Launched in 2017, the Tata Nexon compact SUV became an instant hit particularly due to its part-SUV, part-coupe styling. “The Indian car buyer can be conservative with their choice, but very often they do surprise you,” explains Shailesh Chandra, managing director of Tata Motors’ Passenger Car Division, “and it’s also because the average [buyer’s] age is coming down.”
Sixty-three percent of Nexon buyers are less than 35 years of age. Add practicality, features, value and a sense of toughness to the mix, and in no time, Nexon became one of Tata’s bestsellers (after the Tiago).
Within 46 months of its launch, the Nexon zoomed past the 2,00,000 sales milestone, but what’s truly impressive is that Tata moved the next 1,00,000 units in just eight months time, demonstrating a significant uptick in sales in FY2021-’22. Today, Nexon has risen in rank not only to become the bestselling product from the house of Tata, but it’s also the bestselling SUV in the country, consistently featuring in the top 5 overall. So what’s been the reason behind this tremendous growth?
A 1.2-litre turbo-petrol and a 1.5-litre diesel engine with a 6-speed manual transmission have powered this compact SUV since its launch, albeit in an updated avatar. Tata also added automated manual transmission (AMT) options with both engines to the range in 2018.
Over the years, as the difference between cost of diesel and petrol kept narrowing down, and diesel engines got pricier to meet stringent emission regulations, buyer preferences (in the market) have gradually shifted towards petrol engines. Once contributing to over 50 percent of total sales, the Nexon diesel now constitutes less than 20 percent. But to counter this slump, in 2020, Tata revealed an ace up its sleeve – its all-electric iteration.
Tata has hit the ball out of the park with the Nexon EV. Having found the right balance between practicality and affordability, the Nexon EV doesn’t merely dominate the EV space in India, but it has tremendously boosted buyer confidence to go electric. The EV’s sales contribute 15-20 percent to overall Nexon’s sales, with demand growing by the day, and waiting periods stretching to as long as six months for certain variants. A longer-range Nexon EV Max recently joined the range, and the company claims that demand is so strong, waiting periods rose to four months just days after its launch. The EV’s outstanding success has had a halo effect on both the Nexon’s as well as Tata’s image.
And while on the topic of image, the Nexon (internal combustion engine) grabbed the spotlight in 2018 when it became the first Indian car to ever achieve 5 stars in Global NCAP crash tests for adult occupant protection. Tata built on the Nexon’s stellar performance in the crash tests by adding additional safety kit like ESP. With aggressive marketing communication, not only did the company raise awareness with respect to crash protection and safety in the country, but it also built the Nexon’s image as a safe compact SUV.
Upping the Nexon’s desirability quotient was the ‘Dark’ edition introduced in July 2021. “We wanted to execute a take on black, or in this case 'hashtag Dark’, which has not been seen before in the market. And the results have been absolutely staggering,” comments Rajan Amba, vice president, Sales, Marketing and Customer Care, Tata Motors Passenger Vehicles Ltd.
Further, Tata introduced one more variant in the shape of the ‘Kaziranga edition’ which launched wearing a special paint shade, featuring faux wood and leatherette upholstery on the inside. Special variants aside, higher variants of the Nexon also feature premium kit like a sunroof, touchscreen with Android and Apple connectivity, digital dials, Harman speakers as well as ventilated seats to entice buyers.
The semiconductor shortage has disrupted the supply chain in the automobile industry, resulting in waiting periods that stretch to several months. Some companies have learnt to work their way around this supply constraint, either by deleting certain features, prioritising production of certain models over others, or finding different suppliers to meet demands.
Tata states “various mitigation steps such as close engagement with semiconductor suppliers, evaluating alternate designs, aligning production and making changes in product configurations are being deployed.”
On one hand, where the Kia Sonet and Hyundai Venue – both of which were once strong sellers for their respective brands – were plagued by excruciatingly long waiting periods extending to several months in FY2020-’21, Tata Motors identified this as an opportunity, and pushed Nexon sales, capitalising on the supply constraints of its competitors.
“We have one of the best delivery timelines in the industry,” comments Amba. “And, of course, it depends on the specific variant, but I think overall we've been increasing our supply to the market and that's why we've seen success. We've also been able to dramatically reduce our waiting periods across the board.”
While having a quicker delivery advantage over its rivals was a temporary shot in the arm for Tata. Now, with consistently strong sales, the Nexon’s waiting periods today range between one to four months, with the EV’s going up to six months.