The Telegraph
Wednesday , January 9 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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German auto trio vie for top spot

New Delhi, Jan. 8: The race among BMW, Audi and Mercedes Benz for the top slot in India’s premium car market will gain speed this year with the three German auto giants planning more launches and innovative pricing.

Audi today reported a 63 per cent rise in sales at 9,003 units in 2012 against 5,511 units in the previous year. While, BMW is yet to report its full-year numbers, Mercedes-Benz India last week said that it sold 7,138 vehicles in 2012 against 7,430 in 2011. BMW sales stood at over 9,300 units in 2011.

“Our strong performance (in 2012) is a result of our diverse product portfolio, network expansion, unique marketing activities and after-sales service,” said Michael Perschke, head of Audi India. He is confident “to be the No. 1 luxury car brand in India by 2015”.

According to Phillip von Sahr, president of BMW India, “India is one of the major growth markets and we are confident of maintaining our leadership position in the premium car segment through launches, dealerships expansion and customer delight.”

Though Audi is fast catching up with market leader BMW in sales, launches and domestic manufacturing is expected to help the owner of the Mini and Rolls-Royce brands to retain its top position.

Between January and October 2012, BMW India sold 7,389 cars, while Audi sold 7,267 units, lagging behind by only 122 units.

Perschke said “that 2013 will be more rewarding than 2012”. Audi will launch a version of its top selling model Q5 later this week. It will open more showrooms during the year in places such as Lucknow, Noida, Mumbai south and Vadodara.

Meanwhile, BMW India will drive in the upgraded X1 this month, followed by the upgraded 7 series in March and the premium compact hatchback 1 series by end-2013.

“We want to be No. 1 and will continue to be No. 1 with sustainable growth and not through discounting. We are looking at sustainable growth and premium price positioning,” said BMW’s Sahr.

Mercedes-Benz India, which has launched the petrol version of its smaller car B-class, will drive in a diesel version of the car. An entry-level luxury car A-Class will be launched in the first half of 2013, to be followed by the new E-Class later.

According to analysts, this car has the potential to win back a lot of Merc fans with its great package, new-age design and fun-to-drive dynamics.

Mercedes-Benz recently announced investments of Rs 300 crore for setting up a new assembly line, paint shop and foray into premium compact and entry-level cars.

The domestic premium and luxury car market has been growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 30 per cent and stood at 23,000 units in 2011.

It witnessed some demand slowdown in the first six months of 2012, posting just 9 per cent growth rate and sales of around 12,000 units.

However, long-term prospects remain firm for the category.