AT A Tata Motors AGM, an elderly shareholder had a pointed question on the launch of the Dark Edition of utility vehicle Harrier: Why was the company pushing an all-black range given that the colour is traditionally considered inauspicious by many in India?
The management admitted to having apprehensions but said the model had turned into a runaway success with massive demand triggered by youngsters, Shailesh Chandra, managing director of Tata Motors Passenger Vehicles and Tata Passenger Electric Mobility, said on the sidelines of a recent event.
From sunroofs to connected technology, from air purifiers to high-end music systems, as well as the continuing demand for SUVs, the passenger car industry is sharply adjusting its focus to cater to an emerging segment: buyers under the age of 30.
An analysis of information shared by car companies show a quarter of their sales coming from this segment — an increase of about 5 percentage points over about three years. Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai Motor and Tata Motors, which cumulatively constitute about 70 per cent of the total passenger vehicle sales in the country, have all reported a healthy response from buyers below the age of 30.
For Maruti and Hyundai, the contribution from this segment to overall sales is about 23 per cent each while for Tata Motors, nearly 30 per cent of sales come from buyers under 30.
This tilt in buyer profile has led to an increase in SUV sales — mainly compact SUVs, which are less than 4 metres in length.
Auto gearboxes, connected car technology, panoramic sunroofs — these are some features in demand among the young. Executives also attribute the push for high-end features to people spending more time on travel in cars.
For instance, Hyundai has registered a jump in demand for its new compact SUV Venue, with about 30 per cent of sales from those below the age of 30. This segment also bought 40 per cent of the Hyundai Verna sedans sold in 2022.
In the case of Tata Motors, its compact SUV Nexon is in high demand among young people followed by hatchbacks Altroz and Tiago. “SUVs are leading the demand charts across India and the trend is similar for Tata Motors. SUVs contribute nearly over 65%, followed by hatchbacks at around 13% of the total sales,” the company said in an emailed response to queries.
Buyers in this age profile are increasingly driving the feature list, too. For instance, about one in four cars sold in the market currently are connected through one technology or the other — connected car feature availability was in early single digits till a couple of years ago. There is also a greater demand for auto gearboxes, primarily driven by youngsters.
“There are a variety of reasons for people demanding features in their cars. In addition to the change in profile of buyers, a lot of people have started to use cars for travel, which means they spend a lot of time in their cars and, hence, demand a lot of these features. They do not want to compromise,” said Tarun Garg, director (sales), Hyundai Motor India.