The dream run of luxury car makers in the country has hit a speed bump with the Supreme Court putting ban on registration of diesel cars with an engine capacity of 2000cc and above. From selling cars at a dealership in Melbourne to being the Audi India head, Joe King shares his journey in an email interview to Prashant Mukherjee and how Audi is preparing itself to be ahead in the race
How has been the journey so far in India?
We started our journey by setting up our own sales company in March 2007 and have ever since charted fast-paced consistent growth in the country. We raced past competitors who had entered the country much earlier and became the first luxury car brand to achieve sales of more than 10,000 units in a year in 2014. We have continued our growth momentum with an impressive 11,192 deliveries to customers in 2015 marking the ninth successive year of growth for the company and reinforcing the brand’s consistent performance since its entry into India. Audi has built a strong foundation for the future.
Do you see bumpy rides ahead or opportunities in galore?
The growing understanding of luxury indicates that the Indian market has immense potential. The young customer base is a big strength, and with India’s population, this segment is to grow. Young professionals and executives, first generation entrepreneurs who look forward to treating themselves with a luxury car are increasingly associating with us. Our units increased from 4,000 in 2007 to 35,000 in 2015. It is projected that the market will at least double by 2020. In the next 10-15 years, penetration of luxury car industry in Tier-3 cities will also increase. Audi has been committed to India. We invested a lot in the production facilities, 95 % of our cars are produced locally.
How has been the new norm on diesel ban affecting your business here?
This short term decision had lead to uncertainty and ambiguity for the future not just for manufacturers like us but also dealers and customers. As producers, we need clarity on policy direction so that we can amend our strategy in line with the customers demand. We welcome the stance on BS VI. It would be beneficial for us as it reduces complexity and therefore, the cost substantially. However, we need adequate fuel quality to implement this.
What kind of plans Audi is preparing for India?
For the Indian market, the strategy has to be right and ours has been on track. We will continue to follow this strategy of having the right product mix, wide dealership and after-sales service network. For example, our dealer in Gujarat is now about to open his fourth showroom with us in Rajkot. We always look for experts in the field, who have a great connection in the market and understand the market very well. We have also invested extensively in training. We have a continuous commitment to enrich customer experience and enhance customer loyalty.
Do you see economic activities picking up after the new government came in power?
I think in general we’re pleased with what the government has achieved, which is pretty much giving stability in a longer view. There’s a general optimism in the market and I think that’s the big player when you’re talking about the luxury market - the optimistic view. And I think the government has created that.
There are lots of concerns in the mind of consumers about the quality of cars. Most brands, have sometime or other have been recalling their cars due to some defect or fault. Don’t you think, its a dent on the company’s image?
The brand with its legacy is stronger than individual incidents. If you look at recalls these are positive steps taken by a company to enhance and ensure customer’s safety.