Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tata Motors : What ails the brand ?

India's largest automobile company is struggling with its passenger car business. The company which owns best selling ( once upon a time) brands like Indica, Indigo, Safari and the " Iconic" Nano is finding it difficult to sell their cars in a market which is diesel crazy. Isn't it ironic that Tata Motors is not at the top of a market where diesel models are selling like hot cakes ?

I was reading a very critical piece of analysis in Forbes India ( read here) which throws in many pertinent issues. My two cents is that there is a larger issues of marketing in play here. Tata Motors has a big marketing problem and the company is not doing anything on that. It is sad.

Tata Motors virtually changed the Indian passenger car market in 1998 with the launch of Tata Indica. Although Indica faced lot if teething issues , the brand became a trail-blazer creating the diesel car segment which is affordable and durable. But along with the success came the baggage of perception. Indica despite being highly successful was perceived to be a car riddled with nagging problems. The lack of refinement and the not-so-perfect build quality became the hallmark of Tata passenger cars. Consumers accepted those nagging issues because the value offering was so good.

But market began to change with competitors catching up with better quality diesel engines and superior built quality. Tata motors , in my opinion,  was  stuck in the past. Although the company came out with product refinement, it failed to make the quantum leap in changing the perception problem.
Now a time has come where Tata cars are not in the ' choice list ' of the customers. It is a grave problem that needs to be addressed quickly other wise the firm will enter into a league of Ambassadors and Premier Padminis.
 Tata Motors need a new face. The company is desperately trying to improve upon the Indica platform which has a huge perception issue. If the firm wants to get back into the game, it needs a new brand which is distinct from Indica and Vista as a brand has not been effective since it was launched as a sub-brand of Indica. So a new product with a new brand would be the ( expensive) option available for Tata Motors to make a comeback. At the product level, nothing less that a sort of quality revolution is needed to bring consumers back to Tata showrooms. Aria was a leap in terms of built-quality but priced beyond common sense.
The product related drive should be followed by a strong branding campaign for Tata Motors to change the quality perception. This should be  backed by a strong change in attitude of dealers towards Tata Motors ' customers. The dealers still live in the era where there is a beeline of customers for Indica. That attitude needs to be changed and a strong responsive action at the moments of truth touchpoint is needed in this crisis.
Tata Motors need a strong product pipe-line backed by a strategy to change the perception of the market towards its products. This needs to be addressed at the highest level and Tata Motors has the wonderful JLR resource to do this within no time.