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In its bid to maintain its lead over rivals like Honda Cars India and Hyundai Motor India, which have of late come out with new small cars and have some more in the pipeline, market leader Maruti Suzuki India plans to launch a completely new premium hatchback within the next two years.
Due for launch in 2015-16, Maruti’s new premium small car — code named ‘YRA’ — will be produced both in India and in Hungary for the European market. It is likely to be sold under an entirely new brand positioned above its existing premium hatchbacks Swift and Ritz. Incidentally, the Ritz will also see a facelift (2015), while the Swift will first see a facelift (2014) and then a full model change (2017).
Though Maruti is the undisputed leader in the small car segment with a 48% market share, industry sources said it needs to guard its turf as both Honda and Hyundai are coming with new launches — a refurbished Jazz and i20, respectively — by next year.
Strengthening small car portfolios is today the focus of most mass segment carmakers since small cars have about a 54% share in the 27-lakh-unit domestic passenger vehicle volumes.
Maruti currently has seven brands in this segment including the popular WagonR, Alto and Swift.
"Maruti is developing a new model in order to expand its premium hatchback range to tackle the fresh competition coming from nearly all rivals. Also, what works in its favour is that premium hatchbacks like the Swift have been doing well because owners of cars like the Alto are upgrading to the next level,” a source said.
A second source in the auto supplier industry confirmed the development. “The new YRA model could fit somewhere between the Swift and the Ritz, but the company may also position it above the Swift. It will definitely offer a diesel engine option as well. Development is in the advanced stages both in Japan (parent Suzuki Motor) and in India,” the person said.
When contacted, a Maruti Suzuki spokesperson said, “We will not comment on product plans.”
Maruti Suzuki, one of the earliest international carmakers to enter India in 1984, today has an over 40% market share of the overall market and has been able to weather the slowdown of the last two years better than competitors because of its wide range of products, vast distribution