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Achtung! German war on local roads is heating up
Published on 29 Jun. 2009 11:54 PM IST
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British marquees Jaguars and Land Rover have hit the local roads, but for a long time now, Germans have been in the driver’s seat of the Indian luxury car market, thanks to the technische vortrefflicheit -- or technical excellence -- of their sleek, swanky, cutting-edge offerings. By selling 8,500 units annually, the Deutsche trinity of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi continue to comfortably rule the super-premium cars segment in India. That’s not about to change anytime soon. What probably will, is the pecking order. After leading for a long, long time, Mercedes-Benz surrendered crown in January when BMW sales sped past. Not bad for a company that debuted only in 2007. BMW’s aggressive dealership strategy, cool quotient and unconventional designs helped. The lapping also brought the race alive, for second runner-up Audi now is trying to do a BMW. “Audi, which started its India operations in March 2007, has been increasingly trodding the BMW route. BMW’s focus has been on dealership expansion, while Mercedes has focussed on discounts. Audi pitched on advertising,” said an auto analyst, not wishing to be named. Though BMW’s products are more on the lines of Mercedes -- and vice-versa -- they are similar to Audi in their positioning. Mercedes is projected as a chauffeur-driven car for older executives while the other two are sporty, youth cars to be driven by their owners. Peter Kronschnabl, president, BMW India said he has already chalked out an extensive dealer strategy to support growth plans. Benoit Tiers, managing director, Audi India, said company has already expanded its dealerships to 11. Though Mercedes Benz has been in India longer than its rivals, it has just 12 dealerships catering to 25 cities. Shrawan Raja, an avid industry watcher, said BMW’s product portfolio, which is quite extensive unlike Mercedes’, plays to its advantage. Among the three German brands, Audi is the best when it comes to both performance and luxury, but is yet to establish itself fully here, say analysts. In the sports utility vehicle (SUV) segment, Mercedes has almost lost the battle to the M class. “Competition in the SUV space is between BMW X5 and Audi Q7, and BMW X3 and Audi Q5. The Cayenne is also doing well and is easily the fastest of the lot.” The new E class, which is Mercedes’ only launch this year, could help its product portfolio,” he said. BMW had said it was introducing 6 new products in India. On the other hand, Mercedes has only two new offerings -- the new E Class and the AMG.”We already have the full range of models in India. Unless innovations happen in our headquarters at Germany, we can’t bring new products to the country. We are looking forward to the launch of the new E class, which will happen sometime later this year,” Aulbur said. The company is trying to offer choices to customers through engines.

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