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Will Santro and SRK bring the sunshine back for Hyundai?

S Muralidhar | Updated on October 07, 2018 Published on October 07, 2018

A pencil sketch rendering of the new car

With the new Santro due out in a few weeks, two aspects about the Hyundai small car stand out. One, of course, is the enduring appeal of the brand ‘Santro’ amongst the country’s car buyers — potential and existing.

So much so that an overwhelming majority of respondents voted to retain the brand name in a contest that Hyundai had thrown open to gauge whether Santro still had its fans.

Hyundai’s ‘Namkaran’, or naming, campaign for what was widely considered as the replacement for the Santro (internally codenamed AH2) is said to have received nearly five lakh responses. The campaign ran till the last week of September and the participants offered suggestions for naming the small car. Predictably, a majority still want it to be called the Santro.

More than 2.37 lakh people voted to retain the brand name, with a few others suggesting that Hyundai work on a mix between the Santro and the Eon in ‘Saneon’.

The SRK connection

The second unique bit is about how successful the association between Bollywood’s Badshah and Santro has been. Shah Rukh Khan’s endorsement of the sunshine car, Santro, has been one of the most successful extended campaigns across categories amongst consumer brands.

A file photo of Shah Rukh Khan standing next to the Hyundai Elitei20 car   -  AFP

 

Most other celebrity endorsements of cars in the past have bombed, albeit outside the box office.

Of course, it is disputable whether there is a direct link between a car’s eventual market share and the Bollywood celebrity that was its brand ambassador. So, for example, it will be tough to answer the question whether the Maruti Versa flopped because of the father-son duo of Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan endorsing it. Or, whether the Toyota Innova’s success can be attributed to Aamir Khan’s appeal.

Despite this checkered past, Bollywood’s heroes seem to be making a comeback as brand ambassadors for cars. Hrithik Roshan has just been signed on to endorse Tata Motors’ new Tigor and Aamir Khan will now be rooting for Datsuns. Are these unconnected or are these the reactions for what could be a strong comeback by Hyundai with the second generation Santro being again endorsed by SRK? Will we then be seeing a roll-out of a new campaign with the two stars in one frame; after all Hyundai just renewed the contract with SRK.

Features of new car

The new Santro will be launched officially on October 23 — nearly 20 years and a month after the original made its global debut, and about five years since it stopped producing the first generation of the model.

The new Santro will continue to be a tall-boy, though it will now sport a more modern exterior design that also follows the new cascade design language of the brand. This will also be the first Hyundai model in India to be offered with an automated manual transmission (AMT). The new Santro will also be the first A-segment car to feature rear air-conditioner vents.

Hyundai is hoping to do a one-up on Maruti with the new Santro being ahead of and capable of meeting the new safety and emission regulations that are due out next year.

With the new Santro, Hyundai will also be hoping to re-establish its hold over the segment which helped it break into the big league in India. Now, that kind of dominance will again be needed what with its sister brand Kia Motors prepping for a debut next year.

Published on October 07, 2018
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