Nano, the smallest car from the Tata Motors stable, is on the road to recovery, or is it? After a spate of drawbacks in the form of a weak engine and a weaker brand proposition as the cheapest car, which deterred many to own it; the car is trying to bounce back. It is doing so on the back of changed brand promise, improved model, aggressive consumer engagement and experience led marketing initiatives. It recently affiliated with Thomas Chacko, a 62-year old motoring enthusiast, to kick start an 80-day India tour in the Tata Nano 2012.
Chacko says, â€œI have chosen the Tata Nano for this journey because it is a car that has put India on the world motoring map. Despite being the lightest car, and having the smallest engine currently in production worldwide, the Nano can take on every kind of road, especially with its clearance of 180 mm. I have driven a Tata Nano for almost 900 kms across cities and towns and also to Munnar, which is 5,000 feet above sea level. I am now convinced that the Tata Nano will go wherever I take it on my trip.â€
Road to recovery?
So, indeed the car is trying to position itself as one suitable for the Indian terrain, thus trying to overcome the technical glitches it once faced. Hence the new 2012 model has brought in several changes. In November 2011, Tata Motors reintroduced the Tata Nano with improved gasoline engine and better fuel efficiency of 25.4 kmpl (earlier 23.6 kmpl). The carâ€™s 624cc engine now delivers 38PS of power (earlier 35 PS) and 51Nm of torque (earlier 48 Nm). The car is also claimed to release the lowest CO2 emissions among cars in India. Moreover, all the variants come with a warranty of four years or 60,000 kms, whichever is earlier.
Experts feel that by getting a consumer on board as the face of the Indian commuter, the brand is trying to rebuild trust in consumerâ€™s mind and appeal to both the rational and emotional buying behaviour of the consumer. And today most automobile brands are latching onto experiential marketing as a strategic tool to engage consumers directly and making them as representatives of the brand. Tata Nano is following suit.
Experts also feel that though the brand has repositioned itself as the ‘key to happiness’ from its erstwhile promise of being the worldâ€™s cheapest car, the imagery is hard to break. Even though, Tataâ€™s effort in creating an all new market for smaller cars encouraged others to do the same, Nano failed to stir any sort of aspirational value for its own sale. This is because Indians aspire for brands that symbolise success. Even the Tata tag could not push the sales in its initial years after launch. Hence, it is making all round efforts to reconnect with its TG.
The car has, thus, gone full throttle on its BTL activities. The company spokesperson says, â€œTata Motors customises its marketing strategy according to the brands, target groups and activities. We do conduct, experiential marketing, test drives for customer as it allows customers to engage and interact with our products, and personal experiences help people connect to a brand and make intelligent and informed purchasing decisions.â€
The spokesperson also adds, â€œWhile at a brand level, we do conduct Nano mileage rallies, Nano floats in tier II and tier III cities, across locations to increase brand awareness, Tata Motors has also created a platform for driving expeditions for customers.â€
On April 26, 2012, it launched a series of driving expeditions called â€˜Tata Motors Full Throttle Experienceâ€™ for owners of Tata Motors utility vehicles through its motorsport division, Tata Motors Full Throttle in six regions of the country â€“ named as the Himalayan Experience, the Konkan Experience, the Jungle Experience, the Thar Experience, the Kutch Experience and the Nilgiri Experience. â€œThrough these adventurous expeditions Tata Motors utility vehicle owners, can experience the capability of their utility vehicles with logistical, medical and service support from Tata Motors,â€ the company adds. Tata Motors has roped in Cougar Motorsport as the program partner, for planning and execution of these events.
To lend itself a younger appeal, Tata Nano is also taking a fresh look at its young TG. The brand has tied up with music channel MTV to create a facebook page to engage young consumers on a digital road trip. Delna Avari, Head â€“ Nano Product Group, Tata Motors, said in a press note, â€œTata Nano is a personal mobility option for everyone. While it is appealing to various customer groups, irrespective of age, gender, economic strata, and geography we are increasingly becoming the popular choice of mobility amongst youth â€“ about 42 per cent of Nano owners are in the 18 to 34 age group. To engage with the younger customer group, the Nano Drive with MTV is one of the initiatives we have undertaken. It will enable our customers to further understand and experience the brand.â€ The company already boasts of having a fan base of 10 lakh people on facebook.
â€œThe company will continue to encourage such expeditions as it will enable customers to further understand and experience the brand,â€ the company asserts.
It seems that the changes in the carâ€™s make and brand proposition have brought in some positive impact on sales too. According to Tata Motorsâ€™ sales data, 10,475 units of Tata Nano were sold in March 2012. According to the company, it is the highest ever in a month and higher by 20 per cent over 8,707 units, in March 2011. And cumulative sales of the car stood at 74,527 units, a 6 per cent increase compared to 70,432 units, last year. However, one will have to wait and watch if this small increase in numbers actually reflects the changing consumer perception of the brand or not.