NEW DELHI: Audi is getting an India-born executive to lead local operations. The move comes at a time when its sales have been in a downward spiral, declining from over 11,000 units in 2015 to less than 6,500 last year.
Balbir Singh Dhillon, an industry veteran who has spent nearly 12 years in the Volkswagen group, will take charge of the company, replacing German born Rahil Ansari, who is moving to the group’s global headquarters in Germany, nearly six months ahead of the usually-stipulated three-year term. Dhillon is currently the head of dealer development of Audi in India.
“Times are challenging in India, but I am confident that we will manage to turn around the business over the coming years as new models come in and buyer confidence improves,” Dhillon, who takes charge from September, told TOI.
Ansari had joined Audi India as head of the market in February 2017. He has been leading a tough mandate of managing operations as competition became steeper, and troubles from VW’s global diesel engine cheating scandal impacted flow of new models, technology, and investments.
Audi started operations in India in 2007. It managed to grab the pole position in the luxury car market (ahead of BMW and Mercedes) and achieved peak sales of 11,192 units in 2015. But the company’s sales started slipping and it closed last year with 6,463 units. In comparison, Mercedes closed 2018 with sales of around 15,500 units, while BMW group sold 11,105 cars.
Audi feels a leadership change and introduction of new models (last launch happened in January 2018) will lead to revival of business. It plans to launch A6 and A8 sedans, Q8 SUV, and e-Tron electric. The non-electric cars will come only with petrol versions, in line with the government’s focus to push clean mobility.
Both Ansari and Dhillon said the market still remains challenging as slower economy, credit squeeze, and high taxation on luxury vehicles keep customers away. Regarding the turnaround in Audi’s business, they said it may take between 18 and 24 months for a credible recovery.