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The Alto and the 800 have long been Maruti Suzuki’s best selling models. However, more stringent emission norms have meant the 800 has been removed from sale in major cities. The Alto, on the other hand, has gone on to become India’s best selling car, despite being a little behind the times when it comes to design. Both the 800 and the Alto have been great sellers for the company for years, but they were due for a revamp.
After a dip in sales of the Alto, the company carried out a makeover of the chassis and released the Maruti Suzuki Alto 800 under the A-Star. It has been just four months since the launch and the sales figures are astounding, even setting several milestones. So far, an average of 25,000 units per month have been sold. Perhaps this is not as surprising when one considers that even before the actual launch it clocked a record breaking 6,500 sales. Within the first week, it had already broken another record by reaching the 21,000 mark. While other players such as Ford, Toyota and General Motors saw dips in sales in November 2012, Maruti Suzuki sales witnessed a strong increase. Continuing this trend, within just 124 days, sales of the Alto 800 reached the 1 lakh (100,000) milestone.
Needless to say, automobile manufacturers who do not have Indian bases do not reach such numbers annually. The Hyundai Eon and the Chevrolet Spark, which are considered to be Alto 800’s main rivals, do not sell even half of what the Alto sells per month. The country’s confidence in the Maruti Suzuki brand has enabled this level of success and the brand’s dominance of the Indian car market.
Maruti Suzuki has been promoting the Alto for over 10 years and in order for them to continue to do so, they have revamped both the exterior and interior, reflecting a more modern and attractive design. The Maruti Suzuki Alto 800 is more spacious than its predecessors; it has more leg, shoulder and head room and it is the brand’s first to get the new front grille design. It is possible that the company will introduce this design feature on other models as well. The platform and engine options remain the same, though the fuel efficiency has reportedly improved by 15%. The CNG (compressed natural gas) version, which is available in India, has a very efficient mileage of 30 km per litre.
Small cars are not guaranteed to be successful in the Indian car market. A good example of this would be the Tata Nano which, despite huge publicity, has not seen the high sales that were expected. However, Honda, which recently launched the Amaze sedan, is toying with the idea of creating a low-price car under the Brio model which it claims will compete with the Maruti Suzuki Alto 800 and the Hyundai Eon. Only time will tell if they are successful in their endeavour, but presently it looks as though Maruti Suzuki has made a brilliant move by introducing the Alto 800 which is likely to increase consumer confidence in their brand and keep ahead of competition.
As of April, Mumbai commuters will have to shell out a little extra for tickets on their regular bus routes on municipal busses. According to the announcement by Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport (BEST), boarding state-run busses will typically cost 20% more per person. In November 2012, BEST decided to raise ticket prices for ordinary busses by 1 INR and by 5 INR for air-conditioned busses from April. However, these rates are now being revised due to the impending hike in fare prices.
Passengers will now be expected to pay a minimum of 1 INR extra for a ticket which will increase according to the distance travelled. The charges for all categories, including passes, are expected to cost substantially more. The rise in bus fares will affect a large population of commuters who use the BEST public service on a daily basis.
The rising price of fuel and diesel is the primary reason for the increase in fares. The price of diesel has been increasing steadily with the Central Government adopting the policy to remove the diesel subsidy. Diesel prices recently increased by 11 INR per litre for bulk customers. For BEST, the increase in fuel prices and compressed natural gas signals an additional cost of 43 crore INR (8.6 million USD) which can only be recovered by increasing fare prices.
It is estimated that BEST busses ferry about 2.5 million people across Mumbai every day. It will be this section of the population which will have to bear the brunt of the BEST bus fare hike. In addition, local train fares also went up recently and now cost an additional 4 to 17 INR depending on the distance travelled.
Increasing fares simply to meet the expenses of rising fuel prices raises several questions. Passengers are expected to shell out more even though the quality of service remains the same. From a consumer’s standpoint, fare increases can be better understood if services are extended or undergo improvement.
It is clear that the state transport authority cannot incur losses in its operations. However, other options need to be explored to minimise the burden of increased fares on commuters. For example, the price hike could be transferred more onto certain premium travelling options, such as air-conditioned busses or certain passes.
The state government could also intervene in order to ease the burden on commuters, for instance provisions for subsidies for the transport department could be set aside. This would certainly ease the burden of Indian tax-payers who are already facing high commodity prices and rising inflation.
Any public fare increases are bound to run into opposition as it goes against the interests of the public. However, when price hikes are justified and a visible difference is made to a service, the opposition is certainly less.