India Insight

Recall virus dims Maruti A-Star lustre

No. 1 Indian carmaker Maruti Suzuki’s recall of its best-selling A-Star vehicles may not cost the company much financially, but sure raises questions about the procedures followed by the company for disclosing such information to investors.

Maruti A-StarThe company says the recall of 100,000 cars began in November, but did not disclose the move until late February.

Maruti told Reuters it had informed European regulatory authorities about the recall — the A-Star is popular in Europe — but was sketchy about why it did not make the disclosure in India.

The recall comes at a time when the auto industry is grappling with quality-control concerns.

Japanese automakers Toyota and Honda are reeling under mammoth recalls, stemming from sticky accelerator pedals and faulty brakes.

It’s raining compact cars in India

Honda’s premium hatchback Jazz has just added to the flurry of four-wheelers crowding the ramp in the compact car segment.Indian market leader Maruti has been in the forefront here, following up its launch of the A-Star in 2008 with the Ritz (see photo) this year.This week, Fiat launched the Grande Punto, another compact car.This segment already has cars such as the hugely popular Swift, Swift D’Zire (all from the Maruti stable), the i10, i20 and Getz from Hyundai, Chevrolet’s Spark, etc.There are more in the pipeline with Skoda Auto’s new Fabia expected later this year and Volkswagen’s Polo in early 2010.And there is room for more.Auto expert Hormazd Sorabjee thinks this segment is fairly elastic and has the scope to absorb the supply.”Of course there will be a lot of competition…they will eat into each other’s share, but it will help to expand the market. And the competition is good.”Around 75-80 percent of the cars sold in India are in the compact segment – where the price varies from about 350,000 rupees to about 700,000 rupees (the super-premium compact).Within this elastic price range, the category has the cars to suit all budgets.Maruti dominates the segment because of the number of brands it has.It would be difficult for other players to dethrone it mainly because the company has got a clear head start over the others and it has identified itself as more of an “Indian” company compared to them.Few people think about its Japanese parentage. It also has the advantage of having a wider service network than the other relatively recent entrants.What do you think? Which car can end Maruti’s domination over the compact car segment in India?

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