The Citroen C3 is “inspired by India”. The Skoda Kushaq is “tailored for India”. The VW Taigun, obviously, must be the same.
Earlier too, global automakers launched vehicles tailored to Indian requirements. Then there have been ones inspired by sharks, cheetahs and baboons, which I can understand as nature is truly a great inspiration. Tom Tjaarda, one of the world’s finest automotive designers, had once told me the story of how the crouching panther inspired him to do the DeTomasoPantera.
I can understand regulations leading to a new category like the sub-four-metre vehicle. I can understand road conditions mandating higher ground clearances, or even the summer to install stronger air-conditioning and packing three adults in the rear to modify the seat design.
But I cannot understand words like ‘inspired’ and ‘tailored’. If a vehicle is really inspired by India, does it incorporate elements of Indian culture or behaviour to make it better suited? Ford had once talked about designing a flat dashboard so that we could place our gods and goddesses with ease, which is an inspiration of sorts. Is having ORVMs with manual adjustments Indian? Or is not having a rear wiper washer one? If the automaker knows that typically three Indians sit in the rear, would it persist with a transmission well that is more of a ‘wall’?
Does being ‘tailored’ imply cost-cutting? Does it mean the automaker cuts and snips out the really good bits of safety and interior quality to make the vehicle affordable? If the automaker would really tailor its vehicle for India, then the steering wheel stalks would be swapped from LHD to RHD with the light stalk on the right.
The saree guard on the motorcycle was truly inspired by Indian usage behaviour. The sub-four-metre vehicle is a product of a regulation and not any cultural insight. Apart from the stronger AC, higher ground clearance, flatter dashboard, and thinner rear-seat cushioning, have we seen any specific feature in a vehicle that shouts out “I am Indian”? Not really, and that is the way it should be, as Indians aspire of vehicles that are inspired by the best in the world. They look forward to vehicles tailored to providing the safest and most comfortable drive.
Such expressions might have worked in the 1990s. Then we were still enamoured with the Western world recognising India as a market, therefore the mention of a vehicle tailored to the customers here was a matter of pride.
Today, they seem patronising and artificial. They create no positive impact on consumer choice.
The automakers who still use such statements have not yet reconciled with ground reality and sit on their horses. Candour, frankness, and an element of transparency works. You do not need to declare yourself as a “marvel of German engineering”. That should typically be a desired consumer response!