There has been an upward shift in the preference of India consumers in the last five years which has pushed the volumes towards more upmarket offerings. As a result, the bestselling car in India is a subcompact sedan now with over 1.2 lakh units sold till date in FY2020, instead of an entry level hatchback. The Maruti Suzuki Alto has had that throne for 15 years and now the Maruti Suzuki Dzire holds that position with 128,695 units being sold in the April - November period of FY2020.
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Avik Chattopadhyay a veteran auto analyst who calls the subcompact sedans "size with status" defines the segment as, "The compact sub-4 metre size with the status of a boot. That is exactly what millions of Indians want. Working up from a hatchback, adding a boot, keeps costs down especially when you plan it from the beginning and not as an after-thought. That allows the marketer a competitive sticker price, allowing easy upgradation and also first-time adoption in the metros. Also, it is the perfect fleet vehicle, for the shared mobility players and other forms of public transport."
The formula of incorporating a boot not as an afterthought but as a cohesive design has definitely done wonders for Maruti Suzuki and some, but not all. The new-generation Honda Amaze at 40,676 units in the same April - November period has still shown decently in the market while the Hyundai Xcent once a constant in the top 10 selling list, at 12,239 units now has lost its sheen due to aging. That said, Hyundai is all set to replace the Xcent with the upcoming Aura subcompact sedan that can give the company a much-needed short in the arm in the segment. However, other carmakers like Ford is struggling for volumes with just 4628 units of the Aspire sold in the same period and even the Tata Tigor at 6765 units in the same period hasn't seen quite the success. Speaking about these products, Chattopadhyay said, "Hyundai and Honda have made most of the opportunity with the Xcent [now Aura too] and Amaze. The Aspire lags behind due to the Ford badge. The Tigor had great potential but now its focus seems on its electric avatar." In fact, it is surprising for Tata Motors to not find success in the segment with its newer offerings like the Zest and Tigor. Tata Motors ushered the segment with the Tata Indigo CS in 2008 which was a runaway hit for the company both in among private buyers and in the fleet market.
The sub-four metre sedans came in the picture after government announced subsidy on models that are under four-metres in length and has an engine capacity of only up to 1.2-litre in petrol and 1.5-litre in diesel. The segment has gained immense popularity among private and fleet buyers and in expected to grow exponentially as the concept of shared mobility becomes gains more prominence. Global carmakers like Renault is also planning to bring in a new subcompact sedan by 2021 which is further expected to expand the segment.