Print Edition - 2017-08-30 | MONEY
Nepal’s four-wheeler mecca, Thapathali
It is not that every company that has set up base in Thapathali has struck gold. Several companies that had opened car showrooms in the area are no longer around due to fierce competition from rival car makers
Aug 30, 2017-For those looking to buy a four-wheeler in Nepal, there is only one place that comes to mind, Thapathali. It is home to some of the most popular car makers in the world. Manufacturers from India, Czech Republic, Japan, the US and Germany have all set up shop in the area to gain a foothold in the burgeoning automobile market.
The Nepali automobile sector is consistently growing, a trend that international car makers want to capitalise on. And Thapathali is emerging as the mecca of automobiles in Nepal. “If you build it, they will come,” a famous quote from the movie Field of Dreams perfectly describes the street.But it is not that every company that has set up base in this area has struck gold. Several companies that had opened car showrooms in Thapathali are no longer around due to fierce competition from rival car makers.
Brands such as Kia and Chery are just the tip of the iceberg of companies that were unable to carve out a market in the area. The place where they used to be is now occupied by Pioneer Moto Corp, authorised dealer of Datsun and Nissan automobiles in Nepal.
They took over the spot last September, and have been seeing brisk sales. Assistant General Manager Gyanendra Chand said that they chose this location as it was right in the centre of the self-proclaimed autohub of Nepal. “And with ample space for parking and test drives, it was a no-brainer not to open a showroom here,” said Chand.
And the company expects sales to rise further. Senior Manager Dipen Pradhan said that even with negative changes in the banking industry, they are expecting sales to pick up further.
“In the past few months, when Nepal Rastra Bank imposed restrictions on auto loans, we witnessed a sales drop of nearly 50 percent,” said Pradhan. But he is expecting sales to pick up once the NADA Autoshow begins. “I think the autoshow is fantastic as it provides a platform for businesses and customers to converge under one roof which ultimately means more choices for customers,” said Pradhan.
Another reputable company in the area is Hyundai. The company opened its showroom nearly a decade ago, and has seen the area develop into a commercial autohub of Nepal. Their cars are renowned for their superb build quality that sets them apart from the rest of the competition.
According to Binaya Prasad Shrestha, a sales officer, the primary reason why people flock to the Hyundai brand is due to the company’s minute attention to detail which improves the overall driving experience. The Hyundai showroom is wide and spacious with a high ceiling and plenty of natural light. Customers will feel at ease due to the professional service, and will probably walk out booking a Hyundai car.
Tata Motors takes the same formula that Hyundai used in terms of designing their showroom and dials it up to the maximum. Their latest showroom is a marvel to look at with glass everywhere and a ceiling that extends till you have to strain your neck.
Opened last year in August, Tata Motors is looking to make a splash in the area filled with established car makers. In front of each vehicle is a tablet that displays information about the particular model, and with an attentive sales person nearby to answer any queries, the company is going all out to provide the best service in the area.
While companies like Tata Motors and Hyundai jazz up their showrooms to attract customers, Honda is the complete opposite.
Not that their showroom is bleak and empty, it has a clean and professional look. Showroom Manager Dinesh Adhikari said that they don’t depend on fancy decorations to attract customers. They rely on the immaculate Honda brand name and stellar interior ambience to bring customers in. He added that the location of the showroom in central Thapathali ensures steady footfall.
One of the newer kids on the block is Renault. It has been less than a year since they opened the showroom at Thapathali. Showroom Manager Kiran Dongol said they chose this location for market visibility. With the prominent Renault logo plastered outside the showroom and bright yellow colours, it would be hard to miss it. People are buying cars for more than just commuting to work, they are buying them to enjoy a hobby, he opined.
General Manager at Renault Adhir Kumar Shrestha said they were expecting to see a huge surge in sales once the NADA Autoshow commences as customers are looking to unleash their pent-up demand. He was glad that the autoshow was happening this year, but he had a couple of reservations. “I think the lack of space needs to be addressed. There is limited space for parking, and it makes it difficult for customers looking to visit the autoshow,” said Shrestha. “We would like to offer visitors to the autoshow the option to test drive our vehicles at the event itself.”
Thapathali is also home to Germany’s Volkswagen and the iconic Beetle. They have been in the area for nearly five years, and have a loyal fan following for their cars which can go up to Rs12.8 million. They are one of the few companies in the area to not use shutters when closing for the day. They leave the lights on inside, illuminating the vehicles, giving them an ethereal look. Prabodh Shrestha, senior sales manager, said that Volkswagen was positioned as the number one car brand in the premium segment and was looking forward to the NADA Autoshow.
“Our company supports NADA fully as it highlights all facets of the auto industry which ultimately benefits customers,” said Shrestha. He revealed that in the past few months, the company experienced a nearly 60 percent slackdown in sales, but was expecting a 35 percent increase once the NADA Autoshow starts.
Another company that focuses on the premium segment of the automobile industry in Nepal is Czech Republic’s Skoda. They have had a presence in Thapathali for over a decade and have seen it all. One of the first cars sold in the showroom was the Octavia, according to Nijen Tamrakar, a senior sales executive. Their best selling model is the Skoda Rapid, a premium level car for those looking to get their second or third car. Nijen explained that people bought the Rapid due to its attractive price in the segment while not compromising on features. And even with changes in the banking industry, customers looking to purchase Skoda cars are able to absorb the increased cost.
Thapathali continues to attract new car companies with Ford, Fiat and Peugeot all looking to grab a slice of the automobile market in Nepal.
Published: 30-08-2017 08:59