As many as half of Maruti's 14 models are sold for use as commercial vehicles. The Alto, Omni, Dzire Tour, Eeco, Ritz, Wagon R and Ertiga have a big base of commercial buyers, many of whom run these as taxis for Uber and Ola.
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“People for the sake of affordability use cars as taxis. When they want to go out with their families over the weekend they uses these as cars,” said Randhir Singh Kalsi, executive director (sales and marketing), Maruti Suzuki.
Maruti has identified the commercial segment as a big market and is aggressively pursuing buyers. "We would not like to block any model from being registered as a commercial car, but there are certain models we would like to position in the commercial segment,” Kalsi added.
Hyundai, too, sees an opportunity in this segment even as several of its models, including the i10 and Xcent are registered as taxis.
“Some people are able to enjoy private ownership. But many people cannot do that. In such a situation, public mobility is also equally important. So this is an opportunity and we should work towards fulfilling it,” said Rakesh Srivastava, senior vice-president (sales and marketing) Hyundai Motor India.
Desperate to improve its image, however, Tata Motors has decided to block sales of all its new cars like the Zest, Bolt and Nano as commercial vehicles. Tata Motors refuses to allow its compact sedan Zest to be sold as a taxi despite selling a seventh of what segment leader Maruti’s DZire does.
Tata Motors says it does not offer the excise refund a buyer typically seeks when using a car as a taxi. This helps discourage the use of particular cars as cabs.
A few units of the Tata Bolt, a premium hatchback, have been registered as taxis. “No car maker can completely avoid an occasional use of a car as a taxi. These policies help ensure it will not be a viable option for a large fleet operator,” a Tata Motors spokesperson said.
Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra had said last year taxi aggregators were eating into new car demand. “Today, one lives in a world where the Olas and Ubers of the world are saying a person doesn't need to own a car, for them transportation is a commodity,” Mahindra had said.