MUMBAI: Vehicle makers are pulling out all the stops in a bid to make the most during the festive season, amid a crippling slowdown in the local market.With buyers dithering to enter the showroom, the companies are literally landing up at their doorstep to make a sales pitch. Most of them have boosted their sales and marketing budgets and are launching special campaigns for the festive months, traditionally the busiest sales season.A leading two-wheeler maker is engaging with the youth by organising events on college campuses, while Hyundai Motor is using the portals of puja pandals as an opportunity to push sales and Maruti Suzuki is approaching prospective customer segments like defence personnel and government employees with special offers. Others are also increasingly using car and bike melas, mall and airport activities, moving billboards and showroom on wheels in search of the buyer.Innovative OffersSuch activities have been used in the past as well, but the intensity has never been so fervent. Gone are the days when you see a scramble in the showrooms, a senior industry executive said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. In these days, one has to engage with the buyers at their homes, schools, colleges, workplaces and shopping complexes, he said, adding: “In short, we have to walk to the customer, instead of them walking to us.”

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The automotive industry is going through its worst slowdown in about two decades. India’s car market has shrunk by a quarter and two-wheeler sales declined 14% so far this fiscal year. In a tepid economic environment with the fear of job losses also looming large in several sectors, manufacturers and dealers have been compelled to resort to innovative offers and campaigns, in addition to the discounts that are already at a record high, to bring in buyers.Hyundai Motor has named its festive campaign ‘Celebrathon’, while for Mercedes-Benz, it is a ‘Wish Box’. The local unit of Toyota Motor has launched two financing schemes for buyers in the festival season: ‘Toyota Edge’ and ‘Toyota Smart’. Through the offers, companies are promising better value to prospective buyers, seeking to convert their intent into purchase.Higher marketing spendThey are also spending more. Automakers have increased their sales and marketing budgets for the September-December period by strong double digits, said industry insiders. They estimate it to be Rs 500-700 crore, as the companies have blocked prime time television slots, newspaper space and earmarked huge amounts for below the line activity.Puneet Anand, the group head of marketing at Hyundai Motor India, said the company’s marketing spending this year would be 30-35% higher. Given the tough environment beyond new product launches, one has to look at ways of engaging with people at their doorsteps and in their language, Anand said, adding that the effort put in was much more this time.Hyundai has screened midand high-income housing societies across the country’s top 15 cities and will be doing events in more than 100 such locations.To push its premium bikes, Hero MotoCorp has organised X-Track experiential off-road bike track in major cities.Targeting focused groupsMaruti Suzuki has organised hundreds of on-ground activation events targeting focused groups to generate demand, executive director of sales and marketing Shashank Srivastava told ET. Over the last 45 days, the company has reached out to army men, doctors, government employees, tea estates, fisheries and cotton and groundnut farmers.The companies have also entered into partnerships with lenders to ensure easy availability loans at attractive rates.Maruti Suzuki has requested lenders not to paint all buyers with the same brush and provide up to 100% financing on the on-road price of vehicles if an individual has a good credit rating, Srivastava said.Hyundai has tied up with State Bank of India to give a 10% cashback on the booking amount when the payment is made through the latter’s YONO app. It has a similar tieup with ICICI Bank, too. Hero MotoCorp is offering benefits of up to Rs 8,500 via payments app Paytm on its scooters. Other offers include a low down-payment of Rs 999 and interest rate of 6.99%, when 9-10% is the norm.Attractive vehicle-exchange schemes along with assured buyback options are also being increasingly offered to entice buyers.“With discounts and incentives at an all-time high, this is the best time to buy a car,” said a leading dealer.Automakers have also lined up at least a dozen new car and two-wheeler launches close to the festive season, which starts with Ganesh Chaturthi and Onam in September and concludes with Diwali towards the end of October.

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