The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Own a Merc for Rs 3.5 lakh
- Bangalore company unveils luxury car sharing concept

Calcutta, July 1: If you thought you were too poor to own a close-to-a-crore Merc, think again.

You can now buy the car for a fraction of its price, provided you are willing to share it with a group.

Bangalore-based General Mechanics has introduced the concept of “fractional ownership” of cars for those whose dream of owning a luxury machine remains way out of their reach.

Under the new concept, a group of owners buys the car, sharing not only the cost of the car but also the fuel costs as well as the expenses towards maintenance and repairs.

For instance, one can own, say, a Rs 95-lakh Mercedes M-Class SUV by paying about Rs 3.5 lakh at the beginning and then Rs 550-1,350 every month depending on hours of use and kilometres travelled.

Each partial owner must inform the company in advance about when he would require the car, so that it can draw up schedules. An owner’s time-share can be structured in many ways, such as four hours a week, six hours a week, eight hours every other week, etc. (See chart)

The group gets to own the car for two years, after which the company sells it and divides the money among the owners.

Bangaloreans get a taste of this first; Calcuttans must wait a while longer.

“After Bangalore, we shall venture into the markets of Chennai and Hyderabad,” said Rajan Durairaj, chief executive of the company, which is involved in engineering research and development.

“After that, we shall move into the other metros -- Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta. Then we shall offer this in cities like Pune and Cochin.”

The cars come under several price segments. So, depending on whether you want a Ford Ikon (segment A) or a Mercedes M-Class SUV (segment E), you make a down payment ranging between Rs 79,000 and Rs 3,59,000. The company plans to introduce Rolls Royce (super luxury), too.

“We launched the concept in May and have received 75 calls,” Durairaj said. “We have already made 18 provisional registrations and expect 200 to 300 final registrations to start off with.”

“In the second phase, we plan to offer stand-by cars to provide more flexibility to the owners without any additional charge apart from the fuel costs,” he said.

Durairaj added that the company plans to start an online booking service.

Fractional ownership is in vogue among horse-lovers. The idea has also been successfully implemented with private jets internationally.

Netjets, the US-based private aviation firm, runs a business that allows companies or individuals to buy part of a plane, giving them the right to fly it for a set number of hours per year.

“The idea (to do it with cars) came to us from the aspirations of the millions of people who dream of owning the ultimate luxury machine but can’t afford it,” Durairaj said.

General Mechanics is a sole proprietorship company owned by Durairaj, with an annual income of Rs 35 lakh. Durairaj has had nine years’ experience in product development with L&T and started General Mechanics 12 years ago.

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