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Audi India business back on track, sees heightened demand in festive season

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NEW DELHI: With its business back on track having “moved out of the pandemic”, German luxury carmaker Audi sees heightened demand as the festive season in India peaks on the back of pent up demand and its new products, according to a top company official.

The company is witnessing increased footfalls at its showrooms although it has not reached pre-COVID levels, while it is also gaining a lot of traction in online customer interactions.

“As we have moved out of this pandemic in terms of business, of course, the number of cases is still growing, but by and large the business is back on track and so are the customers,” Audi India Head Balbir Singh Dhillon told PTI.

In terms of operations, he said, “The most important thing for us is that the network has to work, and the network is completely back on track. All the dealerships are working.”

With the centre’s directive on states and union territories not to impose localised lockdowns without prior consultations with it, he said things have also improved in places like Kolkata, where the company’s dealerships used to close twice a week.

“The only thing is that staff in some locations get affected…in terms of aftersales we are more or less back on track. Sales will take a bit of time,” Dhillon added.

Commenting on customers coming back, he said the company is “seeing a decent footfall in our showrooms which is growing steadily”.

“We definitely see a positive trend as the festive season starts…While the footfall level is not to that of the pre-COVID levels, but we see with the festival season more and more customers coming towards our showrooms and may reach the level of pre-COVID,” Dhillon said.

He also said earlier customers used to spend a lot of time offline before purchasing a car but at present, they are spending equal time both offline and online while buying cars.

Dhillon further said, “And with the new products which we are planning to launch, (SUV Q2 around the second half of October or early part of November) and others coming this year, followed by many next years as well, these new products will bring in cheer and customers will come to our showrooms.”

In terms of order flows of new cars, he said, “We have not reached the level of pre-COVID levels, there is no doubt about it. This also again depends on our customers, most of whom are from the business community and all the businesses are not back on track. So I am sure the first priority of our customers is to set their businesses right before they can start investing in their luxury cars.”

Yet, Dhillon said there is also a kind of pent up demand.

Citing the example of the company’s A6 sedan, he said while the last few months overall sales have been a bit lower, Audi India last month sold the highest number of A6 since the time it was launched in October 2019.

“So there are a lot of these signals, which are positive that show there is a pent up demand and coupled with the festive season, we see the demand to be quite positive and whatever we can recover the lost ground in the last few months we will,” he added.

Dhillon, however, said, “Having said that 2020 as compared to 2019 overall definitely will be degrowth because what we have lost in these few months will not be recoverable.”

In 2019, Audi India had sold 4,594 units, a decline of 29 per cent from 6,463 units it had sold in 2018.

He also said the drop in overall luxury vehicle sales in 2020 in India will be a substantial one because in some of the months sales were zero and all the manufacturers had to move from BS-IV to BS-VI and not all the manufacturers, including Audi have all the BS-VI models.

“Actually it is a multi-layered impact. One is the non-availability of products because of movement from BS-IV to BS-VI and then this pandemic hit us hard. So it is a combination of everything that will lead this industry to go down this year,” Dhillon said.

As for Audi, he said it will take a couple of quarters before it has all the products which were available in the past to be back on the table in the BS-VI era.

“At the same time we are bringing new products which were not there before,” Dhillon said.

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Maruti Suzuki Subscribe extends services to 4 new cities

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NEW DELHI: Maruti Suzuki on Tuesday announced it will be extending its subscription services to Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar. The Maruti Subscribe program is almost 4 months old now.
The Maruti Suzuki Subscribe program began in Delhi NCR and Bangalore initially and will now operate in 8 cities in total. The subscription program was recently launched in Hyderabad and Pune. The Maruti Suzuki Subscribe scheme allows customers to use a brand-new car by paying an all-inclusive monthly fee that covers maintenance and insurance for the complete duration.
The current subscription fleet includes Swift, Dzire, Vitara Brezza and Ertiga from Maruti Suzuki Arena and Baleno, Ciaz and XL6 from the Nexa range. Customers will get a white number plate with the registration done under their names in the operational cities.
The cars can be subscribed for a fixed tenure of 24, 36 or 48 months. The lowest subscription scheme in the 4 new cities starts at Rs 14,665 for Swift LXI in Ahmedabad, while the same scheme costs Rs 14,691 in Gandhinagar, Rs 15,196 in Chennai and Rs 15,368 in Mumbai.
The scheme is inclusive of road tax, registration charges and insurance. Additionally, complete mainatainence and 24×7 road side assistance comes as part of the package.
“The Maruti Suzuki Subscribe program has received encouraging response from the customers. We have received over 6,600 enquiries in the first few months of pilot launch. We are delighted to introduce the program in Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar.We are aiming to introduce the Maruti Suzuki Subscribe program in 40-60 cities over a period of 2 to 3 years,” said Shashank Srivastava, Executive Director, MSIL.


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GM withdraws support for Trump’s emissions lawsuit against California

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President Donald Trump delivers remarks at American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti, Michigan with General Motors CEO Mary Barra and other auto industry executives on March 15, 2017. 

Nicolas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images

General Motors is withdrawing from litigation led by the Trump administration against California over the state’s right to set its own fuel economy and emissions regulations, distancing itself from President Donald Trump.

In a letter Monday to environmental leaders, GM CEO Mary Barra said the company’s decision to withdraw from the litigation is effective immediately. It follows President-elect Joe Biden’s Nov. 3 election, his support for electric vehicles as well as his call for unity in the country, she said.

“We believe the ambitious electrification goals of the President-elect, California, and General Motors are aligned to address climate change by drastically reducing automobile emissions,” Barra wrote.

By withdrawing, GM is showing support for the incoming administration while distancing itself from Trump, who has publicly praised and condemned automakers during his tenure as commander in chief. GM has plans for a robust portfolio of electric vehicles in the coming years.

The White House did not immediately respond for comment.

Biden is widely expected to drop the litigation against California and allow the state to set its own standards. California was allowed to do so under a 2013 waiver it received under the Clean Air Act. Other states were allowed to adopt those standards as well.

The Detroit automaker along with Fiat Chrysler, Toyota Motor and other smaller automakers initially supported Trump’s efforts in late-2019. Trump at the time was fighting to rollback the Obama administration’s national emissions standards and strip California and other states of the right to set their own vehicle emissions regulations.

Four other major automakers — Ford Motor, BMW, Honda Motor and Volkswagen — reached a deal with California in July to toughen the gas mileage and emissions standards, drawing ire from Trump.

Barra invited other automakers involved in the lawsuit to “join us” and withdraw from the litigation. Fiat Chrysler and Toyota did not immediately have a response to GM’s call to withdraw from the lawsuit.

GM’s decision comes days after the automaker announced plans to spend $27 billion on all-electric and autonomous vehicles through 2025, an increase of $7 billion, or 35%, from initial plans announced in March


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Govt plans to set up charging infrastructure across 69,000 petrol pumps

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New Delhi: The government is planning to set up at least one e-charging kiosk at around 69,000 petrol pumps across the country with an aim to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles, Union minister Nitin Gadkari said on Monday.

The Road Transport and Highways Minister while addressing a virtual conference said that the government has taken several steps to promote electric vehicles which include reduction in GST to 5 per cent, allowing delinking of battery cost of 2-3 wheelers from vehicle cost as it accounts for nearly 30 per cent of the cost etc.

“Battery charging ecosystem is very important…government is planning set up at least one electric vehicle charging kiosk at around 69 thousand petrol pumps across the country to induce people to go for electric mobility,” the minister was quoted as saying in a release. Stressing that India is poised to become a global automobile manufacturing hub in the next five years, Gadkari asked the automobile industry to push for manufacturing flex engines which have versatility to use petrol or ethanol/CNG as fuels.

“Our auto industry has made significant strides in terms of development of different designs and models, robust R&D, huge market, stable government frame-work and bright and young engineering minds. India already is the largest manufacturer of two-wheelers in the world,” he said.


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