x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

First Aston Martin dealership a sign of maturing Indian market

Aston Martin is set to open a dealership in New Dehli, following in the tyre tracks of Rolls-Royce and BMW, further proof that the Indian luxury car market has "come of age".

Among the barometers of a country's rise in wealth is its proliferation of high-end luxury cars. India's ascension in the past five years has seen only a few luxury car makers enter the scene, but that is changing quickly; Rolls-Royce and BMW are already there and now Aston Martin has officially entered the country.

The first Aston dealership has opened in Mumbai, with another about to open in New Delhi. Lalit Chaudary, the official importer in Mumbai, feels the time is now right for the UK sports car company to finally enter the market.

"The luxury car market is slowly coming of age," says Chaudary. "And you see the emergence of customers looking into the more exotic space. Thusly it's been only a couple of high-end brands in the last seven, eight years here, and people are jaded as a result; there's nothing new. So with the onset of new brands and with ourselves coming in, there is a renewed enthusiasm for the segment."

Part of the problem for manufacturers has been the country's exorbitant taxes; the government imposes a 110 per cent duty on high-end cars imported into the country, and local registration costs could add another 15 per cent to 20 per cent on top of that. Chaudary, who also owns a BMW dealership and a luxury yacht franchise, says his range will start at US$300,000 (Dh1.1 million) for the V8 Vantage and go all the way up to $650,000 (Dh2.4m) for the top-end DBS with all the taxes included. Still, he believes he can sell 30 cars this year despite the high prices. "The clients want something to differentiate themselves from their peers."

Aston Martin has not entered the market lightly; the company has been doing its research for the past two years. Mark Kenworthy, the general manager for Aston Martin for the Middle East and North Africa, says the signs pointed to making a move now.

"We're a UK-based manufacturer, and you have a lot of high-net-worth people in India who have second homes in the UK, and as a consequence of that they are familiar with Aston Martin.

"We've also seen the grey market of Aston has dictated that there is demand for our products, and we have a responsibility to supply service and warranty within the region. So the combination, the fact that sales are there and we want to be there, it made a sensible business case for the dealers."

Ferrari will be officially entering India in the next month, and other manufacturers are looking at the market seriously, but Kenworthy says that was not a factor for his company's decision.

"We didn't feel pressured to get in now. It's got to be commercially right; there's no point in putting Aston Martin in there just for vanity. It makes sense, and as a consequence of that we spent the best part of 18 months sifting through people who want to represent the brand there, and we feel we have the right partners.

"There's a lot of interest in Aston Martin there already. The high-end luxury segment is growing, and when new players come in, it widens the net and creates more awareness."