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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Which status symbol wheels do you own?

Nothing screams money more than a luxury car. Now joining an exclusive club of hi-end car-owners - that comprises celebrities like Akshay Kumar, Bipasha Basu. Bobby Deol, Leander Paes and so many more – are first generation entrepreneurs, hedge fund managers, doctors, architects, lawyers, engineers and dotcom geeks with cash to spare.

There are a many luxury car brands vying for Indian wallets and the glamorous ones like Mercedes, Porsche, Audi, BMW are being spotted on India’s roads quite frequently. For the SUV aficionados, there is the Honda CRV, Porsche Cayenne, Land Rover, Audi Q7 and the Mercedes M Class.

Navnit Motors which is the Indian franchisee for BMW and Land Rover has seen a surge in sales of these cars in the recent past. Though, BMW has been in India for the past 12-15 years, sources at Navnit Motors say that they are selling almost 40 cars in a month now.

So even though the BMW 3 series and 5 series are the popular ones to go out of their showroom, they are not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. For these cars, the EMI works up to Rs 60,000 pm and if anyone is going for the upper-end of the spectrum BMW (for eg. a 7 series), then the EMI can go up to a whopping Rs 2.5 lakhs per month.

BMW Model - Price of the car
3 Series - Rs 27 lakhs
5 Series - Rs 37 lakhs
6 Series - Convertible Rs 87.90 lakhs
Coupe - Rs 79.70 lakhs
7 Series - Rs 74 lakhs

But whatever the price, the cars are selling like hot cakes because nothing beats the German engineering that comes packaged in sexy, stylized metal. So, though Audi is in India to heat up the competition, sources at Navnit Motors say there are not too worried because they have a headstart to begin with and atleast in Mumbai, where Audi doesn’t have a showroom - therefore after-sales service and spares are difficult to procure - they think of the Mercedes as being their closest competitor.

Though, sources tell me that an Audi showroom is set to open in Mumbai in July this year and that will bring in premier models like the A3, A4, A6 and the Q7 onto Mumbai roads.

Similarly, Precision Cars India Private Limited, the firm which has imported Porsche into India is not losing sleep over Ferrari’s recent entry into India – or so it claims. Chief Executive Officer, (CEO) Ashish Chordia actually welcomes the competition and says, “We believe that competition is very healthy and we together are growing the industry in our market. With the superiority of our products and the great success Porsche experiences worldwide, we have no doubts that the Indian market will meet our growth expectation.”

He adds that, it’s customers who differentiate between brands because of their emotions associated with a particular brand. In other words, there is space for everyone to play on people’s perceptions and emotions.

Besides he believes that there are a million potential luxury car buyers in the country and though the sales figure is currently at 5,000 cars, there is immense growth waiting to be tapped by everyone. What’s more, his dealerships are willing to finance the purchase. With these sleek cars starting from a price range of Rs 47 lakhs and going all the way to Rs 86 lakhs for the SUV, the Cayenne – some people will surely jump at this opportunity to show-off their money.

Porsche Model - Price of the car
Boxter S - Rs 47 lakhs
Carrera - Rs 63 lakhs
Carrera S - Rs 71 lakhs
Cayman S - Rs 52 lakhs
Cayenne V6 - Rs 47 lakhs
Cayenne S - Rs 61 lakhs
Cayenne Turbo - Rs 86 lakhs

The other status-symbol SUV to own is the Land Rover. Beginning with a price tag of Rs 1.25 crore, this marquee brand that belongs to the Ford family is just what the nouveau riche are riding around in, these days.

Sources at Navnit Motors say that there are three models to choose from in this brand – the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and the Discovery. With the EMI for a base model coming to around Rs 1.50 lakhs, these wheels symbolize wealth, like nothing else.

Here again, confidence reigns when it comes to selling more of these SUVs. Though a sales figure was not forthcoming, (projected or otherwise), sources said that they considered the Porsche Cayenne and the Audi Q7 as the brands which could cannibalize their sales.

Land Rover Model - Price of the Car (Rs Cr)
Range Rover - Rs 6.67 lakhs
Range Rover Sport - Rs 4.30 lakhs
Discovery - Rs 3.29 lakhs

This will happen ofcourse, only when more Indians start to think big and spend lavishly, and when they realize that there is such a buffet spread out there. At the moment, all the brands have their exclusive, small number of clientele, therefore the money is being thrown out generally at the few by the few.

So, it’s probably safe to say that to make a choice between brands is not easy. To figure out how the rich make up their mind to pay for such expensive wheels, may be every marketing consultant’s dream come true. But for the moment, everyone is going by gut feel and good old brand-building.

Chordia explains, “We are working to establish the Porsche brand in the Indian market with the same standards as they would be anywhere in the world. Therefore we are preparing ourselves for a great future ahead. Currently, we have approximately 500 vehicles of Porsche available in the Indian market.”

So, are Indian customers discerning and demanding as well? Do Indians ask for radical makeovers or for vanity plates, a bar, DVD-TV gizmo combination? Apparently, they do. Sources at Navnit Motors say that though the 3 series and 5 series is imported as completely knocked down (CKDs) kits and assembled here, any such add-ons have to be told well in advance and for the higher end series, which comes straight from abroad, the same situation prevails. So, cherry-picking you accessories well in advance is the way to go because they absolutely don’t tinker with the car once it’s in India.

With Porsche, Chordia explains, “The concept behind Porsche Design Driver’s Selection looks beyond the vehicle. Not only do we take the wishes of Porsche drivers into consideration. We also go one step further to include anyone with a passion for Porsche. The result is a range of superb products that combine high-quality materials, exclusive design and truly individual character.”

“For eg. Take the Porsche Cayenne collection, – a truly versatile range of meticulously finished, functional and stylish products, which are developed to meet the challenges of everyday life. With a combination of classic, elegant design and modern materials, the 911 Swarovski
collection reflects those special moments in life – just like the 911 (model) itself.”

“We have a huge list of possible options that can be offered to the customers. However, if a customer comes up with any specific request, we are happy to fulfill it.”

All the luxury car brands are out to get customers with just such great assurances. So, what’s there to lose? Have the money…then go spend!

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