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July-December, 2012

Business Perspectives and Research

An Empirical Research on Consumer Behaviour towards Small Car Segment in Indian Market
Gunjan Malhotra 1 Abhishek Nandi 2 Amitava Mukherjee Abstract India's automobile industry has undergone a remarkable transformation in the last decade. The small car segment (A1 and A2 segment compact cars) remains at the forefront of this growth story. The automotive industry in India grew at a Computed Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 11.5 % over the past five years, and the growth rate in last FY2010-11 was impressive at more than 26% (Maruti Suzuki Ltd, Annual Report 2009-2010). This research paper focuses on customer perception towards various features of existing cars and tries to find the degree of consumer preferences about different automobile features which influences their buying behavior. The increasing disposable income of common people evolution of a sophisticated well off middle class and affordability of high quality cars fuels the growth of the Indian automobile sector. The research analyses 161 complete responses from northern region of India and suggests certain product aspects that the existing players should focus on more closely to allure the customers with better services and at the same time to retain the existing customers. Key Words Automobile manufacturer, consumer behaviour, customer satisfaction, NCR, small car 1. Introduction The last decade has seen a major transformation of the Indian car industry, from a protected business with only one world-class manufacturer to a landscape that includes most of the world's major players as well as some emerging domestic firms vying for a significant piece of an expanding market. In the process, the automobile industry has also leaped forward technologically, driven by a confluence of factors such as intense competition, demanding consumer preferences, government policies and the global strategies of the various players. India will lead way in global small car upswing. India is the second fastest growing automobile market in the world (Gopalan, 2010) and emerged as Asia's fourth largest exporter of passenger cars, behind Japan, South Korea, and Thailand (Ohnsman, 2011). Passenger car segment, particularly small car segment, is mainly driving this growth momentum, buoyant with growth in economy, higher purchasing power of the people and favourable policies. With the growth in auto industry consumers are getting innumerable options to choose from in almost every segment of the Indian auto industry. The high degree of rivalry in the industry with the launch of new product almost in each month and routine new entry of foreign players has made the market hyper competitive. Hence to maintain higher profitability as well as to grow the business, the insight into consumer psyche to understand their need and satisfaction level is of utmost importance for the manufacturer of automobiles. The paper attempts to study the needs and requirements of the customers towards purchasing new small cars and their perception towards current products. For manufacturers, the pursuit of right product features is essential for being competitive as well as exploring new business opportunities.

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Prof. Gunjan Malhotra, Assistant Professor - Operations Area, IMT Ghaziabad;; Mr.Abhishek Nandi, Student - PGDM -2010-12, IMT Ghaziabad; Mr. Amitava Mukherjee, Student - PGDM- 2010-12, IMT Ghaziabad;


July-December, 2012

Business Perspectives and Research

2. Review of Literature Constant changes in customer demands lead manufactures to produce new and improved designs. Automation of manufacturing technologies allows this (Hoffhian, l984). Recently the production life cycle has become shorter. For example, General Motors in the USA is leading the industry in developing groundbreaking technologies to improve the driving experience and to meet the changing needs and life styles of modem drivers. They are making efforts to lower the cost of the technology to a level that will make advanced cars an attractive purchase. As the automobile market becomes more competitive, the industry has no choice but to adopt innovation that brings better customer service. Aggarwal and McGill (2007) found that people interpreted an upturned grille on a car not simply as a mouth but more specifically as a smile. Windhager, et al (2008) study reported seeing emotional expressions such as aggression and anger in cars. Furthermore, other research has found that design elements corresponding to facial features affect product liking (Aggarwal et al 2007; Windhager et al. 2008). Indeed, Windhager et al.'s (2008) recent study of car designs confirmed the widespread tendency for people to see faces on products. People decode emotional facial expressions from product shapes and this affects liking of the design of cars and cellular phones. The consumers prefer the combination of an upturned (friendly) grille with slanted (aggressive) headlights. This explained a process level by showing that this combination triggers a positive affective state of both high pleasure and arousal (Landwehr, McGill & Herrmann, 2011). Peterse, Muelle, Haan and Scholz (2008) determined that the effect of a product's country of origin on buyer perceptions and evaluations has been one of the most widely studied phenomena in the international business, marketing, and consumer behaviour literatures. Indeed, Brady and Cronin (2001) concluded that the potential impact of the country of origin of a product is the most researched international aspect of consumer behaviour. Bucklin, and Silva-Risso (2008) developed a new method to assess how changes in the intensity of mature distribution networksspecifically, those in the U.S. automotive industry might affect consumer choice. They captured distribution intensity by car make (e.g., Honda, Toyota) at the disaggregated level using the exact geographic locations of individual buyers and new car dealers. Buyers were more likely to select cars whose dealer networks had shorter distances to the closest outlet (accessibility), more dealers within a given radius from the buyer (concentration), and locations that skewed toward the buyer (spread). Contracts are particularly common in the automobile market, in which a majority of sales involve either finance or lease contracts, making it an ideal setting to understand consumers' contract choice behaviour. Moreover, automobile manufacturers are increasingly competing for consumers using the terms and conditions of these contracts (e.g., General Motors offers 0% financing to keep America rolling). However, most market-level studies on automobile choice (Berry, Levinsohn, & Pakes 1995, 2004; Goldberg 1995; Petrin 2002; Sudhir 2001) ignore the choice of contract and simply use the manufacturer's suggested retail price to estimate demand. Previous research on consumer choice of contracts in the automobile market (Aizcorbe & Starr-McCluer 1997; Johnson 2000) has examined how demographic factors, such as income and age, affect a consumer's decision to lease or finance a vehicle, but it has overlooked nonfinancial factors related to contract choice, such as the cost of maintaining and operating the vehicle, and has also ignored the link between vehicle and contract choice, a critically important input into a manufacturer's promotional planning process. A substantial body of literature shows the theoretical and empirical appeal of incorporating product, price, advertising, and promotion-related attributes into an individual utility function. Conjoint studies incorporate product attributes into utility, and choice models based on universal


July-December, 2012

Business Perspectives and Research

product code scanner panel data have also included product attributes (Fader & Hardie 1996). Many studies have incorporated price and promotion variables (e.g., feature, display) as attributes in choice model utilities (e.g., Guadagni & Little 1983). Advertising has also been successfully incorporated (e.g., Pedrick & Zufryden 1991). We now consider how to conceptualize distribution intensity as an attribute, or attributes, in utility. Another challenge in the study of distribution intensity involves the classification of goods (i.e., convenience, shopping, or specialty goods). For convenience goods, in general, higher levels of distribution intensity are assumed to always boost sales (Coughlan, Anne, Anderson, Stern & ElAnsary, 2006). The Indian automobile industry is one of the largest in the world and one of the fastest growing automobile industries globally. The low penetration level of cars in India along with shooting disposable income of its working population has catapulted it as a lucrative market for global automobile manufacturers (SIAM, 1999). The industry actually gets its shape in two clear phases - the Maruti era (1983) and the post liberalization era (1993) (Mehra, 2005).The Maruti era makes the Indian auto sector a competitive market and auto sector de-licensing in 1993 infused it with large investment and higher capacity. As a result, Indian consumers are flooded with tremendous choices available almost in every segments of auto industry and become value consccious and informed buyers. The customer consciousness and high degree of rivalry in the market leads the manufacturer to analyse customer perception and bridge the gap between customers' inherent need and their product. To retain existing relationships as well as to develop new customers, having an insight in customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction has become very vital (Verma & Kaur, 2001; Pearson ,1976). Verma and Kaur (2001) emphasized that significance of 3 types of justices necessary for customer satisfaction are procedural justice (response time taken by company to address complaints), distributive justice (company's perceived fairness in dealing with customer complaints) and interactional justice (human behaviour in dealing with complaints). According to Indian consumers, technology, comfort and convenience are important considerations for car purchase. Though in the developed world, technology has always played an important consideration for vehicle manufacturers as customers have always embraced state of the art cars, the study by Ealey and Mercer (1999) stated that different countries accept technology at different rates. Ealey and Mercer (2000) suggested that auto companies must build on their long term relationships with customers. Saxena (2000) analyzed the satisfaction level amongst customers of premium cars - Opel Astra, Ford Escort, Maruti Esteem and Daewoo Cielo- in Indore. For measuring brand satisfaction level amongst the four manufacturers, eight attributes (service, spare parts availability, safety, leg space, boot space, price, style, resale) were listed in the questionnaire. To evaluate satisfaction with dealer service, 13 attributes were evaluated (location, ease of appointment, facilities, proper diagnosis, labour cost, spare cost, spares availability, promptness in service, correct service, staff behaviour, warranty service, post service follow up, reception handling). The null hypothesis (there is no difference in satisfaction level towards dealer service between different brands of cars) was found to be false at 5 % significant level that is, there is significant difference between the dealer services in respect of the 4 cars. Like many other industries, the scenario in domestic Indian Automobile Industry is quite different from the Global Automobile Industry. Compared to the global automobile sector, where substantial research has been done, very little empirical research has been conducted on the Indian automobile industry. This research attempts to study the consumer perception towards various features of small cars that motivates them to buy new cars and consumer expectation from the car makers in small car segments. For car manufacturers, the pursuit of new features and


July-December, 2012

Business Perspectives and Research

insight to consumer perception is essential for being competitive as well as to explore new business opportunities. 3. Objective The Indian auto industry is in a growth path and the small car segment with the highest cumulative annual growth rate is its main growth driver. However, not much research literature is available linking consumer perception and their expectation towards automobiles in India. This study is an effort to fill that gap in the literature in the context of Delhi and other nearby cities like Noida, Ghaziabad , Gurgaon ,Faridabad etc , together known as National Capital region (NCR) in North India. The aim of this research is to analyse the consumer expectations for potential attributes of small cars and customer perception towards existing cars in present small car industry. 4. Research Methodology 4.1 Research Problem The research problem is to understand consumers' perception towards various automobile features and their preferences towards a particular brand of small car. The research would determine what are the primary automobile features that most influence the consumers' buying behaviour and consumer expectation for new product developments in this sector..The research also would locate the primary source of information on which consumers depend on before buying a car. 4.2 Survey Technique The survey uses an online questionnaire and it was conducted among residents of Delhi and nearby cities like Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon, Faridabad etc, together known as National Capital Territory (NCT) in North India between 10th and 24th March 2011. The respondents were selected at random. The respondents either owned or were considering the purchase of a small car as their next car. The online questionnaire was sent to 280 people and finally 161 complete and valid responses were taken for further analysis with a response rate of 58%. 4.3 Questionnaire Design The online questionnaire comprising of 12 questions was prepared keeping in mind the objective of the research. It consists of questions on consumers' choice of cars, consumers perception on the various features/attributes which influence the respondents to choose a particular brand, source of information for various automobile brands and related to their demography. It uses Likert scale on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 signifies least significant and 5 signify most significant. 5. Data Analysis 5.1. Demographic Profile of the Respondents The results of the demographic profile of the consumers buying small cars are presented in table 1. The respondents represented an array of age groups and had a median age of 20-30 years. Only 27 % of the respondents were female and just 2% were students. The majority of the respondents were businessmen having an annual salary of more than Rs. 6 lacs (43%). The respondents had an extensive experience of small car segments in Indian markets. These respondents prefer to buy cars in the price range between Rs. 3.5 lacs to Rs5 lacs. The respondents also indicated a strong likelihood to buy small cars in the near future.


July-December, 2012

Business Perspectives and Research

Table 1 : Demographics Characteristics of Respondents Age in Years 20-30 89% Gender Male Occupation Income Level <3.5 lacs 3.5 6 lacs >6 lacs Price level of Cars <3.5 lacs 3.5 5 lacs >5 lacs 10% 57% 33%

73% Business man

58% 38% 2% 0% 2%

34% 23% 43%

30-40 2% > 40 9%

Female 27% Professional Student Retired Others

5.2 Results In order to understand the diversity of consumers' from different states in India when purchasing a small car by the respondents, we have evaluated each attribute on a 1-5 scale, where '1' indicated 'least significant' and '5' indicated 'most significant'. We have used factor analysis to find the major factors that impacts the decision of the respondents when they choose a particular small car in India. Factor analysis is a statistical method used to describe variability among observed variables in terms of a potentially lower number of unobserved variables called factors. In other words, it is possible, for example, that variations in three or four observed variables mainly reflect the variations in fewer such unobserved variables. Factor analysis searches for such joint variations in response to unobserved latent variables. The observed variables are modelled as linear combinations of the potential factors, plus error terms. The information gained about the interdependencies between observed variables can be used later to reduce the set of variables in a dataset. In order to obtain a clearer picture of groupings of the attributes that the respondent keeps in mind before purchasing a small car of his choice, a factor analysis have been conducted. The Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) measure of sampling adequacy was as high as 0.708 and the Bartlett test of Sphericity rejected the null hypothesis that the correlation matrix was an identity matrix. The resulting eigen values for only three common factors were greater than unity. We reached the same conclusion using the Scree Plot (not reported but available from the authors upon request) as a criterion to determine the number of common factors. The proportion (per cent) of variance explained by each factor indicates that these four factors altogether account for about 59.2 % of the total variance using the Principal Component Method. We then rotate the resulting factors by the varimax method to facilitate the interpretation of the results presented in table 2. As can be seen the first factor includes exterior looks, brand, environment friendliness, technology models and colours available, interior design that interest consumer's choice behaviour. Therefore we can name this factor as Aesthetics. The second factor includes price, fuel efficiency, after sales service, safety features, maintenance cost, warranty and promise of free service and thus can be named as Cost factor. While the third factor possesses leg space, engine capacity, seating capacity, ground clearance, thus can be named as Spacious factor. The fourth factor possesses public perception, audio system, sturdiness of vehicle, promotional schemes available, thus can be named as Trust and Reliability. Thus we can say that there are four factors that affect decision making of customers for purchase of small cars aesthetics, cost, space and trust and reliability. The results are shown in table 2.


July-December, 2012

Business Perspectives and Research

Table 2 : Division of Selection Factors into Broad Factors Aesthetics (component 1) Exterior looks (3) Brand(5) Environment Friendliness (7) Technology (8) Cost (component 2) Price (1) Fuel efficiency (2) After sales service(6) Safety Features (9) Spacious (component 3) Leg Space (12) Engine Capacity(13) Seating Capacity (14) Trust and Reliability (component 4) Public perception (4) Audio System (16) Sturdiness of vehicle(17)

Ground Clearance (15) Promotional Schemes Available(18)

Models and Colours Maintenance Cost Available (10) (11) Interior design (20) Warranty and Promise of free service (19)

We have also checked the reliability of the data gathered through the respondents. We find the cronbach's alpha value is .913, which shows that the data is reliable (table 3). Cronbach's alpha is a measure of how well each individual item in a scale correlates with the sum of the remaining items. It measures consistency among individual items in a scale. Table 3 : Test for Reliability Cronbach's Alpha .913 N of Items 20

For all the factors which were used to understand the satisfaction of the customers, we have assigned the ratings in a closed format in the form of a grid. For scoring purposes we took every parameter as synonymous with a likert's scale of 1-5, with 1: Not at all satisfied, 2: Not very satisfied, 3: Neutral, 4: Fairly satisfied, 5: very satisfied. The scores are then subjected to a two one way analysis of variance (ANOVA). A significance level of 5% is used to conduct the analysis. The following hypothesis has been formulated: H0 = The mean values () for all selection parameters is the same. H1= The mean values () for all selection parameters is not the same. Table 4 : One Way- Analysis of Variance Source of Variation SS df Mean sum of squares MS 12.46 1.03

F 12.13

P-value 0.00

F crit 1.59

Between Groups Within Groups Total

236.76 3286.48 3523.24

19.00 3200.00 3219.00

Here, F>Fcritical, therefore, we reject the null hypothesis and conclude that the mean values of the selection factors are not the same. Hence, it can be concluded that consumers do not rate different factors similarly and hence, the target population in this survey are smart consumers. This also shows that customers rate different factors while making buying decisions and only those which according to them provide the highest value for money are bought.


July-December, 2012

Business Perspectives and Research

6. Discussion 6.1 Effect of Features on Car Purchase Table 5 lists the mean values for all the factors considered for car purchase by customers. It is evident from the data that after sales service, fuel efficiency, safety features and maintenance cost are the most important factors for consideration in car purchase for Indian customers. Price, technology and engine capacity are the next most important factors for consideration. The least significant features for purchasing a small car that came up in the research are embedded audio system, public perception, promotional schemes available and brand. These findings are listed in Table 6, which shows the most prominent and least significant features for car purchase by consumers. We see that environment friendliness is one of the least significant factors which show that Indian consumers are not yet environmentally conscious unlike their western counterparts where the environment is of utmost importance. Table 5 : Data Statistics Parameter Price Fuel efficiency Exterior looks Public perception Brand After sales Environment friendly Technology Safety features Models & colors Maintenance cost Leg space Engine capacity Seating capacity Ground clearance Audio system Sturdiness of vehicle Promotional schemes available Warranty and promise of free service Interior design Mean Error 3.975 4.193 3.882 3.286 3.565 4.373 3.615 3.652 4.062 3.683 4.019 3.733 3.944 3.901 3.615 3.323 3.795 3.46 3.975 3.739 Standard Deviation 0.084 0.073 0.089 0.083 0.088 0.067 0.085 0.105 0.076 0.086 0.069 0.073 0.078 0.078 0.069 0.079 0.065 0.085 0.083 0.072 Standard Variance 1.06 0.932 1.126 1.051 1.111 0.85 1.084 1.334 0.966 1.086 0.877 0.927 0.995 0.989 0.881 0.998 0.822 1.084 1.049 0.912 Sample 1.124 0.869 1.267 1.105 1.235 0.723 1.176 1.778 0.934 1.18 0.768 0.859 0.991 0.978 0.776 0.995 0.676 1.175 1.099 0.832


July-December, 2012

Business Perspectives and Research

Table 6: Significance of Various Features in Purchasing of Small Car by the Respondents Prominent Significant Features Features Mean significance score After sale service 4.35 Fuel efficiency 4.17 Safety features 4.04 Price 3.95 Promise of free service 3.95

Least Significant Features Features Audio system Public perception Promotional schemes available Environment friendly Brand

Mean significance score






6.2 Effect of Source of Information on Car Purchase Table 7: Impact of Source of Information on Small Car Purchase by Respondents Newspaper advertisement Car Online magazine automobile Review sources 3.1296 3.0061 Television advertisement and Review programmes 3.3148 Brand ambassador Word of mouth and feedback 4.0926



Hence, it is seen that word of mouth and feedback is the most important source of information for customers and they rely on it the most. Brand ambassadors are the least effective source of information. Television advertisements continue to play an important role in spreading the word as most people in India still rely on primary sources on information. Newspaper advertisements carry a very low level of significance for the consumers. But, we interpret that special offers from dealers are still important for customers when communicated through newspapers. 7. Study Limitation and Future Work The study is limited to the NCR of Delhi, India. But the sentiments of customers towards the small Indian car industry are assumed to be same all over India. With the ongoing work of various companies towards the development of small cars in India we expect to see a variety of new models entering the market viz introduction of Honda Jazz, ongoing research on electric cars, Ford's 8 new models and continuously increasing competition among the present players in the market. So, we expect to see the presence of a large number of new advanced models in the future. This will bring in newer technology leading to better customer satisfaction. All small cars of the future shall be expected to be fuel efficient and hence all differentiation occurring due to fuel efficiency shall be eliminated. Factors such as safety and environment friendliness shall play important roles in consumer buying behaviour. We shall also see marketing techniques such as buzz marketing and word of mouth playing a much important role in the future. With the advancements in technology there are no limitations to our potentials. 8. Conclusions and Recommendations It is seen that there are four broad factors which affect customers when buying small cars. They


July-December, 2012

Business Perspectives and Research

are aesthetics of the car, the overall cost to customer, space and trust and reliability of the brand. These broad factors have various sub factors which have been mentioned in table 2. By using analysis of variance, we see that all these factors have different means. This means that a customer gives different importance to different points while selecting a car. From table 5, it is seen that after sales service is the most important factor followed by fuel efficiency and maintenance cost while selecting a small car. This shows that the cost component which includes this factor is most important for Indian small car consumers. It is also seen that public perception and extra features (like audio systems) are the least thought of factors while purchasing a car. Hence, the data shows that trust and reliability is not sought after. This shows that Indian consumers have an equal amount of trust for all brands of small cars available. This is the reason why marketers shall not be able to create product differentiation based on brand value or brand trust, which they might possess in foreign markets. This also shows that Maruti, which was one of the most trusted Indian brands has lost its advantage, and this is seen from their lowering sales. Another interesting fact observed is high value given to safety features. It shows as to how Indian customers are becoming more and more safety oriented in their decision making. It is also seen from table 6 that word of mouth influences the customers the most while buying a car. Feedback from friends is thus the most important source of information for customers. Hence, companies have to maintain a high level of after sales service to ensure consumer loyalty and a good word of mouth. A brand ambassador least affects decision making. Thus, companies should stop advertising using brand ambassadors (e.g. Shah Rukh Khan advertising Hyundai i10 does not effect its sales). Promise of free service also scores low in this case, which again shows that consumers perceive a free service as a given after purchase. References Aggarwal, Pankaj & McGill, L. A. (2007). Is that car smiling at me? schema congruity as a basis for evaluating anthropomorphized products, Journal of Consumer Research, 34 468-79. Aizcorbe, Ana & Martha Starr-McCluer (1997). Vehicle Ownership, Purchases and Leasing: consumer survey data, Monthly Labour Review, 120 (6), 34-40. Berry, Steven, Levinsohn, J. & Pakes, A. (1995). Automobile prices in market equilibrium, Econometrica, 63 (4), 841-90. Berry, Steven, Levinsohn, J & Pakes, A. (2004). Differentiated products demand systems from a combination of micro and macro data: The new car market, Journal of Political Economy, 112 (1), 68-105. Brady, M. K. & Cronin. J. J. Jr. (2001). Some new thoughts on conceptualizing perceived service qualify: A hierarchical approach. Journal of Marketing. 65(3). 34-49. Bucklin, R.E.; Siddarth, S. & Silva-Risso, J.M. (2008). Distribution intensity and new car choice, Journal of Marketing Research, XLV,473-486. Coughlan, Anne T. Anderson, E. Stern,W.L. & El-Ansary, I.A. (2006). Marketing Channels. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall. Ealey, L. & Mercer, G. (1999). Telematics: where the radio meets the road, The McKinsey Quarterly, 2. Ealey, L. & Mercer, G. (2000). The Automative Industry: A 30000 mile checkup, The McKinsey Quarterly, 1. Fader, Peter S. & Bruce G.S. Hardie (1996). Modeling consumer choice among SKUs, Journal of Marketing Research, 33, 442-52.


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Business Perspectives and Research

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