Special edition cars vis-à-vis Customisation: Cannibalise or co-exist?

Special edition cars vis-à-vis Customisation: Cannibalise or co-exist?

Special edition cars is a way for the automakers to boost sales for a particular model that is quite old in its lifecycle. Also, OEMs take the route of introducing special edition models in an attempt to celebrate a special occasion. These special edition cars come with cosmetic updates and at times with some mechanical upgrades as well.

As a child, anything ‘special’ was always looked forward to…be it a meal, a celebration, a gift or even a guest. It was always something extra-ordinary, unplanned, and not necessarily budgeted for. The word ‘special’ has connotations that go far and wide across all product categories and occasions.

Coca-Cola has special edition cans during the FIFA World Cup. Pepsi competes with their version for the Champions League. Hot Wheels has special edition miniature cars, which of course are a bit more expensive but come in fancy packaging.

When I joined Maruti Udyog [now Maruti Suzuki] three decades ago, we used to look forward to the “Bada Khana”, a special meal for all employees to celebrate occasions. It is there that in 1993 I came across the first special edition Maruti prepared on the occasion of its 10th anniversary. During my induction, I was told that the red colour was also ‘special’ as it carried a UV coating to extend its life in the sun.

What really is a “special edition” vehicle?

It is when a variant or version of the normal stock vehicle is created with a different or enhanced set of features. They are special as they are either in limited numbers or for a limited period of time. Why would an automaker do this in the first place? There could be various reasons for the same…to mark a milestone, to celebrate an occasion, to reach out to a new kind of customer or to simply create some excitement in the marketplace!

So, one could create an edition to mark sales of a hundred thousand units of a vehicle. Or commemorate an event or occasion like Peugeot does with the Roland Garros Edition every year coinciding with the tournament. Or reach out to a performance-oriented customer with the Type-R editions of almost all Honda vehicles. Just like TRD of Toyota, AMG of Mercedes-Benz and MSport of BMW. Or simply to inject some life into slowing sales of the Maruti 800 by adding some colour and graphics with the Riviera edition.

Many of the performance-tuned editions have started off as separate operations, almost out of a garage, and then have been absorbed into the main automaker once they have become huge individual brands.

Special editions could run in parallel with the mainstream products or could be made in specific numbers. Those are called “limited editions”. In 2003 Maruti Suzuki actually was bold enough to make just 600 numbers of 3-door Zens for the Indian market in two versions, Carbon and Steel.

Published on Times of India Date 10-August-2021

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