Friday, December 7, 2012

Selecting a CAR

First phase of re-location complete, that is roti-kapda-makaan, phase !

Next phase had to be selection of a car. Public transport is an area of concern across of India. (Kerala is an exception). Mumbai is over-crowded with auto, taxi ( kaali-peelli, blue-cab, fleet taxi, et al). Public transport, in spite of an efficient BEST bus service & the local trains ('life-line'), is grossly adequate.

Bangalore has a good Volvo fleet of buses moving around in some parts of city. But public transport, both buses and a 'namma metro' at its very initial phase, are just not enough :(
But auto rickshaws... they have surely not seen Amir Khan's 'aditi devo bhava' campaign, to put it mildly :) Virtually no taxis, unlike Mumbai or Delhi. Fleet taxis are quite expensive.

I considered a bicycle, inspired by what I had seen at Singapore.
Then I thought of a motorcycle... not confident to ride, after over 20 yrs... traffic does not seem to be safe at all. That is when I was forced to think of acquiring a car... to move on from 'be-car' ( pronounced 'bekaar')  status !

Our cars are surely very expensive, thanks to the tax-regime. Fuel is more expensive!!
 We buy cars based on our aspirations and we buy homes based on what we are...
Owning & maintaining  a car  here is still an expensive option.

Being from the industry, I have been tracking developments in the auto industry. Have posted some tweets on #dieselation of Indian auto !!!
Went on-line & looked at some of the options.. also the planned launches in 2013. Auto Car & other magazine websites, C&B/Overdrive on idiot-box, I follow some auto- cos/guys on twitter, etc. Team-BHP was a new source, I was blissfully unaware of! 2013 looked very promising with planned launches! Future always look bright :) But my need is urgent & immediate :)
  • I started off with the recently launched Alto 800. I did not consider Tata Nano at all - not because of their positioning disaster, but safety, riding comfort, et al.
  • Then looked at Swift, one of my all time favourites... was driving a red Swift before moving abroad, when the model was at the initial phase of launch. That was when the car was at the Probe & Learn phase for the Prospectors and was not a big hit it became later !!
  • Then to i20. All friends had very good words about i20. I was very tempted to go for it. A friend recently bought it, himself from vehicle industry & having done extensive research.
  • Did not consider Mahindra range - not confident of a hassle free ownership and noise-free drive ( many warned. . .) I was surprised to see reports on huge discounts available on most brands, incl the recently introduced Quanto !! ( Car Discounts )
  • Duster was a hot option. But, several efforts to get a test-drive just failed. Couple of tweets, requests on website & call center  later, I am still waiting. One call center executive was rather blunt to say 'if you are willing to wait for 3 to 4 months for duster....". No effort to up-sell at all !!!
  • Experience with Polo was just opposite. Prompt reaction & test drive arranged. Liked the car, but a bit too expensive ?? Peppy and solid. Got 'go ahead' from junior for same !!
  • European cars, which have been termed 'premium guzzlers by ToI' looked tempting...
  • I had reserved the best for the end. I decided to check out Toyota and Skoda. Toyota is a dominant market leader in some other markets like Middle East, Skoda is not in the contention there at all. But here, both brands are very popular. Former for complete ownership experience, but the latter carries the baggage of poor service-track-record & perception thereof ! 
  • I was also moving into the familiar territory (comfort zone?!) of a SUV or at least a crossover !
  • Fortuner was never a favourite brand earlier. Perhaps for same reason, did not quite enjoy the drive. And a bit too expensive, I felt ! I still can not understand why Toyota is so expensive in India.
  • Innova is their 'bread & butter' ! That is perhaps a wrong marketing strategy for a world leader! Indian auto market & car-owners surely deserve better deal. Or is it the quality of roads ? But the test drive of Innova was a revelation. It is a great car to drive, enjoy solid re-sale value and not expensive to maintain at all. As a car, it truly deserves all the adulation & reco. 
  • Then I drove a Skoda Yeti. ( When I saw this car with a friend few months back, I fell in love. When I got a drop, I was impressed. Other models of Skoda looked very elegant and more importantly, better value for money. Test drive was a great experience too. I checked out  a 4X2. But liked very much. Felt some minor problem regarding the clutch/gear/transmission. But overall a great vehicle. But, Skoda seem to carry the impression/baggage of bad after sales service. For an expensive asset, that surely is a point of concern.
My heart says, Yeti. Head says 'Innova'. Son says no 'taxi' innova. Wife liked Innova, but now prefers Yeti. I don't want to spend a fortune on a new car !!
I am still evaluating.... a bit confused.... even as auto/automobiles/car-makers-like-maruti-hyundai-honda-volkswagen-and-gm-threaten-price-hikes-to-clear-inventories !!!
The expected price hike is attributed to the cost of production going up and also the diesel-levy expected !! Smart marketing, though very old trick :)

Shall update.. when I decide :)


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