Audi India has started off the year on a strong note by reintroducing the popular A4 sedan to its model line-up. After a difficult 2020 that saw a double whammy of a depleted portfolio and a pandemic weighing heavy on its new launch timelines, the German marque has a positive outlook for the new year. “I’m very optimistic about 2021,” Balbir Singh Dhillon, Head, Audi India, told Autocar India on the sidelines of the A4 launch. “We will have a very high double digit growth this year, and it could even be more,” he added.
- Audi to launch a new product every alternate month in 2021
- Company expecting equal volumes from its sedans and SUVs
- Audi to expand service network in Tier 2 and 3 cities
This can be attributed, in part, to the automotive sales picking up from the initial shock of the lockdown last year, though the recovery in the luxury segment is lower than in the mass market category. “Demand has only been increasing in the last five months, on a month-on-month basis,” said Dhillon. “Nobody anticipated that the market will come back so strong.”
In addition to improving demand, Audi is confident of positive results on the back of a strong model line-up that it has planned for 2021.
Audi A4 to be a volume driver
Launched recently at a price of Rs 42.34-46.67 lakh (ex-showroom, India), the A4 facelift now forms the entry point to Audi’s sedan range in India, which also includes the A6, RS7 and the A8 L. “Since the time we first launched this model (A4) in 2007, it has been one of our best-selling models and we expect this to continue even going forward,” said Dhillon.
The A4 gives Audi a contender in the popular mid-size luxury sedan segment, something it had been missing for almost a year. Reaffirming his expectations, the company boss said, “We have high volume expectations from this model. With the new engine, technology, interior and features, it will attract many buyers. We launched it in the very beginning of the year, so that we have full twelve months to push the momentum on this model.”
Return of popular models to bolster sales
Audi is touting to have an action-packed line-up for 2021. “There are many launches coming this year, including sedans and SUVs, IC (internal combustion) engined cars and electric cars. You will see products being launched in the volume as well as niche segments,” elaborated Dhillon.
With a new product introduction planned “more or less every alternate month this year”, Audi’s portfolio will reach full strength by the end of 2021.
The new Q3, as well as the Q5 and Q7 facelifts will mark a return of some of Audi’s more popular models in our market, which is expected to significantly bolster sales. “With the products that we’ve planned, I’m 100 percent sure that we will have a very exciting year,” commented the Audi India head.
Further hinting that the Audi e-tron will soon see its market debut, he said, “Very shortly, you will also hear from us about new cars being launched on the electrified side.”
Sedans as significant to Audi sales as SUVs
Despite the rising popularity of SUVs in recent times, Audi has interestingly chosen the A4 – a sedan – as its first launch of the year. Explaining the rationale, Dhillon said, “Yes, the trend for mass market models is definitely more favourable towards SUVs. But in the luxury space, you have equal demand for sedans and SUVs, both.”
As such, the company expects sedans to remain a crucial part of its product onslaught. “At Audi India, the growth is going to be panned out equally between SUVs and sedans,” he said.
Performance models to bring in reasonable volumes
In the super sports category, Audi currently offers the full-blooded RS7 sedan and RS Q8 SUV in our market. “I think the market (for these) is only going to grow,” mentioned Dhillon.
He added, “A lot depends on experiential marketing (in this segment) – we make prospective buyers drive these cars before they are emotionally involved to buy them, which couldn’t happen last year.”
But with the economy opening up, Audi can now double down on pushing sales for its performance models. “This will remain a key focus for us this year. Though this vertical is very important for being a brand shaper, we also expect a reasonable volume from this,” said Dhillon. As such, the automaker also plans to add the RS6 Avant to its portfolio towards the year’s end.
Expansion of Audi service network a priority
Audi further believes that enhancing the ease of service of its products is a crucial step towards bringing in new buyers. “To ensure that we are available to our customers in close proximity, we have a workshop-first approach. So we want to further expand to multiple towns with our workshops, followed by the Audi-approved Plus showrooms for the pre-owned cars business, which is also growing very rapidly,” said Dhillon.
Though Audi seems poised to make a strong comeback this year, it will be on a smaller base of 2020. Still, the expected double digit growth would make for a significant achievement for the automaker which has witnessed a sales decline for the past four consecutive years in our market.