Toyota is all set to launch the Urban Cruiser sub-compact SUV in India and it follows the same approach as with the Baleno and Glanza, although this time there will be more stylistic differences. Will be Urban Cruiser be able carve out a niche for itself? Only time will tell.
Toyota Motor Corporation entered into a partnership with Suzuki Motor Corp back in 2017 for the joint development of products and technology sharing. Three years since then, and we have seen the Toyota Glanza as the only tangible result come out of this partnership. Now again, Toyota is soon going to launch a re-badged Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza as the Urban Cruiser in India, but what promise does it really hold for Toyota? And was Toyota’s experiment with the Glanza any good at all? Let’s look at it in a little more detail.
After Toyota pulled out the Etios range in India, the Glanza was the entry point to the Toyota brand in India. Essentially a re-badged Maruti Suzuki Baleno, Toyota did not experiment much with the Glanza other than simply changing the logo. The Glanza never quite had a separate identity from the Baleno and that is probably what Toyota could have done otherwise. Ever since its launch, Toyota has sold over 26,000 units of the Glanza in India while in the same period, Maruti Suzuki sold over 1.5 lakh units of the Baleno. Of course that also includes the 26,000 units supplied to Toyota to be sold as the Glanza, but even then, the differences are huge.
However, if you look at it from Toyota’s perspective, the Glanza averaged about 2,200 units a month. That’s more than three times of what was the combined average sales of the Etios range in India in the same period of time. Toyota also always knew the Glanza wouldn’t do quite as well as the Baleno as they chose to offer the hatchback only in the top-spec G and V variants, which corresponds to the higher-spec Zeta and Alpha variants of the Baleno. And in spite of that, Toyota managed to keep the prices of the Glanza marginally lower than the Baleno.
Toyota was actually trying to create a niche for the Glanza by offering it only in fully-loaded trims and to that effect, they did not compromise on the option of a CVT automatic gearbox and also Maruti Suzuki mild-hybrid system. Where Toyota really made a difference was with the ownership experience of the car. While the Baleno is offered with a 2 years/40,000 km standard warranty, the Glanza comes with a 3 years/1,00,000 km warranty. Also, while both warranties can be extended up to five years, the Baleno is limited to 1,00,000 km,while warranty for the Glanza goes up to 2,20,000 km. With the stronger after-sales service of Toyota, that’s definitely a niche carved.
This is also not the first time that two brands have decided on product sharing in India. The Renault Nissan Alliance has been following this strategy of product and platform sharing for years now. The Renault Pulse based on the Nissan Micra and the Nissan Terrano based on the Renault Duster are great examples in this case. In both cases, the donor car (in this case the Nissan Micra and the Renault Duster) did better than their counterparts and the results have been quite the same with Toyota and Maruti Suzuki as well.
As for the upcoming Urban Cruiser, Toyota will be positioning this sub-compact SUV as the entry-point into their famed SUV family. Just like the Baleno, the Vitara Brezza too has done wonders for Maruti Suzuki, with it being the best selling sub-compact SUV for July 2020. And that’s despite its change to a petrol heart from diesel. The Vitara Brezza thus seems to be the best starting point. Also this time around, it wouldn’t be just a case of a different badge as the Urban Cruiser will have its own unique styling, only marginally, but enough to make a difference. With also an expected better after sales experience for the Urban Cruiser, just as Toyota did with the Glanza, it remains to be seen how it actually fares in the market.