The Tata Safari was launched in 1998, a good 4 years before Mahindra brought out the Scorpio. Yet, the Safari has been a perennial struggler in India’s SUV market while the Scorpio has gone on from strength to strength. Both SUVs have their strengths and weaknesses, but what’s it that makes the Mahindra outsell the Tata? Today, we attempt to answer that.
Initial pricing makes or breaks the fortunes of cars in India. Launched in 1998, a 8.25 lakh rupee starting price for the Tata Safari meant that it was more expensive than most C-Segment sedans of its time. Tata positioned the Safari as a luxury SUV, but the initial price was too much for most buyers.
This pigeonholed the Safari into the “pricey” category, 4 years later, when Mahindra launched the Scorpio, they plastered a 5.5 lakh rupee price tag to the SUV. Needless to say, many sedan buyers now had a realistic shot at buying a home grown, butch SUV. The Scorpio was an instant hit.
Mahindra has some clever people in its product planning and marketing departments, for they know how to milk the Scorpio brand to the maximum. That explains the Scorpio EX/S2 for you. This no-frills, base variant of the SUV exists just to bring more buyers into the Scorpio brand. It has an underpowered diesel engine, and is yet a mega hit in rural and semi-urban markets. Reason? It rides on the strong brand, and is very affordable. Is there any comparable Safari? No, sir.
Though the Safari 2.2 DICOR saw a downward repositioning after the Storme was launched, the move came too late in the day.
Where are facelifts/refreshes?
The Safari that was launched 1998, isn’t very different from the Safari 2.2 DICORs that sell today, looks wise. And 17 years is a long, long time. The Storme, which is a much improved version of the Safari, took a premium route right from day one, and failed. You can’t offer fewer features and ask for more money when you’re Tata and not Toyota. Just look at the number of times the Scorpio has been refreshed, visually, mechanically, and in terms of the features on offer.
The Safari and Storme have been updated less frequently, and when the updates came, marketing didn’t work hard enough. And talking about the number of features on offer, the lesser said the better. The Indian car/SUV buyer is a sucker for features. The Scorpio has and had cruise control, tyre pressure monitoring, a idle stop system, 4X4 on lower variants, and we could go on and on. It appears that Tata Motors simply stopped getting imaginative with the Safari and Storme.
Underpowered, until now
The Storme now has 400 Nm, and is much faster than the Scorpio, which makes do with just 280 Nm. Both SUVs have 2.2 liter engines that even share common ancestry (AVL Austria engineered both motors). While the Scorpio’s engine feels smooth and peppy right from word go, the Storme’s engine (until the 400 Nm variant) has always felt ponderous. And the extra flab on the Safari and Storme didn’t help matters either. And Tata continues to offer 320 Nm and 400 Nm variants of the Storme when it could easily make the 400 Nm tune available across variants. Why confuse buyers? Also see – Safari Storme beats Scorpio/XUV/Fortuner
Good ads come from ad makers, not from Tata’s in-house marketeers. But ads alone can’t sell cars. The failure of many a Tata vehicle can be attributed to poor marketing rather than the a weak product. And the product planners haven’t been doing the Safari range a favour either. When Mahindra offered an affordable 4X4 variant on the Scorpio (read LX and S4), you need to buy the top end variant of the Storme to get 4X4.
And there’s no automatic option on the Safari, despite the vehicle preceding the Scorpio by nearly half a decade. Then there’s the case of ABS and Airbags being available on the top-end variants of the Storme. In contrast, Mahindra has now made ABS and Airbags available as an option even on the S4 variants. What does this tell you? Mahindra’s product planners and marketeers are clearly faster than the ones at Tata Motors, and this is making all the difference.
Image courtesy Team-BHP