Opinion: Luxury carmakers should offer a better customer experience

When it comes to luxury cars, oddly, it’s the product that holds more sway over the brand itself.

Analysts wonder why luxury car sales in India are not in line with the number of high net-worth individuals (HNIs). A recent interaction with someone I know who owns one could shed some light.

We were supposed to meet in New Delhi a few days ago, under the haze. “Sorry, cannot make it as GRAP-4 is on. My vehicle is a BS4 diesel,” he said.

“Damn! How do you move around?” I asked.

“Mostly work from home. If it’s really urgent, I’ll take a Blu [EV cab].” 

“So, what plans with your car now? We will always be in the grip of GRAP in NCR.”

“Yeah, that is what bugs me the most. The car brand knows I have a BS4 diesel that’s five years old now. They obviously have this in their database. The least they can do is contact me, offer me an exchange and an upgrade. An offer... that’s all.”

“You presuppose they have a database…”

“Actually, you’re right. I switched from one dealer to another for my service and my data did not automatically get transferred. I asked them if they had a common database. They looked sheepishly. They don’t even send me a greeting on New Year, my birthday or the vehicle’s birthday! All their loyalty programme emails are only about some promotion or service deal. They could get the basics in place first, like helping me sell my old vehicle and not just sell me a watch or jacket!”

“But how has your vehicle been performing?”

“Oh, it’s terrific. Has had its glitches, but never let me down on long drives or travel. That is the basic issue... they depend only on their products to do all the talking. If they have new products in their portfolio, their sales are good. Otherwise, I don’t think they really do anything to create a bond with the brand.”

“I tend to agree with you. Most people I checked with on the reason for a brand choice was ‘this was the latest’. You are right, the product in most cases tends to denote the brand and nothing much more than that.”

“Absolutely! I have relatives who swear by Maruti or Hyundai. None of my friends really swear by a luxury badge. For them, all are virtually the same and it’s only the latest that they buy. Anyway, I decided to trade this in for a BS6 petrol. Don’t want to be in the grip of GRAP, right?”

“That’s sad, because these cars are supposed to run much longer to justify their price. They charge a premium for build quality, engineering and durability. And their heritage and legacy. Which is all that creates that brand halo around them.”

“Brother, why don’t you write about this?”

“Hmmm… not a bad suggestion.”

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