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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Rush on for luxury cars in India

6 Feb 2010

NEW DELHI: It’s the other extreme of the car market. Away from the mad rush of mass volumes and discounts, this segment thrives on the statements Mercedes E-Class pomp, power, style, speed and the hefty price tags that often range from close to a crore to a whopping Rs 6 crore. And car connoisseurs do not hesitate to write out that fat cheque which many may dismiss as splurging. So, the fight here is more for the finest style statement and the brand than the price.

Welcome to the world of luxury wheels. This is the world of Rolls Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini, Mercedes AMG, Maybach, BMW and Porsche — fancied by almost everybody but affordable only for a few, many of whom are discussed as much for their high-profile personality as for the cars they own. And while recession may have dampened spirits, the pockets are still deep enough to indulge, as is evident from the way many of these models are sold out even before they are launched.

Sample the rush. Porsche fears that it will not have enough Panamera sedans to meet the “unanticipated rush’’ in the Indian market despite the model carrying a hefty Rs 1.4-2 crore price tag. It’s the same with Mercedes that has managed as many as five confirmed bookings for the Rs 2 crore SLS-AMG within days of of its launch. Audi also says its R8 sports car beat expectations with bookings even before launch.

And it’s not just about the rush to be the early birds — they also want their cars to be customised. “It’s not a car that these people look for, it’s more of a lifestyle,’’ says Satya Bagla, whose company is the official importer of the Lamborghinis and the Bentleys to India. Bagla says that the brands he deals in cost between Rs 1.6 crore and Rs 3.5 crore. He adds that to their owners, these mean more than just cars.

“This set of customers are demand-ing, and so we offer them the option of having a high-level of customisation. The cars can have special leather, distinct wood finishes, and exclusive emblem of the owners who may spend as much as Rs 30-40 lakh to tune the cars to their needs. At most times, they end up as architects of the car,’’ he says.

Porsche, for example, has a special customisation programme under ‘Porsche Exclusive’. The German sports carmaker spoils customers for choice as one can have over 100 customisations to choose from. So, you can invent your own new colour for the car’s exteriors, or decide to have a burmester music system (that can cost up to Rs 5.5 lakh) on board, or have your initials inscribed on door sills, or even have seat belts in the same colour as the exterior.

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