January 29, 2005
Compiled by: Jason Teller
With a firm foothold in the Chinese market – Audi dominates other brands as the German marquee of choice there – the company has turned to India as its next Asian target market. India is an obvious target for more than few key reasons.
First, the automotive market there is remains in a very early stage of development. The vehicle per capita ratio is well below the Asian average on the whole. Because of India’s enormous population there is a tremendous business opportunity.
Second, newer markets can be expected to provide higher than average growth rates and development accelerates. The Indian economy is forecasted to expand and with it will come growth in automobile sales.
Third, there is a noticeable absence of Indian automobile manufacturers catering specifically to the luxury vehicle segment. The Indian “super rich” therefore choose from global brands such as DaimlerChrysler, Porsche, Ferrari and of course Audi. According to published figures the luxury car market in China has tripled in size in the last five years and currently enjoys a 25% annual growth rate.
Last July Audi announced amid much fanfare and media attention that it would begin selling the TT and A8 in India. More recently Audi has setup three dealers in India, in Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. Now in addition to the TT and A8 the A6 is also being offered. According to the World Markets Research Centre “Audi appeals to Indian tastes as a European luxury brand with a hint of sports-like flair, a definite bonus for the SUV-skewed customer base.”
Late last year Audi AG Managing Director (Asia-Pacific) Fintan Knight commented on rumors that Audi would, in a joint effort with sister company Skoda, begin manufacturing Audis in India. Skoda already has manufacturing in India, so there would be potential synergies and cost savings by leveraging the facilities. He stated that a detailed study would ensue to determine the feasibility of such a move. It appears that Audi would not build separate manufacturing facilities, as Ralph Weyler, Member of the AUDI AG Board for Sales and Marketing, said publicly in January that no production facilities were planned for India at this time.
Whatever the eventual outcome of Audi’s efforts in India, there has already been some recognition of the brand. On January 17th at the CNBC-TV 18 Autocar Awards held at the Grand Hyatt, Mumbai, the A8 was chosen “Best Import Car of the Year”. These auto awards have proven over the last three years to be India’s most credible recognition of automotive excellence.
Recognition for the A8
The Audi A8 was chosen over its similarly-classed competitors by a panel of expert judges, including some of the most eminent names in the auto industry:
Dilip Chhabria, India’s leading auto stylist and designer; Naren Kumar, a former national rally champion; Hormazd Sorabjee, editor of Autocar India; Manvendra Singh, India’s leading auto historian; Renuka Kripalani, one of India’s few female rally champions; Shapur Kotwal, who overlooks the technical aspects of road testing and Rajeev Khanna, famous Himalayan Rallyist.
The jury rated the Audi A8 on a scale of 1 to 10 on the following parameters: fitness, relevance to the Indian market, value for money, design and styling, interiors, engine, gearbox, performance, ride, handling, braking performance, driving pleasure, fuel efficiency and ownership experience.
The vehicles nominated for the award were assessed and ranked in relation to their market rivals.
Accepting the award, Mr. Sunil Kaul, the country manager representing India from Audi Asia Pacific, commented, “We at Audi are very proud that the A8 has been well received by both our customers and the industry as well. This award recognizes Audi’s commitment to bringing the best cars to India.”
With a 1-billion strong population and a 1.5% annual growth rate, India’s young, growing population will continue to gain importance as a target for global automobile manufacturers. Audi hopes to use its experience in China to navigate the massive untapped potential in India, initially focusing primarily on the luxury buyer.
Audi India Website: http://www.audi.co.in/index.html