The six per cent drop year-on-year in car sales in India in April-August has had no impact on the number of uber luxe brand launches lined up for this year. In fact, India will witness a record-breaking number of launches of what are considered as super luxury models worldwide.
So far, the norm has been two to three such uber-luxury launches a year, ever since the British Rolls-Royce set foot in India in 2005.
By the end of the calendar year, at least six models would have been launched. Some of the upcoming ones are from Italy's super sportscar brand Lamborghini, the British heritage marques Bentley and Aston Martin and the Dutch hypercar Spyker.
Three new models have already been launched since January - the Lamborghini Aventador Roadster and Limited Edition Gallardo LP550-2 and the Rolls-Royce Wraith - each of which are priced upwards of Rs 3.5 crore.
Bentley Motors, the English manufacturer of super luxury cars, owned by German giant Volkswagen, is now gearing up to launch the Bentley Flying Spur next month. The 17.3-foot-long sedan, powered by an engine that can crank up peak power of 616bhp and a top-speed of over 320km/h, is complete with rich cushioned leather seats and a mini refrigerator. Sypker Cars, based in the Netherlands, which makes hand-built hypercars or super sportscars (highest-performing sportscars), has already shortlisted dealers in India for a gala launch either in the end of this year or early next year in New Delhi. The C8 Aileron, sports the Audi V8 engine that generates 400bhp and when launched will be well over Rs 1 crore.
These uber-luxury sets of wheels patronised by industrialists, businessmen, Bollywood stars, and politicians cost well above Rs 1 crore and usually go up to Rs 7 crore. For the loaded models, like the Aston Martin One77 and the Bugati Veyron, prices can shoot up to Rs 20 crore and Rs 37 crore (the most expensive in India), respectively.
In general, the luxury segment in India begins with models from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Porsche, Jaguar and Land Rover but these cater to the segment priced below Rs 1 crore (though their premium models cost cross the mark).
The brands which have lined up their launches for this year are benchmarks for uber luxury marques globally.
With cars from 20-foot-long, stretched saloons to two-door super-fast machines (with top-speeds that are one-fourth the speed of sound), most of these brands debuted in India in the last five years. Super luxury brands such as Bugatti, Koenigsegg, Ferrari, Pagani and Maserati are some of the others already present. Albeit the sales are in double digits compared to the thousands sold by economy brands.
Even though their prices have risen steeply in recent years due to increased import duties and the depreciation of the rupee, there is still no loss in excitement to fuel further launches.
Rolls-Royce claims its customers make repeat purchases, for example. Lamborghini, which has promised to launch each of its new models in India including its sports utility vehicle, Urus, sold 17 cars last year. Andrea Baldi, head of operations, South-East Asia & Pacific, Automobili Lamborghini Asia Pacific says, "The people we are targeting are seemingly few. Their buying decisions are not the same as everybody else's. I can say that the financial crisis in Asia has not affected our sales. It is clearly giving us the impression that we can grow." It would achieve its sales target of 50 supercars much before the 2015-deadline, believe company executives.
The James Bond-patronised Aston Martin, has not only matched its last year's show of 20 units sold, but has surpassed it this year, with an average price of Rs 3 crore per car. The company is reportedly keen on launching the facelifted DBS model in the coming months.
The high aspiration quotient of such cars does not get dented by the challenges the Indian roads pose. For instance, they won't do justice to the Lamborghini Aventador Roadster with an engine producing 350km/hour top-speed. After all, with over 300 cars added to Mumbai's roads every day, for example, the average vehicular speed in the city is less than 25km/hour.
The super luxury car market in India has expanded to around 300-400 units a year, stomping ahead at the rate of 20-25 per cent every year, according a manufacturer. With an average tag of Rs 3.5 crore a car, it is valued at nearly Rs 1,500 crore.
The market, unfazed by the economic slowdown, can only grow. Fueled by greater disposable income, the count of millionaires in India is projected to more than double to 403,000 by 2015, according to a recent CLSA report. India has the highest number of ultra-high net-worth individuals in Asia-Pacific (more than even China).
However, dealers such as Rolls-Royce's Venkatesh Krishanan, CEO, Kun Exclusive have noted that some customers had deferred purchases as the cars had become costlier by Rs 7-10 lakh due to the rupee depreciation. Lalit Choudary, MD of Infinity Cars, the official importer of Aston Martin, explains: "The volatility in the currency means that any price quoted today needs to be revised a week later. But we have seen a great response to our new models. Our range starts at Rs 2.5 crore. Depending on the rupee, our targets will be met."