Rivals late entry is their loss

Updated: Mar 25 2006, 05:30am hrs
In 2005, DaimlerChrysler sold 1,963 Mercedes cars in India, the highest number since it started producing cars in the domestic market 10 years ago. Given that the premium segment itself is no more than a 3,000 units market in India, the DaimlerChrysler subsidiary has never had it so good in the Indian market. But just when it had begun to reap the benefits of its decade long presence in the country, arch rival BMW plans to begin assembling its cars in India starting early 2007 to leverage the lower taxes in local assembly vis a vis imports. BMW which will begin with 10% local content in its 3, 5 and 7 series cars plans to also introduce its small car Mini Cooper in 2009. FEs C Jayanthi spoke to Wilfried G Aulbur, CEO & managing director, DaimlerChrysler India to ask how his company will cope with competition in India. Excerpts:

Is Mercedes Benz worried now that BMW is planning to introduce the Mini Cooper in India which is selling much more - 2 lakh worldwide as compared to Mercedes A Classs 1.94 lakh units

Competition is part of the global game. For their late entry in the Indian market for my competitors, it is their loss. We have a stable growth in the market. We are present in 24 cities, with our sales and marketing team. We have after-sales service centres functioning in these cities. We are present in relevant tier 2 cities such as Coimbatore and Kochi and Madurai.

How do you see the growth in the premium segment of the market in India

The solid growth for automotive industry in India islinked to a significant shift in consumer behavioural patterns. The consumer in India now looks for style, comfort and safety. Also the consumer is getting younger. The successful CEOs/CFOs in the ITES industry and businessmen are younger and they tend to go in for the Mercedes cars.

Two thousand cars sold may not be a high figure compared to China where Mercedes sales figure is over 15,000. Why arent you able to expand the market

China started on liberalisation 12 years ahead of India and its automobile market is three times the size of India. In terms of infrastructure development, India has to catch up. Projects such as the Golden Quardilateral project, north, south, west and east corridors are important steps in the right direction. Also, China has experienced shifts in consumer behaviour (towards luxury cars) much before India.

Instead of participating in Auto Expos, DaimlerChrysler decided to organise road shows. Has this helped push car sales

Basically, in those roadshows, we have showcased all our cars such as E Class, S Class, SLK and even the Maybach. We have offered some of them on test drives as well. Customers enjoy personal attention from qualified people in a pleasant environment. People show significant interest, some buy.