On the sidelines of the launch of the A6 sedan, which generates almost 20 per cent of the German carmaker’s volumes, Audi India’s newly appointed head, BALBIR SINGH DHILLON, talks to Pavan Lall about Audi’s marketing strategy, the company’s plans to grow its market share, launches lined up for the next year, and discounting being a thing of the past. Edited excerpts:
Some of your competitors have questioned the sustainability of your earlier strategy to use famous faces and heavy discounting to market your brand.
As a luxury car brand, we are now established in the market. Investments made in the past were done with that view in mind. The drive now is to invest in existing customers and ensure they become our ambassadors and our sales people as it were. I see it as a reverse pyramid. Instead of discounting, we’d rather offer a seven-year warranty and give customers additional value and service packages at reasonable rates.
Last year, you sold around 6,500 cars. This year, the overall market segment is down by around 20 per cent. It’s a tough climb from here on. How do you plan to work around this, given that competitors such as Mercedes-Benz are garnering almost double of what you are in the same market?
Our strategy is going to be about customers. Everything we do will revolve around them. While market share is one factor, it’s not all of it. Profitability and sustainability, and the ability to bring in technology through digital services and products are all part of the plan. That said, the overall segment for luxury, which is between 30,000 and 40,000 cars, is stagnating; someone will be eating into someone else’s market share.
You had trouble last year when your largest Delhi dealer Rash Pal Singh Todd was arrested for alleged bank fraud. This impacted sales significantly. How are you moving past that?
With regards to our Delhi dealership, you do run into such situations in business. The first step we have taken is to address any trouble that existing customers might have faced. I set up a service shop to take care of those customers. We roped in Audi Gurugram in August this year; it is run by Kristan Auto and it is working well for us.
What are your bestsellers?
It has been the Q model sport utility vehicle. The A6 launched on Thursday is a big volume generator. We’ve sold around 15,000 A6 cars over the years.
Most would agree that all German cars are neck-and-neck in terms of quality, engineering, and standards. Why has Audi India been trailing every year for the past year, despite having the added benefit of shared resources with your parent company (Škoda Auto Volkswagen India)?
We don’t see it only as a business cycle, driven by volumes. With more products, come more sales. Of course, there will be an added advantage that you will see come into play next year. Next year, we will introduce a new model every quarter, in addition to the new variants that will be brought in, according to the regulatory norms.