Every luxury car manufacturer worth its salt is making its entry into India, and predictably so. Marketing managers at these companies will throw numbers at you, tell you how big the Indian market is, the number of billionaires, the spending power... blah, blah, blah. It's nice to learn all those statistics, but beyond that there is more, as I've learnt in my own interactions and observations of several such owners.
Bugatti knows that the Veyron isn't being sold to someone who is experiencing luxury cars for the first time, as do brands like Ferrari, Aston Martin and Maserati. Most consumers of these new brands already own a few luxury cars and supercars to begin with. They have experienced and driven many cars in India and abroad, and to categorise most of them as 'brand loyalists' would be premature. What they want to do is experience them all – so don't be surprised if you walk into your next door billionaire neighbour's house and find an Aston Martin DBS sharing space with a Ferrari 458, a Porsche 911 Turbo and an empty garage space awaiting the Lamborghini Aventador. These buyers are finicky, just like their counterparts in the rest of the world, and mind you, their experience is based on two factors and two factors alone. The first is the machine itself – the way it looks, drives, feels and whether it fulfils the intended purpose – and the second is after-sales service.
While most buyers are being satisfied by their machine, it's the after-sales service that still leaves a lot to be desired. A sizeable number of these luxury brands have a handful of workshops across the country, most often understaffed and not necessarily with the best-trained hands. With the exception of a very few who have taken pains to do things otherwise, the rest still don't necessarily offer the best after-sales experience. In fact, dealing with budget brands may turn out to be a far better affair than some of these high-end brands. Underhand dealing, shoddy and incomplete service and overcharging have become a nightmare for owners of many luxury car brands, and that list is growing. And there seems to be no respite, as more and more of these luxury brand distributors continue to add more brands to their portfolio, just enlarging the potential of more disgruntled owners.
What luxury brands really need to focus on is after-sales service. Being prompt, doing the job well and keeping the billing transparent is probably not that difficult, especially if mass brands with their large volumes can achieve that with very little difficulty. The relationship with your customer need not end the moment you have concluded the sale, with the assumption that they have nowhere else to go for service except to you. Mind you, if we can open doors to luxury brands so easily, it won't take long before independent specialists spring up, with setups that match factory recommended standards for service at a price that is reasonable. The clock is ticking...
P.S.: Have been noticing with the sales numbers of some premium car brands – BMW sold over 1000 cars in March 2011, a staggering figure. Mercedes and Audi sold over 800 and 600 cars respectively. They all sound fabulous but the question is how much of it was influenced by the CKD ruling that probably led to a long line of buyers making their purchases? I know of a few who brought forward their purchases just to avoid the price hike, post April 1. It will be interesting to see how the German trio perform in April.