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Women find automatic Crysta the real deal

Murali Gopalan | Updated on March 10, 2018

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Customer faith in the Innova brand is clearly on the rise

When the Innova Crysta was launched nearly a year ago, one of its key markets was out of bounds for sale. This was the time when 2000cc plus diesel vehicles were banned in Delhi and the Crysta obviously did not qualify.

A petrol option followed in some months and the ban was eventually lifted paving the way for Toyota Kirloskar Motor to unleash its new offering in Delhi. By this time, the Crysta had settled down to a routine in other markets and was doing brisk business.

Ruling the roost

By the end of 2016-17, Toyota reported sales of 75,000 Crystas, which gives N Raja, Director and Senior Vice-President (Sales & Marketing), enough reasons to feel good. “The Crysta has been a great success story for us and this is one of the best years for Innova, which truly is a cult brand,” he says.

The company carried out some market analysis soon after the launch to gauge customer behavioural patterns. The first interesting input was the reaction to the automatic option, which was a first for brand Innova.

The actual response was much more than what Toyota had anticipated with customers queuing up for the automatic. It peaked briefly at 75 per cent before settling down to 60 per cent. Raja believes the automatic version will eventually account for 50 per cent of sales.

What has been even more encouraging is that people have gone in for the top-endautomatic, which retails at nearly ₹25 lakh, a good ₹4 lakh more than the base version.

This stems from customer confidence in the resale value of the vehicle, which more than offsets the difference in price. Demand for automatics has been particularly strong in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

Offering this option has also brought in more women drivers into the Innova fold even while more of the actual registrations are done by the men. Raja reasons that being a family vehicle, it is quite likely that the funds come in from the senior members of the household who are more likely to be men.

Hence, while the registration patterns may follow the predictable patriarchy route, it has not stopped the women of the house to take the wheels of the Crysta automatic. Going forward, it is only natural that women will also take the more proactive role in financing the purchase as families become more compact in cities.

Getting younger

Another welcome sign with this offering is that the average age of the Innova brand buyer has fallen from 40 to 36 years. This is also is keeping in line with the country’s changing age demographics and the growing preference for SUVs/MPVs.

“The market feedback tells us that customers like the Crysta for its stylish looks, premium feel, interiors, colours, comfort, space and trustworthiness,” says Raja. “It is also more fun to drive especially with the automatic in place now.” Over 50 per cent of its buyers are existing Innova customers, which only reinforces the bonding with the brand as well as faith in its resale value.

Diesel accounts for a lion’s share of Crysta sales while petrol is barely five per cent. Quite predictably, the larger chunk here comes from the Delhi region where the petrol version was first launched. This was intended to make up for the void in diesel thanks to the ban, which was prevailing at that point in time. Kerala and some parts of Maharashtra also account for some petrol Crysta sales but diesel still remains the overwhelming favourite. From Toyota’s point of view, it is still important to keep the petrol option intact given the Delhi experience. And even while public memory is short in India and people have moved on after the diesel ban, there is no telling what could happen in the future.

Moving beyond sedans

Raja says that the response to Crysta only reaffirms that Indians are moving beyond sedans. With its stylish looks and comfortable drive, people see it as a top value-for-money option.

Market feedback has also shown that weekend travel with the Crysta has increased even while it is relatively lower during the weekdays. “Better roads and a desire to drive more has propelled this change,” says Raja. “There is also better utilisation of the third row during the weekends, which tells us that the entire family is out on a long drive.”

With nearly 7,500 units being sold each month on an average, the Crysta is on a good wicket even while the SUV/MPV space is seeing more competition.

As a brand, Innova has established itself strongly in this market and remains Toyota’s most successful product in this part of the world.

The new Fortuner has also been doing well averaging sales of over 2,000 units since its debut six months ago. If the Crysta faced an obstacle during the Delhi ban, the Fortuner was launched just around the same time as the demonetisation shocker in November. The automobile market naturally had to bear the brunt of this move but the fence sitters gradually began coming back in December.

From Toyota’s point of view, the success of the Crysta is a triumph of brand Innova even while it would ideally like to replicate this in cars with the Etios.

In a market where Maruti Suzuki reigns supreme, it is not easy to make a breakthrough. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how Toyota’s plans with Daihatsu and Suzuki for emerging markets like India impact its overall business strategy.

Published on April 13, 2017

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