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Maruti Suzuki India eyes the net-savvy set with new showrooms

Plans complete revamp of its sales channel in next three to five years

Maruti Suzuki Arena showrooms will sport a modern appearance and have a deep integration with digital technology.

NEW DELHI -- Maruti Suzuki India, the country's top-selling automaker aiming for sales of 2 million units a year by 2020, announced Wednesday that it is revamping retail outlets via deep integration with digital technology, mainly to attract younger customers.

The company, in which Japan's Suzuki Motor owns a 56% stake, sold over 1.56 million vehicles in the fiscal year ended March. Its new Maruti Suzuki Arena showrooms will enable customers to explore the product portfolio through interactive touch screens and electronically personalize the vehicles they want by mixing and matching accessories.

"Our target of 2 million in 2020 is not just a target," said Kenichi Ayukawa, Maruti Suzuki's managing director and CEO. "How we achieve this milestone is equally important

Maruti Suzuki aims to woo new-age, tech-savvy customers with its Arena showrooms.

to us."

"We continue to bring in technology and quality into products alongside" focusing on the "quality of our network," he said, adding that the company has now embarked on a transformation of its regular sales channel -- which has over 2,000 outlets nationwide.

The company, which has nearly a 50% market share, pointed out that nearly 75% car buyers in India research online before they decide on purchases.

Arena customers can book their cars or even personalize them through a new website launched by the company.

"Maruti Suzuki Arena will enhance transparency and delight customers with an exciting purchase experience, seamlessly from the digital space to physical showrooms," Ayukawa said.

Rivals like Tata Motors, the fifth-largest player in the passenger car segment in India, are also reportedly making showrooms more technology-empowered to woo youth.

In the current fiscal year ending next March, the company plans to set up 80 Arena showrooms, and it will revamp the entire existing network in the next three to five years.

"A wide and healthy network of sales and service outlets gives confidence to customers" and helps build a "long-term relationship between the company and customers," Ayukawa said.

The investment of about 10 million rupees to 15 million rupees ($156,280 to $234,406) in each of the new showrooms will be dealer-centric, while Maruti Suzuki will provide support in the form of technology and design.

"Our dealers are prepared for this kind of investment and all are willing for this transformation as we are marching toward our journey of 2020," said R.S. Kalsi, senior executive director for marketing and sales.

As of now, the automaker does not plan to have its own dealerships. "We are buying the land for ourselves which will be given on lease to our existing dealers," Kalsi said.

Dynamism is the key word for the company, he said: "Our customers are evolving. We have to be equally equipped and should be giving them a seamless experience."

In July, Maruti Suzuki debuted service shops under its premium Nexa brand, which sells such models as the Baleno, Ciaz, Ignis and S-Cross. Nexa was launched in July 2015, and the brand now has over 200 showrooms. On Aug. 10, the company announced a revamp of its operations under True Value, its pre-owned-cars brand.

On the difference between Nexa and Arena, Maruti Suzuki says the cars will be divided between the two brands, based on customers' personality traits. "Nexa is more about sophistication, while this [Arena] is more about [being] trendy and about friendliness," Kalsi said.

Today's new-age customers are net-savvy and well-informed, Kalsi noted. "They know exactly what they want and they make sure they have enough knowledge of the product before they go to a showroom to make a purchase," he said.

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