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The humble Alto continues to be India’s favorite: Google search data

Maruti Alto K10 created the most amount of search interest on launch, with the Ford Figo following close behind, according to Google India’s Auto Industry Report covering search trends for the industry for the last two years.

Surprisingly, it also showed that would-be auto buyers in India are arguably more net-savvy than their counterparts in the US and Europe.

While only 62% of would-be vehicle owners did their preliminary search on the Internet, in India it was around 65%. This is despite the fact that only around 10% of Indians actually use the Internet.

But the relatively high reliance on Internet research starts making sense when you compare the fact that nearly all those thinking of buying a car are likely to have access to the Internet at home or office, though the same cannot be said for two-wheelers.

The report also pointed out that it is not mobile phones or computers that are the fastest growing product search category on Google India, but automobiles.

Searches about automobiles grew 110% in 2009 and 84% growth in 2010. Though decelerating, auto searches were higher by 72% in the first six months of this year too.

Not surprisingly, it’s very good news for Google, which more or less accounts for all of India’s search-based advertising market as well.

“We have seen over 150% growth in revenues from the auto sector in 2010,” pointed out Rajan Anandan Vice President and MD of Google India.

Google looks kindly upon people who search for products because it gives advertisers an easy and perhaps the best way to reach potential buyers for their products. “In the last two years, we’ve seen great traction amongst the players in the auto vertical as they continue to embrace digital advertising to engage car & bikes shoppers online,” Anandan pointed out.

Unsurprisingly, Maruti led the way in generating the top queries, with its Alto being the most researched ‘launch’ model as well (see chart.) It was followed by Honda (as a brand) and the Ford Figo as a model.

“In cars, entry and mid segment cars in the price range of (2 lakhs upto 6 lakhs), the highest selling car category by volumes in India, was also the most-searched category registering over 50% year on year growth in query volumes.

“In terms of type of queries, vehicle-shopping queries accounted for over 49% of all cars related queries. Interestingly, in-spite of the choices available in fuel efficient small cars category, Diesel cars queries saw a huge jump in query volumes registering 114% growth in 2010.

“Rising petrol prices weighed on car buyers mind as diesel car queries saw a jump of 52% in the period of April 2011 to May 2011 when petrol prices increased by 5 Rs/litre.

“The search queries also reflected a strong trend of India’s growing appetite for bigger and luxury cars with SUVs emerging as the second most searched cars category registering over 61% growth yoy, followed by Luxury cars in the price range of (15 lakhs to 30 lakhs) which emerged as the fastest growing car category showing a growth of 141% from June 2010 to May 2011 over the same period in ‘09 to ‘10,” Google pointed out.

Searches for bikes makes and models also show robust growth ahead of cars, with bike related queries growing 96% in 2010. Premium level bikes/motorcycles i.e. bikes in 150 cc plus segment saw maximum query volumes and registered 90% yoy growth (from Jan 2010 to May 2011 compared to same time last last year). Deluxe i.e bikes in 125cc to 150cc are the fastest growing category registering 193% growth in query volumes. Entry-level bike category also showed a strong growth trend growing at 90% yoy.

The report also looked into the search habit of mobile Internet users for the auto vertical. With an estimated base of over 40 million mobile Internet users, mobile searches for auto related queries also reflected a strong growth momentum – growing at over 300% in 2010. The trend of using smartphones for doing product related searches is also showing a significant growth.

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