German brands offer hatchbacks, small cars to target wider market in India

Article by Anita Panait, on April 26, 2013

The German Big 3 -- Mercedes-Benz, Audi AG and BMW AG – are aiming to entice buyers other than the ultra-rich in India as part of their bid to boost luxury car sales in the country. The luxury carmakers are likewise shifting production of smaller and cheaper cars to domestic sites to reduce costs. Aside from the ultra-rich, the luxury carmakers are broadening their target market to include young, female and middle-class drivers in India by offering locally-made hatchbacks and smaller cars.

Eberhard Kern, India managing director of Mercedes-Benz, remarked that 2013 is “a real year of offensive," as the carmaker aims to recover after posting an almost one-third drop in sales in the previous fiscal year. Kern expects the introduction of its hatchback A-Class and a diesel version of its B-class model to boost its sales in India to double-digit figures. Although the sight of premium cars like a Lamborghini or a Bentley is already common in India, sales of luxury vehicles in the country only account for a percent of the total vehicle market.

The German Big 3 looks to change that by taking advantage of the Indian consumers' preference for compact vehicles - which account for around 75 percent of total car sales. However, this move would not guarantee their success, since their luxury hatchbacks are sure to face stiff competition from cheaper mid-market offerings of Toyota Motor Corp and Volkswagen AG.

Likewise, India is considered as a highly cost-sensitive market. Abdul Majeed, automotive leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers India, told Reuters that the luxury carmakers are trying to lower the prices and create a more marketable population. He remarked that in India, a carmaker has to “demonstrate a value-for-money proposition.” He quipped that the luxury carmaker’s main concern would be how to make sure that their vehicles “stand a class apart from the other products.”

The features that manage to stand out when it comes to the exterior design of the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class include the tightly drawn surfaces and the defined edges. Because of how the convex and concave surfaces, mainly on the sides of this model, interact with one another, there’s an interesting play of light.

As a result, it gives this A-Class a very distinct look. The front section is long, has an athletic feel to it, and reveals a V-shape that is more prominent. It comes with typical features such as the separate headlamps and the radiator grille, on the middle of which is the Mercedes star. Looking further, on the sides of this Mercedes star are double slats. The sides also reveal extra air intakes.

Speaking of the side profile, one can easily see the “dropping line” that fades as it nears the front section. Meanwhile the way the headlamps have been designed, paired with how the light functions are set inside, is an important concept of this vehicle’s design concept. Still on the headlamps, at the back of its cover glass are the light modules and the LEDs.

Further, the layout of these elements was done in a manner that it would give the daytime driving lights and the indicators that distinguishing “flare effect.” This “flare” is composed of the bulb sets of the indicators, LED modules of the vehicle’s daytime running lamps, and feature line inside the headlamp. This is a well-known effect the brand is known for and gives the new A-Class that energetic appearance while helping define the brand’s fresh and young face.

Mercedes-Benz Head of Design Gorden Wagener reveals that while it was indeed challenging to transform the brand’s new dynamic style to the compact class, it was also a fun undertaking. Mercedes is known for the sculptural shape of this range, he continues, and there is no doubt that its progressiveness is unlike any other model in the same class.

He explains that the character lines on the sides give the A-Class that terseness and structure. This new dynamic style, he says further, can be noticed immediately on the interior, even with a quick look.

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