The phone sounded its two-beep notification to alert me of a new email which followed with a pop-up flash of the first couple of sentences from its text. It was a press note from Tata Motors which mentioned something about a new design philosophy — which felt a bit odd at first because it wasn’t too long ago that Tata advertised its DesigNext as the company’s ‘new design language’ under its HorizoNext strategy.
The Tata Zica will be the first product to be launched under a new design language called IMPACT Design which itself will be under the banner of DesigNext, which is further under the HorizoNext umbrella. Many layers are getting formed here! IMPACT Design will be applied specific to the upcoming passenger cars, while DesigNext is a common design strategy / language for commercial vehicles as well as passenger vehicles. “DesigNext is about staying ahead of the game while IMPACT Design is how to make it happen,” a company spokesperson explained during an interaction.
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Anyway, moving to the Zica — we’ve driven this upcoming hatchback from Tata Motors, and came back fairly impressed with the product we saw and experienced. It’s a great departure from everything that we know of Tata cars — and that’s a good thing. It’s refreshing to see the ‘Indica’ theme being shelved in favour of a fresh design which, while not being quite as instantly stand-out in a crowd (like Checrolet Beat, Maruti Suzuki Ritz, and even Maruti Suzuki Swift in its time were) as such a crucial product should’ve been, is quite balanced in its overall appeal. The interior quality is up by a big score and most of the materials used in the cabin feel extremely good for a car of this size. It doesn’t offer a very engaging driving experience, but it does its job of being a city runabout with absolute ease and the big list of features gives it a great USP.
But — and this is what’s been bothering me for some time now — the crucial factor is going to be the entry and ceiling price points for the Zica. During the media drive event, journalists were asked to share their thoughts on its pricing — which, on paper, ranged from Maruti Suzuki Celerio to Hyundai Grand i10. And while I agree with the Tata team trying to market the car by stressing on the features that the Zica offers and other product attributes, I am somehow still not convinced about how it’ll be a comfortable sell against the likes of Hyundai Grand i10. Yes, it’s got features to rival the Grand i10, and it’s also a very well built and well tuned, but Tata doesn’t yet have the brand equity to lock horns with a product like Grand i10 — a product that gave the legendary Siwft a big reason to worry, and even outsold the latter in November 2015! I know it sounds a bit sour and harsh, but it’s also something that goes a long way for consumers in this segment.
Tata Motors, in my view, should go ultra aggressive with the Zica to stamp itself in the minds of consumers for its own benefit. It’ll be much more fruitful to place the Zica in the segment that is populated by cars like Maruti Celerio, Hyundai i10, and Chevrolet Beat etc which are shy on features in comparison, instead of going against cars stacked with broadly similar levels of equipment and features such as the Grand i10, Swift and Figo. The basic principle here is to establish product superiority and bring about a revolution in a segment which has so far been dishing out mediocrity.
It might not be the most ideal segment positioning that Tata Motors would like for the Zica, but this will allow it to gain a strong grip in a lower segment and establish itself as a credible player and maker of value-for-money, relatively high-quality products in the minds of people, heightening its brand image immensely — something that’s desperately needed.
And, in the mid-to-long term, this will only add up positively for the upcoming range of cars (sub-compact SUV, especially) that will benefit from the lift in overall brand equity and recall value. It’d love to see Tata regain the sheen it used to flaunt during the time when its Sierra and Safari were aspirational vehicles (yes, I hear you shouting about that being a different era etc, yet…) and get to a level where it can give a genuine fight to the likes of Honda City and, possibly, and eventually, even the Toyota Fortuner. Well, miracles do happen!