Do halo products cast their energy over everything else in a manufacturer's portfolio?Do halo products do what they are supposed to? Almost every international automobile manufacturer has a wide range of products catering to various segments of society. Some are highly affordable, some ridiculously expensive. Some have average performance or styling, others are outrageous in the way they appear and drive. It's a mixed bag! Depending on a market requirement manufacturers provide certain products to quench that demand. So the point is, should a manufacturer that largely caters to the masses inject a very high end product into their existing portfolio to boost sales and build an image? And the converse of that, should a manufacturer that dabbles in the smaller volume, luxury end of the market begin addressing the masses?
Will manufacturers like Toyota ever bring high-end cars like the FT86 to our markets?
For quite some time I have kept harbouring doubts as to why manufacturers like a Honda or Toyota or VW or Nissan or GM or the many others don't offer their halo products to us. Every day I field questions such as why isn't the Corvette here, when is Toyota going to get the FT86, what's stopping VW from getting the Scirocco R to our market, wouldn't the Mustang help Ford get more attention.
Let me tell you with cars like these, there are only two sorts of people who will ever get to drive them. First are the ones who can afford them and those that can, don't bring them out on our streets regularly so you will rarely, if ever, get to see them whizzing by. The second lot of people is us journalists, who will drive them, write about them till the heavens blush with our orgasmic wanderings and then forget about them entirely because the next high is just round the corner. For a manufacturer they've earned their 20 inches of real estate or five minutes of fame and then they too slip into what they do regularly, cater to the masses.
If you look at the business objective of a volume manufacturer getting a big, powerful sexy sportscar to our market, it makes little sense to me. There is no rationale behind it. Is the aura of a sporty or luxury car good enough to invigorate the business of selling significantly cheaper or mediocre cars from that same manufacturer? I don't think it's worth investing in it, I could be wrong but I don't see how for instance bringing a Corvette into India is going to help GM sell more Sparks or Beats? Would sales of the Fiesta improve tomorrow if Ford introduced the Mustang in our market today? I seriously doubt it. I mean Volkswagen couldn't push as many Polos and Ventos as they liked despite offering the hugely iconic Beetle to us. And Fiat, they brought the 500 here but never ever managed to improve sales of the Linea or the Punto.
In my opinion manufacturers need to keep the gap between a good product and a better product an achievable and logical prospect. If the bulk of your portfolio is priced at an average of around Rs 10 lakh does it make sense introducing a product priced at a crore and over, just as a branding exercise. Will it build or erode brand image? The way I see it trying to sell something you cannot offer to the masses in your everyday products can be so very disappointing.
Instead manufacturers should set more achievable goals for their consumers. Provide cars that in carefully measured increments allow consumers to look for the next best thing as they grow financially. Customers who own a Rs 10 lakh car today may aspire to own something a little more expensive in three years when they usually look at replacing their existing purchase. Consumers are an upwardly mobile lot, most look to achieving realistic goals so why not give them that.
The converse of this is how further down a price chain should a premium manufacturer go before they begin to lose the plot? I've heard requests asking the big three Germans, for instance, to bring in their smaller more affordable cars but that would truly upset their apple carts. If a luxury item can be had by all it is no longer premium. So I doubt any of the luxury car makers would ever want to come under the Rs 20 lakh umbrella.
For the luxury manufacturers introducing a super luxury car is no biggie, since they already have customers existing in price bands that are close by and who can aspire to rise up to the higher brackets.
So I believe manufacturers have to take careful decisions on the products they offer, give customers a dream they can live eventually, not sell dreams that are forgotten the instant you wake up!