NEW DELHI, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Tata Motors Ltd, India’s top automaker by revenue, is looking to shake off its image as a taxi supplier by targeting younger customers with its new Bolt hatchback model.
Tata, whose cars are mainly bought by fleet taxi operators, has recruited more than 1,200 people in the last couple of months at its Indian dealerships to push sales of the new car to a different audience.
“For a long time Tata Motors has been selling to fleet customers, and selling to them is very different from selling to individuals and families,” said Mayank Pareek, president of Tata Motors’ passenger vehicles business.
Pareek was hired from Maruti Suzuki Ltd., India’s top-selling car maker by volume, in September.
He will be expected to help the company regain market share after its sales dropped 37 percent to 33,157 units in the June 2014 quarter from a year earlier.
Faced with slowing sales in its domestic business, Tata Motors has been reliant on sales by luxury British carmaker Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), which it bought in 2008, to prop up profits for the past few years.
In August, Tata launched its first car in four years, a compact sedan called Zest, and plans to introduce two brand new cars in India each year until 2020. It has sold 15,000 Zest cars, more than half of which were sold to buyers aged under 35.
“This profile of customers made us redefine how we should sell to these people,” Pareek told Reuters, adding that 60 percent of the demand was for petrol cars.
The factory gate price for the Bolt’s base level petrol variant in New Delhi is 444,993 rupees ($7,225) and the car would compete with Maruti’s Ritz and Honda Motor’s Brio at that price point.
“There has been a correction and new ideas have been implemented,” said Puneet Gupta, associate director at consultant IHS automotive, adding that Pareek is using strategies that helped Maruti push its sales.
He said that the move will augur well for the sales but will take a while before the company is able to change its image. ($1 = 61.5900 Indian rupees) (Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Keith Weir)