The Italian luxury sports car maker Ferrari, which made its debut in India's crowded vehicle market at a launch event in New Delhi last week, has the lowest annual sales target among all car companies in the country.
Ferrari, whose logo features the classic prancing horse, plans to sell just 100 units in the next two to three years, a fraction of the annual sales of luxury car brands such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Audi that are pushing aggressively to tap this vastly under-penetrated market of 1.2 billion people where only eight among every 1,000 own a car. But Ferrari being Ferrari, is unlikely to follow the herd. "We don't come to India to increase volumes," Amedeo Felisa, its chief executive, said at the launch. He said the car maker aimed to use "exclusivity" as a marketing strategy to woo a customer base with the highest purchasing power in India: high net individuals (HNIs) - people with assets exceeding US$1 million (Dh3.6m). The number of Indian HNIs increased this year to 130,000 from 84,000 in 2008. India is home to more dollar millionaires and billionaires than any China.
"Until [now], we were in 57 countries. We are now in the 58th country, which is India," Mr Felisa said. "We should have come [to this market] a long time ago."The least expensive of the Ferrari range - the California - is priced at 22m rupees (Dh1.7m), significantly more than its cost in Europe because of heavy import duties in India. Its latest and most expensive model - the FF, unveiled earlier this year at the Geneva Motor Show - will be available for 34.1m rupees.
All cars will be made to order at Ferrari's plant in Maralleno, a town in northern Italy, and will be delivered within three months to a year of ordering. The demand for luxury car brands has grown sharply in India in recent years with an increase in disposable income levels and per capita income. Until a decade ago, virtually the only time luxury car brands such as Ferrari made an appearance in India was in movies. Mercedes-Benz was traditionally the luxury car of choice seen cruising the Indian roads. That changed after BMW opened up shop in 2006, and was followed by Audi. BMW, which dominates the luxury car segment with a 40 per cent market share, sold 6,246 units last year, a growth of 73 per cent over the previous year. Mercedes-Benz sold 5,819 units, registering 80 per cent growth in sales last year compared with 2009. And Audi sold 3,003 units last year, posting an 81 per cent rise in sales compared with the previous year.
These three German car makers, which dominate the market, have assembly facilities in India. All other luxury brands, including Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Porsche, Maserati and Aston Martin, are not manufactured in the country and have appointed importers and dealers to distribute the brands in India, for which heavy import duties need to be paid. The Indian police last week began investigating an alleged racket involving some Asian diplomats who are suspected of importing luxury cars to sell in the black market without paying import duties. The police seized 40 luxury cars, including Aston Martins worth $640,000, during their investigations. The names of the diplomats were not revealed.