Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

Mr. Balbir Singh Dhillon, Head of Audi India with the Audi A8 L

VORSPRUNG 2030! Refromations are underway for Audi India. Balbir Singh Dhillon, Head, Audi India, dives deep into Audi’s plans for India business and how they are shifting gears to change India’s luxury vehicle segment, making it greater and greener

COVID-19 has been a particularly tough period for the automotive industry in general. How did it fare for the luxury vehicle segment? Can you tell us a bit about the business for Audi India for the financial year that ended in March until this month?

COVID-19 impacted all businesses, including automotive. While we learnt to run our business efficiently via the digitalisation route, the luxury car industry operates in a different manner – where touch, feel and drive remain key to one’s purchase.

Post-lockdowns, there has been an upward recovery with increased demand in the segment. It has contributed significantly to the revival of the luxury car segment. Audi India grew by 101 per cent in 2021. Taking the strong growth momentum forward, our sales have increased by 49 per cent in the first six months of 2022 over the same period last year. Audi India has retailed 1765 units in H1 2022. (January to June).

Two years ago, Audi took a call to stop diesel engine vehicles and focus entirely on petrol and electric cars. In fact, Audi plans to become electric altogether by 2033. Do you think India will have a much more EV-favourable market by then? Further, does Audi plan to establish its EV infrastructure soon? What strategy does the company plan to employ for the same?

There is a significant EV momentum as consumer perceptions about the viability of electric vehicles are changing. The Indian EV market has witnessed steady traction in India, and we can confidently say that the EV market will continue to grow in the coming months and years. At Audi India, we have witnessed a fantastic demand for our e-Tron vehicles. We are currently the brand with the broadest EV portfolio in India, and the response to our five electric vehicles makes us believe that electric acceptance in the country will happen much faster than we anticipated.

In 2021, our management board announced a corporate strategy, ‘Vorsprung 2030’, which means a head start to 2030. More importantly, with this new strategy, Audi as a brand has announced a definitive timeline for the transition to electric mobility; this includes the launch of only EVs from 2026 onwards, the end of ICE-powered car production to end in 2033 and an increased focus on software and autonomous technology.

Customers who know the merits of going electric are not hesitating to make the shift, and we are confident that the share of electric vehicles will continue to grow in the coming months.

With regards to the EV infrastructure, it is vital for the rapid adoption of electric cars in the country. So far, we have installed 100+ chargers in India, including high-altitude locations of Leh. We are also installing chargers at our group brand dealerships located across strategic highways within the country to help expand the charging network. As a brand, we are also setting up high-speed chargers at our dealerships to ensure easy charging. Moreover, when we launched the Audi e-tron in India, we created an entire ecosystem for our customers. The Audi e-tron is sold with two chargers – a 22kW wall-box charger and a portable in-car charger.

In addition, we have an e-tron Hub section on the ‘myAudi Connect App’ that helps locate the nearest chargers en route. We are confident of the continued momentum and aim to achieve about 15 per cent of our EV sales by 2025-2026.

Audi launched its A8 L in the second week of July. What expectations do you have for it from the Indian market?

We have launched our flagship sedan – the new Audi A8 L in India. This car is the epitome of luxury and a popular choice among celebrities, businessmen/women. We expect strong sales volume and are targeting a healthy share of our growth from this flagship sedan.

“The high tax/duty structure and layering of one tax on another makes luxury cars very expensive in India and is the biggest impediment to the growth of this segment”

The luxury car segment in India is booming currently. What lies ahead for Audi business-wise this year?

We have retailed 1765 units in the January – June 2022 period, buoyed by new product introductions and continued demand for the Audi e-tron range, Audi Q5, Audi Q7, Audi A4, Audi A6 and S/RS models. Audi India recorded a robust 49 per cent growth over the same period last year.

We have recently announced segment-first initiatives to celebrate 15 glorious years in the country. We introduced a five-year warranty coverage with unlimited mileage for all cars sold this year, starting June 01, 2022. In addition, we launched Audi Club Rewards – a program that offers exclusive access, segment-first privileges and bespoke experiences to all existing owners (including Audi Approved: plus owners) and future customers of Audi India. We also launched our flagship – the new Audi A8 L, in India last week and are confident of its strong demand. In India, we will continue expanding our pre-owned car business, Audi Approved: plus. Currently operating with sixteen Audi Approved: plus showrooms across all significant hubs in the country, Audi India is expanding rapidly. It will have 22 pre-owned car facilities by the end of 2022

By

Anvita Pillai, The Machinist

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members