Reclaiming its life: Tata Safari is back as Gravitas!

Nandana James Mumbai | Updated on January 06, 2021

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The iconic SUV first launched in 1998 returns to Indian roads in a new avatar

Tata Safari, one of the first sports utility vehicles (SUV) in the country, is back, albeit in a new avatar codenamed the Gravitas. The bookings for the seven-seater SUV will open this January.

The Safari was introduced back in 1998. The SUV whose tagline ‘Reclaim Your Life’ captured popular imagination was in production for almost two decades before it was discontinued in 2019. Now, it returns to Indian roads with a new look and positioning.

“In its new avatar, the Safari will appeal to the socially active, fun-loving customers who seek out unique experiences and adventure. Its design, performance, versatility, features, and long lasting build quality, reinforce the SUV lifestyle to provide unending pleasure,” said Shailesh Chandra – President, Passenger Vehicles Business Unit (PVBU), Tata Motors, in a statement.

Stiff competition

The SUV will, however, face far more competition in its segment now, which has got fairly crowded. SUVs are after all the hottest car category in India, so much so that it has forced global OEMs to design India-specific products, says Suraj Ghosh, Principal Analyst — South Asia Powertrain Forecasts, IHS Markit. The new Safari will be pitted against the MG Hector Plus and the current-gen Mahindra XUV500. Later in the year, the competition will widen to include the next-gen Mahindra XUV500 and Hyundai’s new 7-seat Creta-based SUV, as well.

But brand experts feel the Tata Safari has a great recall and brand presence. Harish Bijoor, brand guru and founder, Harish Bijoor Consults, said, “There is still a generation that remembers its early tryst with the Tata Safari. To that extent, bringing it back onto another contemporarily fitted model is a path of least resistance in branding to take. Brand memories for the Safari can be evoked rather easily.”

Can the Gravitas live up to the Safari's brand name and legacy? A lot depends on its positioning, pricing and the overall value it offers, said Ghosh, though he added that Safari has a great recall value and following among enthusiasts. “It’s still perceived as the most stylish and macho SUV of the 2000s. So, the positive brand value it commands may give it a good start.”

We must also consider that the customer of today is much more exposed to SUVs and off-road vehicles than she was in 1998, said Giraj Sharma, founder-director of Behind the Moon, a brand consultancy. “And therefore, while there is that equity of Safari that is an advantage, the product will have to match up to expectations,” he added.


Published on January 06, 2021

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