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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2002

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Maruti studying market for launch of Ignis

Sudha Menon

PUNE, Aug. 20

CAR manufacturer Maruti Udyog Ltd which has seen tough times and falling market shares in an increasingly competitive and shrinking domestic market, is undertaking a study to benchmark its proposed next offering, the Ignis, with competitors such as the Palio.

Top company sources told Business Line that Maruti , stung by the lukewarm response to its Wagon R and Versa models and rapidly falling marketshare, is more cautious this time over and wants to be sure of customer preferences to prevent any new offering from meeting the fate of its predecessors.

Sources said top company officials have had several rounds of meetings with vendors and dealers to find out exactly what it is that the Indian car buyer wants. The company is also simultaneously working on several other fronts including cost cutting at the vendors end with a view to keeping down the price of their next offering and increasing the quality of components among other things before launching a new model .

"It is our policy not to talk about future models," the MUL Managing Director, Mr Jagdish Khattar, said when asked about the company's plans about the Ignis.

Maruti's Mr Arun Arora, who was contacted earlier, said the company had actively sought customer feedback about the Vitara and the Ignis at the auto show that was held to coincide with the Auto Expo in January this year. "We did talk to customers about their preferences, what configurations and at what price points they would expect models like these, but I am not aware of any studies right now. We don't see the possibility of the Vitara being launched at least in the near future."

Sources, however, said MUL's market feasibility study kicked off last month would extensively study the models from the competition's stables. The company is also this time over keen on getting the price position of the proposed new model correct, sources said. MUL has a choice of a number of models from the Suzuki stables for possible launch in the country, but the frontrunner is the Ignis, sources said, adding that a final decision regarding the Ignis launch would be taken only by end September.

Maruti has lost significant marketshare to the competition and is now making efforts to get back onto the road with its vehicles with a series of measures including hefty discounts at the dealers end . The company recently slashed the prices of its 800 model by over Rs 20,000 while its Versa was quoting a discount of approximately Rs. 1 lakh.

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