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E-tron Launch In India May Be Preponed To 2019: Rahil Ansari, Audi India

Brand Director of Audi globally spoke of product lifecycle changes, new products on the anvil like electric vehiclesand government policies

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At 39, Rahil Ansari is the youngest Brand Director of Audi globally. He is of Indian origin, though born and bred in Germany and has had stints with Audi India before being appointed India Head in 2016. In a freewheeling chat with Siddharth Shankar of BW Businessworld, he spoke of product lifecycle changes, new products on the anvil like electric vehiclesand government policies.

Excerpts:


Do you see e-tron as the “halo” car that the Indian electric vehicle revolution needs?

Absolutely! It will definitely lead the way. If  you look at the range of  the local electric vehicles, they typically have a range of 90-120 kilometres per full charge. Possibly in the future you will find them in the range of 150 kilometres. With the e-tron, you are looking at 400 kilometres plus, which is also a big advantage and will also change the game for us.

When do we expect the e-tron to come to India?
Initially we were looking at 2020. Now, given the hype of the car, given the positive reactions of media journalists and potential customers and of course, the development of the Indian infrastructure, we are looking at preponing the launch to 2019.

What do you think of  the current EV infrastructure and what is Audi India doing about it?
Of course, there is a lot of work that still has to be done and I think the government has taken some good steps in terms of projects and pilots that are running. We are getting the infrastructure for electric charging stations installed at home and we will work with someone locally to get it installed here.

So dealerships will have electric charging facilities, which means that if you are going outstation, you will also have access to a charging station. If you go from Delhi to Chandigarh, for instance, you have an Audi dealer at Karnal and a charging station there to recharge your car on the way to Chandigarh.

What do you think of autonomous and driverless cars in India?
Looking at India from that (autonomous) perspective, it is a challenge, because on lots of roads we don’t have any proper lanes and people are driving left and right. I still think the future will be autonomous, but it may take a little bit longer in India.

Yes it (driverless cars) will come, but will come at a later stage, I’m sure. There is resistance to it at the current stage, as we have a lot of drivers in the country. I think we shouldn’t necessarily be afraid of the changes. There is a space and place for everyone in the country and I’m sure there will also be new work and new employment being created. So, we should be open to new technologies.

Everyone is talking of  the Q8 ...
The Q8 is a fantastic car - it’s a beautiful car.  It speaks the new design language of our chief designer, Marc Lichte. He has done a great job in developing and designing the car in a manner that shows how progressive Audi is. You see the beautiful wide wheel arches, you see a design which is edgier than earlier.

When does India get the Q8? 
That is the question.  It’s planned for next year. We are definitely looking forward to this and I would say it’s a sporty brother of the Q7.

What offers does Audi India have for its customers this festive season? 

Our brand philosophy – “Together with Audi” - means you are part of the family. Once you buy an Audi, you are a part of the family, and as part of this campaign we have launched a few offers like the Customer Service Package. We also have some offers on the Q range of vehicles from Audi – Q3, Q5 and the Q7 and on the A4 and A6.

How do Indian luxury car sales compare with those of  other markets like China?

I think the Indian luxury car market is a little bit limited in terms of growth - limited in the sense that there are new policies coming into play every few months, which limit the growth potential of  the luxury segment.

The mindset of customers has changed.  Earlier buying a house and jewellery was a part of owning luxury. Today it has changed to buying a luxury car, but while luxury cars are more accessible now in terms of lower EMIs, we still have high taxes of these cars.

How is Audi handling the perception of high cost of owning a luxury  vehicle?
It’s a stereotypical of people to say that owning a luxury car is too expensive. It is not. We have educated the customer to all the options and offers we have. So as part of the new car purchase, customers can buy a customer service package that’s basically a wear and tear maintenance package for up to five years and a lakh kilometres. We offer various options.


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