In India, Maruti Suzuki A-Star may be a macho car flaunting sporty design lines to lure the urban young male buyer, but in Netherlands (the largest exports market for the model) the hatchback seems to have found favour with women.
As much as 92 per cent of A-Stars sold in the country are bought by women, as compared to 83 per cent of demand coming for the car from men in India.
It isn't only gender divide which define buyer preferences for the A-Star overseas. While in India 52 per cent of the buyers are aged less than 40 years, as much as 79 per cent of A-Star buyers in a second large European market Germany are aged upwards of 41 years. Yet despite the higher age profile of the German A-Star buyer, around 60 per cent of sales come in from single customers for individual usage in contrast to India where 89 per cent of the cars are bought by consumers who are married.
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"In any product the tough thing is to deal not only with different tariff structures, but also different demographic, economic, social, political conditions. Different cars mean different things in different markets making sales a complex proposition. So while in India we positioned the A-Star as an edgy car targeted at the young urban male buyer with slightly higher income profile, in a market like Netherlands it is mostly bought by women as a second car in middle-class households", says Shashank Srivastava, executive director (international market development), Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL).
In an interesting behavioural pattern noticeable among buyers in Philippines in south-east Asia despite a similar price differential between price of diesel and petrol fuels as in India, nearly 86 per cent of vehicles sold are petrol powered. Given that the duty structures are similar on both petrol and fuel vehicles in Philippines, auto experts hold the amount of distance travelled by car buyers in each country could be determining consumer choices. Diesel vehicles have emerged as the preferred option of cost-conscious Indian consumers who travel 1500-2000 km every month. Sales of diesel vehicles have increased by 55 per cent this financial year to account for nearly 60 per cent of the passenger vehicle market in India.
Srivastava says, "In spite of similar conditions, consumer behaviour could be different in different countries which become a challenge for marketers."
Buyers in Indonesia, for instance, show a distinct preference for larger utility vehicles. Maruti Suzuki, which ships completely knocked down kits (CKD) of Ertiga to the country, registers a major chunk of its sales from first-time buyers in Indonesia. On the other hand, in India the Ertiga is marketed to older buyers with nearly 60 per cent of sales coming from consumers who are aged above 40 years.
Similarly, in West Asian countries like Saudi Arabia, the Alto is marketed to small businessmen who often utilise the car for commercial work, whereas in India the car has been a best-seller among families for the last eight years.
Preferences are also higher for automatic transmission variants overseas as compared to India. "In most countries abroad consumers prefer AT even at the lower-end, whereas in India demand for AT is less even in premium cars", informs Srivastava. Ninety per cent of buyers prefer AT overseas as compared to sales of less than two per cent of AT variants in India.