“Power and torque is democratised in EV,” says Vivek Srivatsa, Head of Marketing, Sales & Service Strategy, Tata Passenger Electric Mobility
As told to Aatish Mishra
The updated Nexon EV promises plenty to the customers, with a whole new styling package, updated interiors, new apps and reworked mechanicals. Prices have been announced and it while they are more expensive than before, they are still great value. We caught up with Vivek Srivatsa on the sidelines of the first drives where he shared some of the insights he has from putting 1 lakh EVs on Indian roads and talking to EV customers. He also sheds light on the new branding strategy around Tata.ev and on appealing to traditional enthusiasts. Read on for excerpts from our conversation.
On EV customer insights
Initially, when they bought, there were a lot of apprehension and myths. Can I do intercity drives? Is it safe? And all that. People primarily bought in for cost of operation. But over the last few years, this has changed completely. People have taken software upgrades, features for granted now they feel when I buy an EV, I'll get new features going ahead. They they are open to discussion with the company, they know, they are very active in forums, they express the good and the bad very strongly. And they expect us to listen to them and make changes which is very different. Post purchase engagement is something they value a lot. The traditional ICE customers' mindset is the less I interact with the company, the better, that means my car is doing great. I just need to go to the service centre once in six months and done. But with these customers, it's very different. They want a lot of interaction. They love it when company officials speak to them, and stuff like that.
There's indication also that they are looking at quicker lifecycle changes, probably EV buyers will upgrade their products also much faster. We don't have proof of it yet. But we hear, already when there's news of the new Nexon.ev coming in, people say, “Oh, I want to upgrade.” Many of them have not owned their car even for two years, but there's a lot of buzz wanting to upgrade, like what happens with gadgets. The usual four-five year cycle is getting shrunk.
On learnings about the product
So most of it is already visible in the Nexon.ev. Obviously, we gadgetised the customer experience a lot. What I spoke about the infotainment screen, the instrument cluster, you have already seen it with the ICE product as well. Completely digitised. And the kind of interface with the map, the inbuilt maps and all that is very much digitised. Specifically for EV, we have paddle shifters for regen, we already had what we called as four modes of regeneration, which enabled customisable, single-pedal driving. And now when you can access it through paddle shifters, it becomes a very digital drive, where you can actually customise the car to different level using that. And even the mode shifter, we've gone into a monostable shifter, which acts like a joystick, you have that return back effect.
On the new personas
We have gone the persona routes. You must have seen in the ICE as well where they have something called pure, fearless and creative. Here we have created a new persona for only electric vehicles, which is called Empower, which is the full blown all-feature kind of a product. Traditionally, the top trim, last year, we called it a Persona, with a completely new colour. And even in that you have certain packs that they can opt for.
On appealing to traditional enthusiasts
I feel power and torque is democratised in EV. The kind of acceleration you get. We don't compromise driving dynamics. Today, we know that the fastest car in the world is an EV. Every single luxury car maker's next car is. So I think we are moving into a world where power, torque, performance is democratised. And it is technology gadgetisation, ability to personalise, it becomes the third place as we call it, where, apart from work and home, this a place which kind of integrates everything together. So that will be the new demand of customers. Of course, they might miss the mechanical feel of driving a traditional car, but that will go away soon. And that is other insight, we see that most people, once they get a EV at home, whatever other cars they have, this becomes a preferred drive, because of the ease, because of the power accessibility. And, so I think it's only a matter of time before this adoption happens.
On Tata electric cars will stand out
Differentiation can happen on the product and in the ownership experience overall — how they buy, how we service the car, how we manage our communities, of course, how we manage the overall engagement throughout the lifecycle. Like we said, it's a very vocal community. It is also very demanding community where they expect a lot of software-driven feature updates, any problem they have, they expect it to be solved, OTA software. So yes, this is the way to differentiate, I would say.
On the new Tata.ev brand
That was for us the first step towards acknowledging that the needs of the new age EV customer and we said that, we had to build in a promise, the three pillars of our new brand design is community, sustainability and technology. Sustainability obviously, is the larger picture towards electrification across the world. But we want to take it beyond also and do many other things towards sustainability. The brand design itself, the way it is conceptualised for example, all our digital assets will be in the dark mode, the minute you access the Tata.ev digital asset, it will be black. So the energy used is much lower. Similarly, offline assets will be white background, so you spend less ink in printing it out, the fonts we use will be free to download and very light font. So every time you use, you don't spend energy and bandwidth to use that. So when you multiply it with the number of people who access the touch point, it's going to, really reduce the carbon footprint, but that is just one element from our side, we want to do many other areas towards sustainability. As a company, Tata Motors is committed to being carbon neutral by 2040, which is ahead of many other organisations within India. We have committed to be water neutral by 2030 in our manufacturing plant, and overall the Tata Group is committed to sustainability under the umbrella of a project called Aalingana. So we are very much in that direction.
Sustainability is one of the key pillars. Next is community. By community, we mean our ownership community, as well as the larger society and doing good for society is part of the Tata Group ethos, but we want to formally build that into Tata.ev. Also, in terms of values, where along with our community, we want to make a difference to the larger society. It could be towards sustainability, towards pollution, but also it could be towards philanthropic efforts, it could be about, doing things for the needy or a beach cleanup or something like that. So, these are elements and this is again, a voice of customer, maybe owners have said that they love to get together and do good. And we believe that that is something we want to do. Third is technology. We just spoke about how to democratise technology, we spoke about power, how power, torque is now democratised. We spoke about V2L, V2V, which was available at much higher segments, we are democratising the size of screen you will see on the kind of app suite, that will be from two segments above. Democratising technology is the third pillar of Tata.ev. And we hope that it will satisfy our customers and keep them engaged with us.
On the possibility of separate dealerships
So currently, we are creating shop-in-shops in our current dealers where a separate area is kind of earmarked for our EV products. But to be honest, we have a big range of products coming in, and so does the ICE range. So definitely, retail real estate is going to be a challenge to accommodate the entire range within the same dealership. Also considering that we need to start giving different kinds of experiences. And the Tata.ev brand identity allows us to now differentiate on the retail side as well. So the need of the hour is there. All I can say is very soon you'll hear some news about that.
On EV resale values
It's too early I would say, I mean, we've not really seen them coming back, but probably with the Nexon.ev, we will see a lot of first generation Nexon EV owners wanting to exchange, we might have to do some education there because logically, and what we see, in advanced markets that EVs actually retain better resale value, they're nice, because battery packs are easily measured in terms of battery life. Overall, life of the batteries is longer, life of the car also is longer, because they're subjected to much less mechanical stresses. That education has to happen in India, that actually your EV retains value much better, because the product remains relevant and fresher for a longer time. It's a cycle we'll probably come into now.