From SUVs to SUVs that stand out: The evolution of flamboyant buyers

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A younger car-buying audience is fast prioritising top-of-the-line products with touch of modern luxury features, reflecting a shift from utilitarian

Hyundai has expanded its N Line range with the Creta N Line (in pic). Kia offers its models with the X Line variations as well. Are these volume drivers or more a statement of intent?

Indian car buyers have traditionally been drawn to practical, fuel-efficient family vehicles. The popularity of hatchbacks such as the Maruti Suzuki WagonR and Alto throughout the years is a testament to this fact. These are the automobiles that have captivated Indian buyers with their usefulness, affordability, and low operating expenses. However, the demographics of India’s vehicle audience have shifted since then.

When it comes to automobiles, Indian shoppers no longer have utilitarian preferences. The YOLO (you only live once) philosophy currently defines a growing class of young professionals who are increasingly interested in receiving top-of-the-line products and luxury.

While the desire for cars with fancy amenities and new safety requirements is gradually pushing this new class of purchasers to buy premium models, another important factor that these customers are searching for is ‘face value’.

While the car industry is seeing an increase in SUV sales due to the advent of a younger set of customers, there is a subset of customers that want to go above and beyond. The hole is filled by so-called ‘performance’ SUVs.

Companies like Hyundai and Kia have been relatively quick to observe this trend in the mass market. Hyundai feels that the Indian vehicle market is shifting from functional to aspirational. Previously, it was all about getting from point A to point B for a lesser price and better fuel efficiency. Most buyers – especially in urban areas – now have far higher expectations.

Also Read : Hyundai Creta N Line SUV launched in India at 16.82 lakh

Customers want greater safety, functionality, design, and technology. While the Korean duo’s conventional SUV lineup meets the majority of market demand, Hyundai introduced its N Line models while Kia introduced its X-line to meet the needs of a specific clientele. Hyundai recently introduced the Creta N Line. This launch takes the total count on N Line models to three in India.

Tarun Garg, COO of Hyundai Motor India, notes that the company’s N Line range of automobiles is aimed at a niche but rising group of performance-oriented buyers. He adds that although Hyundai’s average customer age has dropped to 38 years, N Line customers are even younger, at around 36.

Kia, Hyundai’s sister company that mostly targets young customers with vehicles that are designed to look better than rivals, introduced the X-Line with the Seltos in 2021. While the company believes that these younger set of customers will be the core of Kia’s base, with technology playing an increasingly important role in its offerings, the arrival of the X-Line will allow the manufacturer to provide an even more premium choice.

What’s the rationale?

Interestingly, models such as N Line and X Line do not differ significantly from the regular offering. Creta N Line, for example, has the same engine as the regular Creta turbo petrol unit – a 1.5 L turbo petrol engine paired to a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), offering 158 bhp and 253 Nm of torque.

Notable changes include design updates with a slightly reworked fascia, a new color shade option with matte finish paint and tweaks to the suspension setup and brakes to make the car feel more sporty. Beyond their aesthetic modifications, these limited-edition SUVs also have improved feel goodfeatures compared to the standard vehicle. A similar treatment can be seen with the Venue N Line, as well as the Kia Seltos and Sonet X-Line models.

The reason for this change is simple: to cater to new-age buyers who value distinctive and special products. Un Soo Kim, managing director and CEO of Hyundai Motor India, stated that the Creta N Line will improve Hyundai’s N Line portfolio and genuinely resonate with the desires of new-age Indian purchasers, capitalising on the Creta brand’s appeal and legacy.

First Published Date: 13 Mar 2024, 10:10 AM IST

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