Automobile manufacturers are moving beyond the test drive tool to reach out to potential customers. Organising performance drives, creating racing clubs, drive clubs and identifying potential customers and offering a special test drive is what is new in the circuit. Not just the premium segment brands are targeting such activities; the luxury sector also joins the bandwagon.
SKODA utilises this tool to the maximum. They are using this initiative for Yeti and carry out Performance Drives across the country. The softroader is put through a five point obstacle course testing the car’s abilities both as a 4X4 off-roader and as a practical urban transporter. They have a set calendar targeting different cities. SKODA also organised a Float campaign for SKODA Rapid wherein a 38 days journey spanning across 30 towns in Andhra Pradesh took place. Thomas Kuehl, Brand Head, Member of the Board & Director, Sales & Marketing, SKODA Auto India said, “This initiative is designed to penetrate in to small towns and make Rapid more accessible, thereby providing customers with a SKODA experience they can take home.”
Tata has a Driving Expedition series, where in Tata Motors Full Throttle Experience spans across diverse terrains of the country with six expeditions; the Himalayan Experience, the Konkan Experience, the Jungle Experience, the Thar Experience, the Kutch Experience and the Nilgiri Experience. BLAZE DE RAJASTHAN is a competitive one-day off-roading rally also organised by Tata. Jatin Lakra, Head Marketing-Sumo and Grande, Tata Motors said, “After a series of successes in rallies, Tata Motors Full Throttle brings the joy of competitive rallying to all motorsports enthusiast across the country.”
Doing it differently
While some are carrying out these drives, others are associating with driving but with a twist. They are either taking up to driving academies or organising racing events.
Toyota organised a nationwide hunt for the final driver line-up for the Etios Motor Racing (EMR) Series. 25 drivers will be driving the Etios in its racing avatar this year at the Exhibition races in August and October, and next year at the inaugural season of Toyota’s single-make racing series. Commenting on the same, Sandeep Singh, Deputy Managing Director-Marketing, said, “This further emphasises the purpose of an initiative such as this for motorsports in the country.”
Mercedes-Benz, in collaboration with Jaypee Sports International Limited have launched JPSI-AMG Performance Driving Academy at the Buddh International Circuit.
Speaking on the same, Peter Honegg, Managing Director & CEO, Mercedes-Benz India said, “Under the guidance of expert instructors who are themselves former race drivers and champions, our patrons will now have an opportunity to hone their driving skills. Performance driving has come of age in India and the popularity of AMG is testimony to that.”
The luxury segment is also upbeat about this phenomenon. They see good rate of conversion of sales from such events and carry them out not just on Indian shores but worldwide.
Lamborghini observes ‘Track Day’ across the globe and has brought the same to India. 10-15 potential buyers will be invited to the Buddh international circuit to test-drive the machine for over 45 minutes on the track. At Lamborghini, they believe such experiences help a buyer indulge in the vehicle and the encounter influences their purchase decision. Internationally, this concept holds a sales conversion rate of 15 per cent for them.
Audi under the ‘Audi R Drive’ initiative gave a chance to auto enthusiasts to experience the Audi R8 Vee-ten Spyder and the Audi RS5. The Audi R-drive has been organised in Delhi, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai and Hyderabad. Michael Perschke, Head, Audi India said, “Customer delight is one of the pillars on which we plan to build our future and events like these are designed to give our guests a truly once in a lifetime experience.”
This trend rallies from the four wheelers to the two wheelers as well. Bike brands like Harley Davidson and Royal Enfield have been doing the same just a bit differently. Instead of offering driving opportunities to potential buyers, they bring together the existing owners of their machines for rides across different terrains in the country.
Harley has a set calendar for its year round initiatives for such events which are open for bike owners to register to. A fleet of escorts, ambulances, tow trucks and mechanics ride along. All ride adorning the Harley merchandise to create recognition.
Royal Enfield celebrates the first Sunday of April as the Royal Enfield ‘One Ride’ all across the globe where all bike owners are encouraged to ride together. They usually start or end these rides at either their brand stores or dealerships. Himalayan Odyssey, Tour of Bhutan, TOUR OF NH 17, One Ride, Tour of ROK, Tour of Rajasthan and Rider mania are some of its set drives in India.
Clubs and Motor groups
Another significant observation is that all those who are involved in this phenomenon have created separate entities and divisions to overlook such activities.
Tata Motors Full Throttle is a motorsport division of Tata Motors which organises its adventurous expeditions. Etios Motor Racing from Toyota organises their activities that include a driver training programme, mega road shows featuring the TRD powered Etios and Etios Liva racing cars, and exhibition races. Harley has a Harley Owners Group (HOG) with different chapters across India. All these chapters organise rides at the local level.
Beside the traditional marketing strategies, this segment has adopted the ‘feel the experience’ which goes beyond a quick test-drive to lure customers. Getting the feel of a product before making a purchase especially for such high ticket items is a boon for customers. Its adaptation and implementation is further imbibed in a band’s philosophy. Though organising such events come at a cost, if the conversions are good in number, each penny spent is worthwhile.