BMW India is on a roll, and David Patton, Senior VP, Asia-Pacific, BMW, is mighty pleased. “Last year, which was our first year of operations in India, we had a target of 1,000 vehicles and we sold close to 1,400. We had initially toyed with selling 2,000 cars in 2008, but we feel that we can sell 2,800 vehicles this year,” says Patton. However, he does admit that the German carmaker needs to do a lot more in India. “Right now our sales network only reaches the major metropolitan cities; if we are to expand, we will have to start selling cars in the other large cities,” says Patton.BMW has already made a start towards that. Like its German rivals, Audi and Mercedes, it has expanded into the lucrative Punjab market. “Despite the slowdown, there is no doubt that successful, rich Indians like our cars,” says Patton. But he does not believe that BMW will undertake reckless expansion in the country. “All our outlets, even the smaller ones, will have to conform to global BMW standards,” he points out. Also, with a global move towards “Green” cars, Patton points out that attitudes are considerably different across the world. “In Western Europe, for example, the environmental aspect of a vehicle is writ large on the buyer’s mind. While Asian consumers realise this, it is not a driving factor,” he notes.
However, BMW has developed and deployed hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and it is working on nextgeneration hybrid technology, “which you should see on our range shortly”, says Patton. He believes that once hybrid technology develops to a point where it can deliver the performance levels of today’s internal-combustion cars, attitudes will change even in developing markets.
Is there anything that BMW isn’t happy about? Patton says it would be good if the regulators moved a bit faster. “It still takes too long to homologate a vehicle.
I do not feel that the agency (Automotive Research Association of India) has managed to keep pace with India’s increasing automotive globalisation,” he says. It’s hard to disagree with him.