The competition in the executive segment consisting mainly of Corolla, Octavia and Optra models, is getting tougher with carmakers introducing newer variants to get a better share in the market.
For the first four months (January-April) of the current calendar year, the 1.8 lt Corolla sold around 3,415 units while Optra sold 3,464 units largely because of the 1.6 lt variant introduced recently. Skoda, which has the 1.9 lt and 2 lt engines, sold around 2,400 units during the period. "This segment is showing a healthy growth over the last year and carmakers are trying various strategies to pump up sales," an auto analyst said. Corolla with a 1.8 lt engine is priced in the range of Rs 9.4 lakh and Rs 11 lakh, while Octavia with two variants, the 1.9 lt turbo diesel and the 2 lt petrol, is in the price range of Rs 10.3 lakh and Rs 13.5 lakh. Chevvy Optra has two variants, the 1.6 lt and 1.8 lt engines, which are in the price range of Rs 7.3 lakh to Rs 10.5 lakh.
In January, Corolla sales crossed the 1,000-mark. Optra sold 1,470 units during March largely because of the 1.6 lt variant. Corolla does not have a 1.6 lt variant. General Motors' Vice-President (Corporate Affairs), Mr P. Balendran, said Optra has emerged as a market leader in its segment with a nearly 31 per cent share.
While Corolla continues to lead in the 1.8 lt segment, the fierce competition is making car manufacturers to launch newer variants to get better sales. Skoda is all set to launch Octavia Rider towards the end of May while General Motors recently launched an anniversary edition of Optra. "It is not enough making cosmetic changes in the car anymore and pass it off as a variant. Customers are becoming discerning more than ever before," Skoda's General Manager (Marketing), Mr Bipin Datar, said.
Mr Datar had earlier said the company will launch an automatic version of the 1.9 lt diesel engine Octavia Rider and a more powerful 1.8 lt 146 bhp model will be launched in petrol version by July. This model will eventually replace the existing 2 lt, 111 bhp petrol version. Skoda expects to increase its sales to around 8,500 units during the current calendar year from 4,656 in 2003.
Quoting the results of a study, the Deputy Managing Director of Toyota Kirloskar, Mr K.K. Swamy, had earlier said that the cost of ownership of a Corolla is far lesser when compared with its competitors. "We enjoy the least parts to car price percentage. The study showed that a Corolla owner spends less on his vehicle than others," Mr Swamy said. Toyota plans to sell around 12,000 units of Corolla this year, which is nearly 33 per cent more than last year, while General Motors plans to sell around 12,000 units for 2004. Skoda expects to sell around 7,900 units of Octavia during the year.