In just over two years since setting up its assembly plant in Chennai, BMW India has achieved what was once thought as something extremely difficult if not impossible — emerge as the No 1 in luxury car segment in the country. Hindustan Times caught up with BMW India President Peter Kronschnabl at his office in Gurgaon for a short tete-a-tete. Excerpts
Is 2009 the dream year you were looking forward to?
We have our targets for each year and our own goals to achieve. When we set up our plant in Chennai one thing we were eyeing was obviously the top spot but other than that we also know that the luxury car space in India is too small and needed to expand. We have done well this year so far, growing by 14 per cent till July having sold 2008 cars in the year. The segment as a whole has grown by only in single digits so we are happy to have led the growth. We want to maintain the momentum and only in December, if we are No. 1 will the champagne be uncorked.
Your competitors in the segment — Mercedes and Audi —are also expanding dealerships and getting aggressive. How prepared or confident are you with the challenge?
We are also expanding our presence and increasing our footprint in Tier 2 cities. In the next couple of months, there will be dealerships opening up in Jaipur, Indore and Bhubaneshwar and there will be new products on offer like the Z4 roadster in October. So we are not sitting idle but confident of turning the tables on competition.
With the way you are growing, would you need to expand your capacity anytime soon?
We have a 3,000 unit assembly capacity in Chennai but we have a lot of space available inside the factory to expand production should the need arise. I dont see any major investment requirement to expand capacities in the near term as we can easily produce much more cars from the existing facility.
The luxury segment in India is still very miniscule in comparison. What growth do you expect going forward?
Luxury car segment right now is approximately at 9,000 cars per annum. I believe this segment will double itself by 2015, while 2010 will be the first year when the market would hit five digits. We are proud to have played a major role in expanding the segment and helping it achieve its true potential.
Are you surprised that global recession had such a marginal role to play in the Indian automobile industry?
No, we aren’t because we are always confident about the economy’s resilience here. The reason for this is simple, the growth in India comes from domestic demand and the industry is not based on exports.