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The German luxury war on Indian roads intensifies

Tuesday, 18 December 2012 - 5:16am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

BMW, Mercedes Benz and Audi sold around 16,275 cars in India in the first eight months of this fiscal.

The blitzkrieg’s on. BMW, Mercedes Benz and Audi, all pedigree German carmakers, appear to have committed themselves to a do-or-die battle for spoils in the luxury car market in India.

The trio sold around 16,275 cars in India in the first eight months of this fiscal and could well be looking at full-year sales of 20,000-25,000 units across segments ranging from Rs21 lakh to Rs1.7 crore.

Each has announced its own aggressive plans for the market, including launching new products and localising more models.

That’s bad news for the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Aston Martin, Rolls Royce and Jaguar, which are also fighting for a share of the top end of the market.

Incidentally, both Mercedes and BMW saw sales decline 6% or so during April-November, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers – this, despite offering heavy discounts. Mercedes saw sales decline for the first time in a decade, while BMW almost lost its leadership position to Audi, whose sales grew 46.70%.

The German majors believe 2013 could also be flattish with actual growth expected only in 2014. But starting 2013, the three plan to go all-out for market leadership.

BMW, for one, will introduce products at every price point. It will start assembling its 1 series premium hatchback, priced lower than the X1, locally. It will also start assembling its flagship premium sedan 7 series next year. The new X1 will be launched next year, which will likely help boost sales.

“We have to look into the future in a sustainable way. In 2013, new product launches and local assembly of certain models will support us to remain at the leadership position,” said Phillip von Sahr, who recently took over as president of BMW Group India.

Mercedes, too, is looking at filling the gap at the lower end of luxury space where BMW and Audi have gained with the X1 and the Q3, respectively. With a plan to launch products in every segment in the next 2-3 years, the company is hoping to regain its top spot very soon.

Piyush Arora, technical director at Mercedes-Benz India, had earlier said that the idea is to go closer to the market and produce cars. “India is being looked at as one of the major focus areas for Mercedes globally. We will bring more locally produced products to the Indian market.”
Audi is currently evaluating models for next year.

“We have achieved our target of 8,000 units even before the year ended and have revised it to 8,600 cars even as the industry faces flat growth. We aim to be the No.1 luxury car brand in India by 2015 and may even achieve the pole position by 2014,” said Michael Perschke, head, Audi India.

Räder müssen rollen für den sieg (wheels must roll for victory), one could say again, though the original reference was to railways.

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