If you go back about two years or so, you’ll notice that the MPV was declared dead. The segment had little to no customer interest and product sales were dwindling. The Nissan Evalia died a quick death as did its rebadged version, the Ashok Leyland Stile. The Renault Lodgy too failed to make a mark, despite being a well-sorted product and sharing its mechanicals with the successful Duster. Even local manufacturers like Tata failed with the Aria, while Mahindra soldiered on with the Xylo.
Of course, there were success stories too, with the Toyota Innova steam-rolling onwards and Maruti finding success with its Ertiga. On the whole, however, the feeling in the industry towards the MPV was lukewarm and most manufacturers stayed away from the segment. Even Hyundai, who was ready and testing an Ertiga rival, cancelled plans for its launch in favour of the Venue compact SUV.
So what was going on? Was the segment really dead and why was demand so skewed towards a few products while others were virtually ignored? Well, I’ve often said segments rarely die; rather it’s products within them that do. And more often than not with good reason too. Both, the Evalia and the Lodgy, were perhaps too upright and van-like for our liking. The Ertiga and the Innova, on the other hand, have a more palatable streamlined style. The Aria was expensive and making things worse was the fact that it had constant niggles too. The Xylo, though, was more affordable and found buyers with its rugged appeal. The Eeco and Omni too found homes, thanks to the appealing price tags and the peace of mind that’s associated with Maruti.
Despite these success stories, the ever-increasing interest in SUVs overshadowed the MPV, and for a while it looked like we wouldn’t see a new one anytime soon. But then, last year, Mahindra gave us the Marazzo, while Renault has just launched the Triber sub-four-metre MPV to a good initial response. Furthermore, Kia, having created a splash with its Seltos SUV, will follow it up with the Carnival MPV, which will be priced just above the Innova, and will then also have another more affordable MPV based on the Seltos. We’ve even got the luxurious Mercedes V-class and will soon have the Toyota Vellfire in that space too.
So the MPV then is far from finished; the segment has simply been waiting for new models in the race to ascend the throne. Yes, the MPV is dead, long live the MPV!