new territory—the midsize 6/7-seater SUV space. Earlier this year, Tata Motors launched the Safari, then Hyundai launched the Alcazar, followed by Mahindra & Mahindra introducing the XUV700. Maruti Suzuki India is also expected to enter this space next year. “Customers are increasingly looking at SUVs of this shape and size,” Hardeep S Brar, vice-president & head, Marketing and Sales, Kia India says. In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, he adds that while it’s tough to say when the chip shortage will end or ease, “we have planned in such a way that we are good to go for 3 lakh units in the next calendar year, including exports.”
Why did you enter this so-called three-row recreational vehicle space, with the Carens?
The share of MPVs to the Indian passenger vehicle (PV) segment is 8-9%, and six- and seven-seater SUVs form another 5-6%, and so the overall segment is about 14-15%, or about 4.5 lakh per year market size. That’s a good market opportunity to explore.
We will launch the Carens in India as well as select markets across the globe starting from the first quarter of CY22. It will be offered with both petrol and diesel engines combined with multiple transmission options, including the 7DCT and 6AT, and six airbags will be offered as standard. It will have connectivity features—the next-generation Kia Connect app—flexible seating options, and will bring much-needed excitement in the three-row seater segment.
Why is there so much focus on premiumness at Kia India?
That was the aim to begin with. In the mass market, Kia is now considered the most premium brand, and we will stick to that philosophy.
Will you also explore CNG fuel vehicles?
CNG is more popular at the lower end of the market (less than Rs 10 lakh), and the average ticket size of our products is more than Rs 10 lakh. But we are studying the fuel and will be ready if there is demand in the sub-segment we are present in.
Will you also enter the entry-level hatchback segment?
We don’t want to; customers now see us as a strong SUV and RV (recreational vehicle) player, and we will strengthen on that proposition.
Is the diesel demand still strong (after BS-6 emission norms)?
The diesel demand still continues in the segment above Rs 10 lakh; as far as our volumes are concerned, both of our SUVs, the Sonet and the Seltos, put together have 35-40% diesel sales (Sonet is about 35% diesel and Seltos is about 45% diesel).
Is the end to the semiconductor shortage in sight?
It’s tough to say when the chip shortage will end or ease; optimistic projections are the middle of next year and pessimistic projections are by the end of next year. The good news is that, at Kia India, we have planned in such a way that we are good to go for 3 lakh units in the next calendar year, including exports.