The Telegraph
Wednesday , November 24 , 2010
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Wheels of city’s rising fortunes
- German CEO trio to make direct sales pitch before select audience

You won’t catch Andreas Schaff trying to sell a BMW to Jairam Ramesh, but Calcutta’s growing car cognoscenti has certainly got him interested.

So much so that Schaff, the president of BMW-India, is coming to town this weekend along with the country heads of Mercedes-Benz and Audi to rev up the sales pitch for German luxury wheels before a select audience of high networth individuals.

The entry-by-invitation event, to be hosted this Saturday by the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce on the lawns of the German Consul-General’s office at 1 Hastings Park Road, is being touted as a first for the city car market, where the benchmark for luxury has changed in recent years.

“We have invited the country heads of these auto giants to tell us why they have come to India, what expectations they have from this part of the globe, what they plan to do and so on. The event will also give our guests a glimpse of the latest car models,” the regional director of the Indo-German chamber, B.G. Roy, told Metro.

He said Wilfried Aulbur, the Mercedes CEO for India, Volkswagen managing director (sales) Maik Stephan and BMW’s Schaff had confirmed their participation in the event, being organised as part of the annual meeting of the chamber.

Mercedes, BMW and Audi, which cater to the east through dealerships based in the city, have already come up with ambitious business projections based on the January to October sales this year. Mercedes sold 163 cars in the first 10 months of 2010, against 103 last year. BMW sold 160-odd, against 132 through last year.

“The figures are conclusive proof that the number of Calcuttans who can afford — and are eager to buy — luxury wheels is increasing every year,” said a sales manager.

Many Calcuttans already own the top variants of luxury models, shipped from their mother factories as CBUs (completely built units) with price tags of over Rs 1 crore. Sourav Ganguly had got the BMW 7 series model 730Ld shipped from Munich last year.

Ramanuj Majumdar of IIM Calcutta said luxury car brands resorting to direct marketing before an exclusive audience — the city guest list includes Sanjeev Goenka, Harsh Neotia, B.M. Khaitan and son Deepak, and Shishir Bajoria — had become a trend abroad but was new to India.

“I have witnessed such direct marketing in the US. Suppose the Saudi king comes to the US and puts up at a hotel for a month. Car companies and other consumer goods companies know he will be visited by his sons, relatives and other dignitaries. So they take the opportunity to showcase their latest products before this ready clientele through that period,” added Majumdar.

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