Monday, August 06, 2007

Maruti Versa : Traveling Together Is Fun

Brand : Versa
Company : Maruti Suzuki Ltd
Agency : Lowe

Brand Analysis Count : 259

Maruti Versa is a sad story in Indian brand scene. This brand was launched with much hype in 2001 but now is waiting for death in the Intensive Care Unit. Versa was the first luxury Multi Purpose Vehicle from Maruti 's stable.

Versa was the logical upgrade brand for Maruti Omni. Omni was successful as a family van and Maruti thought that there is a market for a luxuri van that can carry more passengers than an ordinary car. Versa is the Indian version of the popular Japanese van EVERY/ Carry. Versa was called MPV which is the acronym for Multi Purpose Vehicle .

Versa had a dream launch. Maruti roped in the Big B and the small B ( Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan) to endorse the brand. The commercial featuring the father son duo was a big hit at that point of time. According to reports, Versa was Abhishek's first brand endorsement.

Versa was launched as an Affluent Microvan. The brand was positioned as " Two luxury cars for the price of one" . The ads talked about twin A/C, comfort and space. Versa was launched with a 1300 cc engine which was the same used in Maruti Esteem.

Despite the dream launch, Versa failed to generate volume . The basic issue was the price. Versa was launched with a price of Rs 5.15 lakh for the base model and the top end model costs around Rs 6 lakh. Those enthusiastic customers who flocked the showroom after viewing the ads was shocked by the steep price of Versa. Versa was priced at par with Maruti Esteem and other entry level sedans.

Maruti was totally wrong in estimating the customer's perception of price in this case. It sounds little paradoxic because the company had blockbuster products like Maruti 800 and Alto which was in sync with Indian consumer's price value equation. In the case of Versa, Maruti was little too ambitious. Versa was a large car and the initial buyers were essentially those who had large family. For a small family , there was no logic in going for Versa when a sedan was available at the same price. Moreover the ' mini bus ' shape of the car also was a put off for many customers .
The lack of customer enthusiasm translated to inventory pile up and sluggish volumes for Versa. In 2004, Maruti relaunched Versa with a base price of Rs 4 lakh which was a drastic price cut. The positioning was also changed. The brand was relaunched with the new positioning based on the joys of traveling together. The tagline was changed to " Traveling in company in a car has its own kind of fun". New campaigns were launched which highlighted the theme of traveling together . The TG was identified as families which are large. The aim of the campaign was to inform the new price as well as drive the message that Versa is ideal for large families.

Watch the TVC here : Maruti Versa

But these campaigns did not had the desired results. Although sales peaked immediately after the announcement of price cut, Versa was not able to sustain the volume. More over the brand was eclipsed with the success of Maruti Wagon R which was priced higher than Versa but with less space and engine power.

Frankly I am perplexed with the failure of Versa especially after the price cut. Because this brand makes a perfect upgrade for those users who was fed up with Omni. I feel that again the prime reason is the price. Even after the price cut, the Versa still offers little value to the Indian consumer. Now that there are many large comfortable vehicles with in the price band of 4.5- 6 lakh rage, Versa is not even considered an option by the consumer. The brand recall is also very low. The success of Wagon R also have put this brand in a very odd position in terms of the Product line logic.
Versa has only two options left before it : one is to reduce the price drastically so that the price value equations are favorable Or await the slow death.

Source : agencyfaqs,autocarindia , wikipedia