Friday, March 28, 2008

Extending your hatchback might not be a great Dzire!

How does that look? It's Swift Dzire - latest launch from the Maruti Suzuki stable.

Another company which pulled off the stunt is Tata Motors. Yes, they stretched Indica to make an Indigo. What happened? Indigo looks still as bad. The sales have been dropping consistently.

In fact, before Tata it was Opel which played around with its Corsa brand and rather unsuccessfully. Opel, right from the start, couldn't do much anyway.

Extending the brand stays tricky as always. Even where products are low-involvement, brands find it extremely tough to successfully pull off an extension. Here it is a high-involvement product like car. On the contrary, someone can say that since it's a high-involvement product, it would be wise to extend an already successful brand like Swift; people might trust and accept the new product faster. Perhaps. But longer term success, extremely doubtful.

Look at the picture. Does it inspire a 'wow'? Swift, when first launched, inspired that. But Swift Dzire doesn't. Swift was a radical departure, more on the design front than the performance. The design really differentiated it from all the available cars - big or small - in India. The performance only substantiated it as a real good premium hatchback (and therefore, a smallish) car. Yes, I repeat, a real good premium hatchback car. Rather, the best premium hatchback car of India. Hope you would agree.

With the launch of Swift Dzire, are we saying that the hatchback has transformed into an entry-level sedan? It seems Swift was originally conceived to be a hatchback. The perfection in design suggests that it was meant for a hatchback. Extension into a Dzire seems more like an after-thought. The picture suggests that. Swift isn't sedan. It's a hatchback and it's great at that. Swift is premium, Swift Dzire is entry-level (in their respective segments). There's an inherent contradiction.

Tata did a similar thing with Indica. Indigo hasn't been a success. In fact, Indica is an economy hatchback car and Indigo is an entry-level sedan. Indigo also, to my opinion, was an aesthetic disaster since it was more like an after-thought. Indica wasn't designed originally to be transformed into a sedan.

Having said this, I wouldn't claim that Swift Dzire won't sell. Of course, it will but I doubt it would be any great a success. Extending brands is always tricky. All the good work done by the original brand might get endangered. Your heart might desire Swift, not Swift Dzire!