2019 Audi A6 and Q8 confirmed for India this year, only petrol engines says India head Rahil Ansari
Rahil Ansari isn’t your typical corporate head honcho. He took over as Head of Audi India rather young, and brought flair and dynamism to the job. No longer was the top man at car launches in suits and ties – he was in stylish blazers and flashy sneakers. Born in Germany and of Indian origin, Rahil has always been an Audi man before he took over India operations three years ago. Before he moves on to a larger global role at the end of this month, we caught up with him at the Audi India office for a quick chat.
The freewheeling conversation with him covers a vast variety of subjects right from how he landed this job and his love for the Audi brand. Rahil joined at a tough time – the industry is in a slump and sales figures are declining. He talks about the challenges he has faced during his time here in India, where he sees the industry heading and when we can expect to get out of this slump. He also talks about what he likes to do in his downtime – play sports, indulge in some sneakers and even listen to Bollywood music. He also confirms what Audis will be making their way to India in the next few months. Check out the full video interview, and an abridged text version with the highlights of the interview below.
The biggest learning from India is that policies aren’t predictable
“India has the potential to grow big but at the same time, sometimes, we don’t do enough. We — as in all the stakeholders, including the government, that also includes the OEMs — don’t do enough to make it happen. We need to allow for this growth to happen. I think in India we have been too prohibitive, especially in terms of regulations to let the market grow. Then, of course, the taxes for the luxury segment. It has always been one of the major criticisms that luxury taxes are too high. Cars in the luxury segment need to be made more accessible. And it's not because we want to sell more cars. Of course everyone wants to sell more cars, but at the same time it is one of those things that is aspirational.”
I've not underestimated the market
“I think India will always remain a challenging market and because it's one of the largest car markets in the world and it's very A00 [small car] driven. The luxury market has always been very small. And I think that's a bit of a sad thing also that the [luxury] cake has not grown.
“On the other hand, I'm pretty happy about dealer profitability because that's the key. At the end of the day, if your dealer partners are not sustainable, you can do whatever you want to do, but you will not sell any cars. At the end of the day you have to make money with businesses.
“We have also been customer-centric with the business. We have been the first ones now in the luxury segment to launch augmented reality. The sales consultant takes the iPad home to the customer. You can configure your A8 in your living room, in life size. You can park at the new parking lot virtually and see what it looks like.”
Our push will definitely be towards electrification
“That’s the future for us. We've seen that in some of the previews with the Audi e-tron. Customers are pretty excited about it. We want to be one of the first ones to bring those cars, a fully electric vehicle. We do believe that this is also the trend for us in terms of reducing emissions. And we will bring cars that will be more affordable. Audi globally is launching about 30 EVs up to 2025 out of which 12 will be fully electric vehicles and the rest will be plug-in hybrids. So some of the other cars will definitely also find its way to India.”
Government is doing a fantastic job in terms of EV policies
“They have been very proactive and shown quite some dedication even two years ago. When the GST was implemented in 2017 they already announced 12 per cent GST, a good step and an indication of where the industry is going to go. Now with the recent announcement of reducing the GST to 5 per cent for EVs, I think that's a pretty good step. Of course the infrastructure has to be pushed forward.
“That roadmap has to be transferred into execution. I think that's going to happen. It's a question of time, but at the same time, of course, the acceptance from the customer has to be there. We've done our homework, we'll have our dealerships ready in terms of fast charging, but of course we'll also support our customers in terms of home installation.
We will not push Audi sportscars to that extent
“Of course we have the RS5, still have the S5, and we will have sports cars available in the future. When you're perceived as a young and dynamic brand you also have to live that dynamism and progressiveness. We will not only show an e-tron but we'll also have some sports cars in the pipeline. You will be surprised to see one or the other car that finds its way to India and maybe there's even an electric sports car. I wouldn't say no to this [SQ range of fast SUVs], but wouldn't confirm it at this stage.”