Do the names Beat, Jazz or Vista mean anything to you? These stand alone brands might not really strike a bell, but add a parent company before each of them and you have some of the most popular cars on Indian roads today.
If the latest in automotive trends is anything to go by, car manufactures seem to be moving closer towards strategic anonymity in a bid to erase a variety of perceptions, raging from poor quality and broken partnerships to absurd attachments and images evoked by the past. While the overall intention however, might right, the move is bound to impact different companies in different ways.
Here are some of the scenarios:
For bigger, more established manufactures like Maruti and Hyundai this is a good idea as far as risk reduction and multi segment operations go. Prefixing the name of the parent company to already-established models like the SX4, the Swift, the Verna and the i20, becomes rather redundant. By removing the connecting link altogether, auto manufactures can create stand alone product brands, whose success or failure does not affect the other models. Manufactures can even venture into different segments without any preconceived public notions, of ‘what the brand is good at’, and what it should ‘stick to’. One of the best examples is Toyota and Lexus. For all practical purposes the world views these two brands as separate entities catering to two very different segments of society. In actuality, Lexus is just another sub-brand by Toyota.
For companies like Bajaj, who’ve been around for decades, dropping the manufacturer’s name is a gamble. Sure it imbues a strong sense of trust and experience, but at the same time, the brand name Bajaj immediately evokes images of the ubiquitous Chetak scooter-which are in sharp contrast to the attributes of the current range of largely sporty and power-packed motorbikes. Today, Pulsar and Discover, are two of the most popular brands in India.
To auto manufacturers like Tata Motors and Mahindra, who cater to almost every market segment, carving out a separate identity for each model is probably the best idea. With its Indicas, Indigos and Sumos having earned the reputation of transport vehicles and taxis, it would have been near impossible for Tata Motors to launch their luxury brands like the Dicor, the Maanza and Aria, with the similar brand-name-prefix of Tata. Likewise, Mahindra – a company known for its manufacturing of agricultural transport vehicles and the failed Mahindra Logan, was wise to drop the parent company name when it came to the launch of its new edition luxury Scorpios and the new XUV 500.
For India’s largest two-wheeler maker Hero MotoCorp, the split with Honda meant that it could no longer rely on the Japanese blockbuster brand to woo customers. So what does it do now? Simple, rather than playing up umbrella name Hero, it hopes to sell more bikes by riding on bestselling brands like Splendor and Passion.
Finally, for big foreign umbrella brands in India, like General Motors – focusing on its sub brands and building a reputation around those, is probably the most clever. Rather than spending millions promoting the GM banner, individual identities like the Chevrolet Beat, Aveo and Optra are much easier to carve out and maintain.