To further leverage the growing popularity of motorsports in India, Tata Motors, recently announced its third Full Throttle Trail event in the NCR region. The first two trails were launched in Chandigarh and Ludhiana, earlier this year. While the company states that its intention is to familiarise enthusiasts with rally sports, experts feel that it is yet another way to promote the brand. In fact some experts are of the view that Tata wants to get rid of its truck and economical transport vehicle image. Perhaps, the automobile brand is also trying to engage potential customers with the latest improved offerings of the brand with such events.
According to Ashesh Dhar, Head Utility Vehicles, Tata Motors, there is a lack of off-roading tracks and is in much demand. “Full Throttle Trails will give enthusiasts an opportunity to not only experience the thrill, ruggedness and toughness of their Tata Motors SUVs, but to also familiarise themselves with some serious off-road driving techniques in a planned and safe manner. Besides, Full Throttle Trails also offers customers a quick weekend getaway in the proximity of their respective cities.”
The event is targeting only the SUV owners of Tata Motors, namely the Sumo Gold, Aria, Sumo Grande, Safari 4×4, Sumo 4×4 and the Xenon XT. To qualify as winners, the brand puts forth challenges that the participants have to complete within a fixed timeframe.
In addition, Tata Motors has planned more than 21 Trails for the whole year. The tracks are within the limits of the cities and have been tailor made according to the skill level of both professional and amateur drivers.
Auto Expert, Murad Ali Baig explains that the event gives people something to talk about. He says that 100-150 people will not increase the sales or numbers but would talk about the event and thus market the vehicle and experience. “The whole event is to develop a ‘macho’ image brining in the adventurous and sporty aspect into the brand. For example when Tata Safari was launched in the sub Rs 10 lakh category of SUVs, it did not fare very well as the engine was poor. Now that the whole vehicle has seen a lift with a good engine and better looks, the company would like to show it off.”
According to him the audience that participates is much lesser than the audience that reads about the event, looks at photographs and watches videos of the same.
“Tata has always been labelled under the truck image and utility vehicles that are economical. The reason why it does such events is to lift the existing image. There is a tremendous scope of photographic opportunities with vehicles jumping over sand dunes and zipping through mud patches, which give it an adventurous touch. The fun part is filmed and later used in advertisements to draw and engage prospective audience,” he adds.
However, Tata is not the only home grown brand paving the road for the off-road enthusiasts, Mahindra also hosts a similar event called the ‘Great Escape’ where it puts its SUV consumers to test the rugged terrain of deserts, hills and thickets. It is probably the entry of global players and growth of the SUV market in India that Indian brands are now taking the segment more seriously. With the entry of Renault Duster, Skoda Yeti, Ford EcoSport and Premier Rio among many others, the SUV market is surely heating up.
On the same issue Baig says that there has been a large invasion of low cost SUVs in the country. “Like Renault launched its Duster, Ford is set to launch its Eco Sport and Mahindra is expected to launch a mini Xylo. SUV market is growing at an exponential rate. Therefore putting an S to the UV is what Tata is after. Tata wants to make the consumers aware of the offerings it has in the sub Rs 10 lakh range, which will compete with other SUVs in the category.”
Tata Motors is expecting to receive more than 60 Tata Motors SUV owners from the event. For the record, the Trail will be flagged-off from Tivoli Garden, Chhatarpur in New Delhi, and will proceed to Pali Village near Faridabad.
Baig calls the entire exercise a gimmick to lure existing and potential customers of premium cars like Mercedes M and G class BMW X series, Audi Q series Porsche Cayenne for such endeavours in Aamby Valley, Pune, Maharastra under the garb of advanced driver training.
To further strengthen Baig’s stand, Adil Jal Darukhanawala, Editor in Chief, ZigWheels says, “In India such adventure sporting activities are undertaken not only by Tata but Ford, Mahindra and Maruti also. Therefore one cannot call it the only mass segment brand that is foraying into this line.”
He further adds that it is not only an image building exercise but awareness also. “One does get to learn from the experts on the field. Even Mercedes does the same; it has a wide range of UVs but that does not make them a UV brand. One can call it a consumer engagement activity, but one cannot ignore the fact that every brand wants to sell as many products as possible.”
Bob Rupani, Associate Editor Auto Car India and Travel enthusiast tells a different tale, “From the events that I have attended, there is not much education that is imparted. Both Tata and Mahindra that are home grown brands are feeling pressure with the new UVs from different companies entering the market. Therefore they want to make their brand visible. It is a brand building event that Tata is doing to directly engage its utility vehicle customers. Involvement in sporty activities will eventually portray Tata as a brand that associates itself with adventure and sports.”
However, the brand projects the event as one that lets the SUV customers take a break from the regular day to day driving experience and get the feel of extreme off-roading. It concluded the Himalayan expedition and is focusing at the Konkan expedition as a part of its six expedition trials. Tata has also taken part in rallies such as the Desert Storm, Dakshin Dare, Raid De Himalaya, Eastern Mountain Safari rally, Mughal rally and the Hornbill International Motor rally in the past.