Are D-segment cars losing their relevance in India?

One word. Yes. The Honda Civic was once a favourite in this segment, the Rs. 12 lakh to Rs. 18 lakh segment. Now, it has been discontinued. The Toyota Corolla Altis is the only D-segment sedan that consistently sells in three digit figures, crossing a thousand units only a couple of times in the past six months.

Honda Civic
Honda Civic, once upon a time a D-Segment favourite.

 

The Skoda Octavia, Chevrolet Cruze and Renault Fluence have all been in two digit figures in the past two months, while the Hyundai Elantra, despite the company’s great dealer reach manages an average of about 200 units a month.

2014 Toyota Corolla Altis 3
The Toyota Corolla Altis, the lone ranger in the D-Segment pack that still manages to sell close to four digits each month.

 

 

 

Contrast the performance of the cars in this price segment with that of SUVs in the same price bracket and you’ll see it’s not really about the money. People are spending money – but they seem to be spending it on SUVs instead. Why, look at the Rs. 25 lakh price segment as well and you would find Toyota grinning all the way to the bank with the Fortuner selling an average of over 1,300 units a month.

Mahindra XUV500
The Mahindra XUV500 crossover has singlehandedly killed the entire D-Segment sedan pack in terms of sales.

 

The Mahindra XUV500, Renault Duster, Mahindra Scorpio all sell in the thousands. The Mahindra XUV500 in particular is bang in the middle of the price band of D-segment sedans and it sells more SUVs in a single month than all the D-segment sedans put together, averaging over 2,300 units in the past six months.

That brings us back to the question – are the D-segment sedans really losing their relevance here? Well, it seems so for four reasons.

2014 Renault Duster AWD 36
The top-end variants of the Renault Duster are also encroaching on D-Segment sedans’ traditional market.

 

One – buyers who are not really particular about a body type see more value in a crossover or SUV like the XUV500, Mahindra Scorpio, Tata Safari Storme or Renault Duster and Nissan Terrano. These vehicles offer pretty decent ride comfort (of course, definitely not close to what these sedans can offer), but more importantly offer better versatility. Some of these are seven seaters. Others have more ground clearance and are more rugged – and given the daily grind many face in the urban commute, they have better road presence.

2014 Honda City Sedan
The Honda City, a C-Segment sedan with D-Segment space.

 

Two – price conscious buyers see far more value in cars a segment lower. The reason being that carmakers have really loaded up the goodies in the C-segment sedans such as the Honda City, Hyundai Verna, Volkswagen Vento and Maruti Ciaz. These cars offer almost all the features that D-segment sedans offer (in some cases more features than some of the D-segment sedans). Sun roofs, reverse cameras, automatic climate control, six-speed or seven speed automatic transmissions, name the feature and you’ll get them on C-segment sedans. So why splurge for a D-segment car?

Three – C-segment sedans have now begun to offer similar space as well (and again in some cases more space). Look at the Honda City and Maruti Ciaz for example, these cars priced between Rs. 8 lakh and Rs. 12 lakh offer far more space than say a Chevrolet Cruze or Toyota Altis, especially for the chauffeur driven. So why pay extra?

Honda, in fact, withdrew the Civic and has tried to straddle the price gap with the new Honda City – offering space, features and great drivability at a price band that straddles both segments. Toyota on the other hand does not really have a car in the middle of the C-segment. It has the Altis in the D-segment that’s holding on as the leader at under a 1,000 units a month, while the next car it has is the Etios at the upper end of the entry-level sedan segment. Since the D-segment has not shown any growth ever since SUVs came in and robbed the segment of its numbers, carmakers too are focussing mainly on the C-segment and luxury segment.

DC Mercedes Benz A-Class 1
The A-Class luxury hatchback is the most affordable Mercedes Benz car in town.

 

And finally, four – the lower price of luxury brands. The Mercedes A-Class, B-Class, BMW 1-Series, Audi A3 and upcoming A3 hatchback are all within striking distance of the D-segment sedans price wise, with price tags starting a shade over 20 lakhs for the entry-level models. That puts many buyers in a dilemma – top-end D-segment sedan or a luxury marque?

What are your thoughts on D-segment sedans? Share them in the comments below.