Audi India just launched the second generation of their best- selling Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) – the QS. Speaking exclusively to Kushan Mitra, Audi India chief Rahil Ansari explains how the German brand plans to catch up with its rivals on the sales chart in 2018.
• After the Q5, what else does Audi have lined up for 2018?
2018 is the year of Audi Progression for us and in terms of product line-up, that means a comprehensive addition to our product portfolio this year as well. We have started 2018 with the launch of the second generation Audi Q5. This sets the tone for the rest of the year. Expanding the Audi Q range is something that we had initiated since the introduction of the petrol variants in the Audi Q7 and the Audi Q3, and we may introduce more models and variants to this range at the opportune time.
‘We will be introducing technologically advanced products like the new Audi A8 this year too for our discerning customers who value innovation in technology and features, in addition to advanced power trains.
• The Indian market has been growing but has not seen explosive growth in the luxury segment, can that ever happen?
We are confident that at some point of time it will definitely happen. There is scope for exponential growth in future. If you look at the hiring trends from some key Indian institutions, it is clear that Indians are able to afford luxury cars much earlier in life than the generation before them. It is no secret that number of millionaires in India is increasing.
More importantly, Indian buyers – now more than ever are not hesitant to splurge on themselves. They are young minded achievers who like to reward themselves by upgrading their lifestyle. This is where the growth is coming from and forms our target audience.
We cannot predict when the explosive growth will happen, on roadmap however is in place and we are confident to capture this growth wave with om robust strategy.
• How important is the technology that customers experience inside the car versus the mechanical technology underpinning the car?
For many young customers, the auto- mobile’s image is changing today: it has evolved from a status symbol to a “mobile device” – a technological object that lets its users always stay online and connected while on the move.
Audi has been able to distinguish this customer trend early. For us, introducing new technology and innovative features is as important as developing the mechanical power train to enhance the overall experience for our customers. Hence, Digitalization has become the core of Audi’s strategy going forward.
This can now be seen in the new products that we are introducing in our global line up. For example “Audi Touch Response’: which in the new Audi A8 replaces buttons and dials by a 10.1 inch touch screen that blends seamlessly into the overall design. But this is no ordinary touch screen: it is responsive to your touch, giving haptic feedback that you can feel. When you touch a control on the screen, there is an audible click and you even feel a vibration in the response – just as if it were a real control panel. This makes it easier and more natural to navigate the controls when you are focused on the road.
• Audi has some innovative hybrid and electric technology in the e-tron range, do you suppose those can come to India this year and what do you expect to see ill the national electric mobility white paper?
‘We feel that bringing these kind of vehicles to India will be a bit premature. Where is the infrastructure to support them? We do welcome the move by the government in terms of Electric Mobility but it needs to be backed by adequate infrastructure in place for such vehicles in the Indian market for customer ease and practicality.
e-tron is a global product from Audi and will be a perfect match for the Indian market requirements. A reduction in import duties will help the brands in offering the Electric Vehicles at an affordable price, thus helping in promoting dean and sustainable technologies.
What we expect to see in the national electric mobility white paper is a dear road map on move towards E-Vehicles, plans for covering the viability gap and milestones and deadlines for setting in place the charging infrastructure.
• How do you see your sales and network growth for 2018?
We are expecting a double-digit growth in sales this year: I firmly believe that we have all the ingredients in place for a successful year. Our brand has entered pop culture in just 10 years, we are among the top choices of luxury car buyers, have an attractive product portfolio and a profitable dealer network driven for success.
As the Year of Audi Progression, 2018 will continue to see us focus and progress on the three fundamental pillars of our strategy Product, Network, and Customers.
We will expand our product range by bringing in alternative power trains, expand our Q range of vehicles and bring in innovative technology and features in our Audi India model range that will surely excite our customers. With the introduction of the all new Audi Q5, we are confident that the product will be a runaway success for us and will surely bring in good growth.
On the Network front, our focus has always been to expand to Tier II and III cities, our ‘Workshop First’ strategy has now progressed into dedicated facilities which will be inaugurated as early as first quarter this year. Audi India’s Customer Connect Initiatives are based on unique concepts to reach out and interact with the customers, as being approachable to om customers and fans is our overall philosophy
For us at Audi, we do not treat customers as one homogeneous group – we prefer handcrafting experiences for them. With our curated Audi Driving Experience, our customers and prospects get to experience the entire range of Audi cars on a specially curated driving track whether its off road or scenic or circuit driving. This helps us not only to interact with customers and take their feedback, but also an opportunity to upgrade them and their friends upwards in our product ladder.
There is always a vision of being a leader in the market. ‘we want to have a viable case for om dealer partners and the company. This can allow much more investment in dealer network, drive growth and expand the Audi family of customers.
By Kushan Mitra: Courtesy – The Pioneer