Lalit Chaudhary at his Aston Martin showroom in Mumbai
Overall, there might have been a boom in India's luxury sector in 2011. But the rupee's slide against the dollar at year's end has put the metaphorical brakes on conspicuous consumption.
Lalit Chaudhary, director of Performance Cars, which brought Aston Martin to (west and south) India this year, says there has been a slowdown of sorts. "The cars probably cost more now than they did a couple of months ago - prices have gone up 20 per cent."
But this isn't a doom and gloom forecast for the luxury auto sector here - it's merely a bump in the road. Since they launched in April this year, Performance Cars have already sold 25 cars in the western/south region. "This is a transition period where people have heard from me and then the currency has gone for a toss. As people get used to the new price point sales will again go up. For a person buying [this] car it doesn't matter if it's Rs 2.20 crore or Rs 2.40 core," explains Chaudhary.
So does that mean India isn't as price sensitive, as generally believed? Not exactly, feels Chaudhary. "Indians are price sensitive, they want value for money they want the best deal possible; but then considering the kind of money they are spending, they're not as sensitive as you would think."
Aston Martin launched in India in the year Ferrari, Masarati and Swedish super luxe brand Koenigsegg too decided to make an entry. And established brands like BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi have all launched sports cars this year.
So the question is, is there enough of a demand for so many super car brands? Despite the high taxes and duties, Chaudhary emphasizes that where there is supply there will be buyers, because India has been starved of many brands for the longest time. "Whether there are enough buyers, I think there is enough to make the business work. But with time, the number of buyers will only increase."
Aston Martin Appeal
Yet the appeal and exclusivity that Aston Martin offers is completely different, says Chaudhary. While comparing it to say, a Bentley or a Ferrari, Chaudhary says, "A Bentley, even if you buy the sports car, will probably provide more of a sedan-like experience. And a Ferrari is more ostentatious, the display of wealth… is quite loud. Astons are all understated - they exude the same level of class, but without stating it so loudly."
Even in terms of on-road experience, the Aston Martin wins. "The ground clearance on these cars is much better than the Ferrari, so they are much more useable. The suspension, the driving quality, the noise level all of it is much better than the Ferrari in terms of our roads," he adds.
The Aston Martin's success story in India doesn't end here; the brand's four door Rapide - its most popular car in India - recently won the Top Gear India 2011 Award for Most Beautiful Car of the Year.
One reason attributed to the brand's apparent success in India is the understated luxury it offers. A Financial Chronicle report quotes Credit Analysis & Research's Revati Kasture as saying - Aston Martin, "which has not promoted itself widely in India, instead appeals better to the psyche of west and south Indian customers who prefer to underplay than flaunt status symbols."
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