As Audi India regears its product portfolio and brings in its latest SUV – the Q2 – we speak to Head of Audi India, Balbir Singh Dhillon, about Audi’s continuing reinvention in India, and how the Q2 fits into their larger product plan for the country.
Do you see the Q2 becoming as popular as the Q3 has been for you over the years? Is the positioning slightly different than the Q3 with the Q2?
We see that as a two-part approach - on one hand, we are expecting our existing buyers and luxury car owners to buy the Q2. On the other hand, the Q2 is also aimed at first-time luxury car buyers in the country. So, I do feel that the way Q3 became one of our most successful products in India (in terms of volume), the Q2 is also expected to do the same for us. What these kind of products help us with, is bringing new customers to the brand and once they are with us, it is then up to us to determine that for how long can we let the customer be loyal to our brand. So, I’m sure that the Q2 will help us expand our horizon in terms of our customer base in India.
On the topic of widening the customer base, how difficult is it for you guys to get the Q2 to India with a less powerful engine and a manual transmission, to offer it at a lower price point perhaps?
Well, it’s been a conscious choice on our side to bring the Q2 only with an automatic gearbox option in India. Plus, we’re purposely getting the Q2 versions which are powered by the 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine, because we want the Q2 to be fun to drive, and to this end, the Q2 coming to India will also be equipped with all the bells & whistles, such as Quattro 4WD. Though the Q2 is set to become a new entry point into our luxury product portfolio, the ‘luxury’ element has to be felt by the customer and there is no bigger contributor to this than the driving experience. If the performance and excitement of the Q2 does not force you to drive the car yourself, then I think we’d have missed the mark in terms of making the Q2 an overall package as a terrific driver’s car.
Coming to the subject of your dealer network, which has been an area of concern for you for the past couple of years, how is the progress on that coming along?
Actualyl, I’d go so far as to say that this has not been an area of concern for us over these past few years. However, this year has been very challenging for all of us simply because it’s not just about the dealer partners. We have 2,500 employees working across the country, whom we’ve trained ourselves, and it’s about their livelihoods during these sensitive times. During the past 6-8 months, we’ve taken numerous initiatives to help our dealer partners come out of this difficult situation.
As you know, any business runs on two aspects – Revenue & Expenditure. While the revenue collections has fallen like nobody’s business, in terms of expenditure, which is largely divided into three categories – manpower, interest costs & rental expense on the facilities – we pitched in, wherever possible, to help our dealer partners come out of this situation.
Recently, there was a study conducted by FADA that came out with feedback from dealer partners. I was not aware that FADA was undertaking this sort of activity but when we saw the feedback and scores our dealers had given in the study, it turned out to be one of the best in the entire luxury segment. Though we don’t have time to delve deeper into the finer details, this gives everyone an overall picture, by and large, that our dealer partners are happy with whatever we have done for them, in terms of providing support.
We’ve also been expanding with those partners who have been with us for long, those who have been associated with us not just for the sake of business, but also because of an emotional attachment to the brand, but at the end, the expansion is being done while ensuring that the entire operation should become profitable & sustainable. This is what we’ve been working towards all this time.
At the end of the day, we and our dealer partners both are happy to have come out of the most difficult times together. Now, we need to work towards making the business profitable, once the COVID-19 situation improves.
Also read - Audi Q2 Launched at Rs. 34.99 lakh