Current market challenges are short-term in nature which are expected to be overcome by the industry, believes the top executive of Mercedes-Benz India. In a conversation with IANS, Martin Schwenk, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Mercedes-Benz India, exuded confidence in the potential of the Indian market to emerge even stronger out of the current slowdown induced by the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Covid-19 has not changed our plans for India because we are bullish on India and believe in the strong potential of the country in the mid to long term," Schwenk said. "We believe the current market challenges are short-term in nature and I am confident that the industry will overcome it gradually," he added.
Accordingly, he pointed out that the company's India expansion plans are on track with regard to the localisation of its premium AMG brand of vehicles. "That is the reason we have decided on the localisation of the high performance AMG in India, beginning with the 'AMG GLC 43 SUV Coupe'," he said.
Last week, the luxury car maker had announced its plans to produce the high-end performance AMG vehicles in India. Mercedes-Benz's sub-brand has a wide portfolio of performance limousines, performance SUVs, SUV Coupes, and sports cars.
It has a dedicated retail presence through the 'AMG Performance Centres' located across Indian metros. The AMG performance vehicles were introduced in 2010 in India, and they are currently imported as CBU (completely built units).
Besides, Schwenk foresees a sales boost due to the festive season. "Given the strong momentum witnessed in September, we are confident that the festive cheer would add momentum to October sales as well," he said.
The luxury car maker has handed over 550 cars to customers across the country during the Navratri and Dussehra period of 2020.
It witnessed a strong customer demand across key markets such as Delhi/NCR, Mumbai and Gujarat, which saw a resurging customer demand, owing to the return of normalcy and stabilisation of businesses.
The festive season has officially commenced across the country from the nine-day Navratri period and will last up till the New Year's Day.
Brands across sectors traditionally see a higher uptick in sales during this period.
This year, the season assumes significance as it can trigger healthy and sustainable demand leading to an economic revival.
Prior to the festive season, the luxury car maker, battered by Covid-19, had employed a 'Survival, Revival and Recovery' strategy.
Currently, it is seeing a recovery that is close to 80 per cent of the pre-Covid sales.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has adversely impacted us, resulting in a temporary shut down of our plant, our offices and our dealerships. The result of the lockdown was the loss of a quarter's sale, as we focused on flattening the curve.
"Towards the end of Q2, we started seeing our sales recover gradually as markets started opening up, combined with our new product launches and customer initiatives," he said.
Recently, the company reported sales of 5,007 units in the period from January to September 2020.
In addition, Schwenk expects a significant part of the company's total sales to be completely online by 2025.
"Amid all the challenges we faced due to the pandemic, our e-commerce business is a bright spot and it is on its way to become mainstay retail channel. Our online business now contributes up to 20 per cent of our volumes and we are confident that this is the new paradigm shift in the entire auto industry," he said.
In the July-September 2020 period, Mercedes-Benz India's online car booking contributed up to 20 per cent of sales volume, underscoring the growing prominence of online sales platforms and the changing consumer preference for online shopping.