Mercedes beats GST blues, records highest-ever luxury car sales

5th Jan 2018 7:35 pm

Mercedes-Benz India races ahead of rivals; BMW has best-ever year; Audi stagnant in third place; JLR, Volvo, Porsche show strong growth.

Mercedes-Benz India has reinforced its leadership position in the country's luxury vehicle market as it recorded its highest-ever sales of 15,330 units in 2017 (Jan-Dec) despite facing a setback due to the upward revision in GST rates. The German luxury vehicle brand clocked a sales growth of 16 percent from 13,231 units sold in 2016. Progress made on the back of the sucess of E, C, GLC and GLE with double-digit growth in the sedan, SUV and AMG segment.

Globally, too, Mercedes-Benz clinched the top spot as the largest luxury automaker in 2017 with 22,89,344 units sold, a growth of 9.9 percent over 2016.

With this stellar performance, the Indian subsidiary has raced further ahead of key rivals such as BMW, Audi, Jaguar Land Rover and Volvo to achieve a comfortable lead.

Audi India struggled to find traction as it saw volumes grow moderately by just 2 percent to 7,876 units. The German luxury automaker cited the GST cess hike for its poor performance. "GST disturbed the positive momentum gathered by the initial decline in prices. Uncertainty in the minds of customers had a negative impact on us," said Rahil Ansari, Head, Audi India in an official statement.

However, Audi was the only company unable to counter the impact of GST; and after being the country's highest selling luxury carmaker in 2014, it has struggled to keep up with its other German rivals.

BMW India maintained its second place in the overall standings, registering sales of 9,379 units – up 25 percent from 7,500 units sold in 2016. Combined with Mini (421 units, up 17 percent), the BMW Group has sold 9,800 units; showing a considerable growth of 25 percent.

Commenting on the performance, Vikram Pawah, president, BMW Group India, said, “While the automotive industry was adversely affected by several policy fluctuations, we were able to achieve successful growth due to our all-round strategy."

The Indian arm of British carmaker Jaguar Land Rover has emerged as the fastest growing luxury brand. It sold 3,954 units in 2017, up by a massive 49 percent over the previous year.

Rohit Suri, president and MD, Jaguar Land Rover told Autocar that this growth was achieved on the back of the upbeat performances of key models like the XE diesel, F-Pace and the Discovery Sport. He went on to say that spurt in demand for the locally-assembled F-Pace following the nearly Rs 20 lakh price-cut supported sales in December.

Although JLR crossed the GST hurdle comfortably, Suri cautioned that overall growth could have been higher, if not for the upward revision in rates. "Overall volume growth could have been in high double digits as opposed to current rate of 8-9 percent," he said.

In a recent interview to Autocar India, Roland Folger, MD & CEO, Mercedes-Benz India said GST was a lost opportunity for the government to boost the luxury car industry’s long-term growth potential.

Swedish carmaker Volvo has also closed 2017 with a significant jump in volume. It sold 2,029 vehicles in India in 2017, a growth of 28 percent from the 1,584 units sold in 2016. Volvo recently launched the XC60 in India and is gearing up to double its dealership network over the next two years. A company spokesperson said Volvo has been largely unaffected by GST as the tax revision had a nullifying effect on its volumes. The initial spurt in sales was balanced out by the slight impact on volumes due to uncertainty after the rates were revised.

German performance car brand Porsche sold 435 units in 2017, up 10 percent over the previous year. Growth was led by the current second-generation Cayenne, which is in its run-out phase and due for a replacement, this year. Porsche is set to introduce the all-new SUV, around June. The Cayenne is key to Porsche’s ambition of expanding its volumes in India and is expected to extend Porsche's growth charge in 2018.

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