interview | Balbir Singh Dhillon Business

Luxury cars to see revival in 2021

Audi sold 4,594 units in India in 2019.

Audi sold 4,594 units in India in 2019.

The luxury car market in India during 2020 will be flat and experience a positive revival in 2021, says Balbir Singh Dhillon, head, Audi India. Edited excerpts:

How was 2019 sales?

The auto industry faced strong headwinds in 2019. The economic slowdown in India last year tapered customer sentiments with potential car buyers delaying their buying decision. It was a challenging year as there was ambiguity about the life of BS IV vehicles on-road in the customer’s mind and anticipation of GST reduction on cars; both these topics were later clarified by the government. The year also saw the tightening of loans available to dealers and customers, which negatively impacted the sales of luxury car sales.

Every major luxury car player has de-grown in volumes during 2019 and we were not an exception. We sold 4,594 units in 2019 and continue to be one of the top choices for luxury car customers in India. What is notable is while the overall car market declined, we saw a strong traction in the luxury pre-owned car segment. Audi Approved: plus, our pre-owned car business, registered a year-on-year growth of 11% in 2019.

Your outlook for 2020?

We have been optimistic about the growth of the luxury car segment on the back of the India growth story, which remains intact. We believe that the luxury car market will take a leap sometime in the future, we only don’t know when. In terms of growth estimates for the luxury car market, we estimate it to remain flat in 2020 and are hopeful of positive revival starting 2021.

What is the scenario for cars costing above ₹1 crore?

The recently launched Audi Q8 and the Audi A8 L form an extremely important part of our product portfolio for 2020 that focuses on the push for C & D segment cars.

These products are big on customisation and exclusivity and hence, sold in limited numbers. So far, we have received an extremely positive response for both the Audi Q8 and the Audi A8 L from prospective customers.

Your take on EVs...

EV’s are the way forward but the market is not going to develop overnight. Infrastructure plays an important role. Tangible measures by the government towards e-mobility infrastructure and adequate support towards the import of electric vehicles would be a welcome move. Ideally, the government should do something for PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) because it is a step towards electrification. It is the first step that you bring people from ICE to PHEV and eventually take them to electric cars. We will launch our first electric car – the Audi e-tron and are upbeat about the India prospects. The showcase in India in 2019 generated excitement amongst enthusiasts and we are confident that the e-tron will be the right match for a dynamic market like India. A combination of technology, space and comfort, the e-tron is a luxury electric SUV with a range that is suitable for everyday use. The launch of Audi e-tron is on the cards and we will announce the launch timeline in due course.

Are you happy with market share for Audi?

We are not running behind market share but are eager to strengthen the Audi brand in India. Market share at any cost is not our approach. While shifting from BS IV to BS VI we have decided certain strategy goals for us that lead to making Audi a far stronger brand. The customer is at the core of our business – whatever we do; our utmost priority is our customers. We are not running behind being the leader in terms of volumes, we are instead focusing on building a profitable and sustainable business model. As a brand, we want to be sustainable not just by focusing on sales but “Quality of Sales” that lead to happy customers and a strong brand.

How many cars are lined up for 2020?

2020 will be an exciting year for Audi as far as new product launches are concerned. The year started on an exciting note with the launch of the Audi Q8 in January followed by the Audi A8 L in early February. Both these products have received a great media and customer response. We have some fantastic products coming over the next 9 months – these will be a mix of volume and RS models.

Can you spell out your dealer expansion?

We currently operate in 36 cities across India – with a total of 29 showrooms and 37 workshops. In addition, we have 7 Audi Approved: plus facilities. In 2019 – we opened new dealerships in important markets including Delhi, Hyderabad and Kolkata. The year 2020 kick-started with the announcement of a new dealer partner Mumbai. Our focus is also to expand to Tier II and III cities and making the network profitable and sustainable.

We have adopted a workshop-first approach — for instance, a place like Trivandrum still sells less number of cars and hence we opened a workshop first and not a showroom.

Watch | 2020 Audi A8 L review and first drive

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Printable version | May 17, 2022 3:58:58 pm |