Hyundai Motor India Limited (HMIL), the wholly owned Indian arm of South Korean carmaker Hyundai, has pulled the plug on its beloved Santro, its entry-level hatchback, which helped the carmaker cement its position in the Indian market. The company has ceased production of the vehicle in its Tamil Nadu-based plant. The Santro was given another lease of life by Hyundai in 2018, after first discontinuing the original run of hatchbacks—launched in 1998—in 2014.

While the company has not clarified what exactly led to pulling the plug on the iconic small, peppy car, the sales of the Santro had dwindled considerably—especially when juxtaposed with the historical sales. The sales of the previous iteration of the Santro peaked in FY '12, when it sold about 51,514 units domestically. During FY '22, the model’s sales stood at around 23,700 units. However, the demand has been tepid, when compared to some of the hatchbacks produced by Maruti Suzuki, which are some of the most-selling models in India. The recent consumer shift towards SUVs is also believed to be the reason for underwhelming numbers.

The underwhelming sales figures of the Santro made its production untenable for the carmaker. It is also understood that the company had to rejig the prices of the Santro on multiple occasions, and post the implementation of the BS6 emission norms, the price of the higher variants of the Santro reached upto ₹7-lakh (ex-showroom). This made the car buyers opt for more premium hatchbacks, including Hyundai’s Grand i10. The recent mandate to install six airbags in passenger vehicles, which would have further increased the price of the Santro and wouldn’t have justified its price-tag.

The shelving of the Santro is also understood to be a glum reminder of how the lowest rung of carbuyers—the entry-level segment—is becoming scant, as rising costs and dwindling disposable incomes is gatekeeping the purchase of a car from a large section of the population. RC Bhargava, the chairman of Maruti Suzuki who famously called this microcosm of car buyers as “Bharat”, has averred that the reason why consumer preferences have skewed towards SUVs is because buying and maintaining a car is increasingly becoming out of reach from people.

Concurrently, the carmaker announced a strategic partnership with Tata Power. Under this partnership, HMIL plans to facilitate installation of Tata Power's DC 60 kW fast chargers across 34 of its EV Dealer locations in 29 cities — in addition to the existing AC 7.2 kW chargers. Its existing dealer network is equipped with AC 7.2 kW chargers, and the carmaker aims to expand the charging infra network across its pan-India dealerships.

“This partnership will power-up the nations’ electric mobility mission by offering end-to-end EV charging infrastructure at HMIL dealerships along with supply, installation and commissioning of home charging for HMIL EV customers, thereby, enhancing customer convenience and ease of adoption of electric vehicles,” says Unsoo Kim, MD & CEO, Hyundai Motor India Limited. “Tata Power's expertise in EV charging space coupled with comprehensive charging solutions and countrywide ownership of Hyundai vehicles, will help in the development of sustainable mobility infrastructure, boosting faster EV adoption,” adds Praveer Sinha, CEO & MD, Tata Power.

Under this collaboration, public EV charging stations at Hyundai dealership locations will be installed and end-to-end charging solutions at home will be offered. The charging stations at Hyundai dealerships will be open for all electric vehicle customers and accessible through Hyundai and Tata Power EZ Charge Mobile App. HMIL will facilitate through its dealerships, space and necessary administrative approvals, while Tata Power will operate and maintain the charging stations.

Currently, Hyundai only offers the Kona Electric in its EV portfolio. It sold 23 units in April ’22, compared to 10 units in April ’21, according to data compiled by Federation of Automobile Dealers Association (FADA). However, it is set to launch an India-bound electric SUV, the Ioniq 5, in the second half of this year. The Ioniq 5 was adjudged as the Car of the Year in 2022. In ICE-powered PV segment, Hyundai is only second to Maruti Suzuki — having dispatched 44,001 vehicles in April’22.

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