Its ironic that the MD of Mahindra & Mahindra, Pawan Goenka, the company which literally nurtured and grew India’s small nibbling for SUVs into a gluttonous, voracious appetite, should say that Indians use too big car by size for moving a single person.
While talking at an alumni event organised by his alma mater IIT-Kanpur, he said, “said Indians weighing 65-70 kg use an entire 1,500 kg car to travel individually.” Obviously, this was hint at the wastage of resources that happen every time an India buys a big car.
SUV sales dipped like the rest of the industry but it was more a reflection of the entire sector and had nothing to do with the conscience of the Indian’s rising. But every time there is even a slight spurt in sales, SUVs also rise in tandem. So the undercurrent passion for big cars essentially remains intact.
Fuel prices might be low now but once again its on account of the global economy and CODV-19 but people believe that prices are low and will remain so for some mor time, thus justifying their purchase of big cars.
We talk of pollution all the time or rather, we all are living this life in polluted atmosphere, yet do we see lesser vehicles on the road or the Govt even initiating any moves to cut down on this wasteful, precious forex?
Surely, the reason is beyond economics. It is more about creating a perception of oneself. Just as a Nano could not take off purely because it was ‘perceived’ as a car for the poor, SUVs are booming because they are perceived to be a symbol of higher status, a vehicle which announces that ‘you have arrived’ in life.
Yes, there are other reasons too – higher seating capacity, SUVs are safer as they are larger and heavier, higher cargo capacity, can tackle the potholed roads better than a small car and maybe, it is good when going traveling off the beaten track.
But these are all reasons to justify the choice of a SUV. Yes, the real reason is that people in India buy an SUV today simply because they know and want to exhibit that they can afford to buy a SUV. They buy simply because they can. Surely with families becoming smaller, cars should have ideally got smaller but today, smaller families have bigger homes and bigger cars. Like America, India is unfortunately fast moving towards consumerism. Every buy is today driven by this need to ‘show’ rather than about practicality. Strangely, this new generation, which is buying SUVs is stated to be environmentally conscious so then how come they opt for gas guzzlers like SUVs? Or is being selectively ‘environmentally friendly’ also about creating an image, being ‘cool’.
Just as the automobile sector is a reflection of the economy, the buy and sell pattern is a reflection of cars and is also a reflection of the attitude of people. And today, we have thrown away economic and logical sense, purely ruled by the need to satisfy our senses.
This is the paradox of our times. As said by Dalai Lama, “We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment, We've been all the way to the moon and back but have trouble crossing the street to meet the neighbor. We built more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever but have less communication. We have become long on quantity but short on quality.”