The automotive industry saw record-breaking sales of passenger vehicles last year, but a majority of car brands and an overwhelming number of two-wheeler companies are not enthused by the country’s largest automotive event, which kicks off on January 11 in Greater Noida.
More than two dozen prominent automotive brands have cited high event costs, negligible returns on investment, poor event management, unfavourable location and irrelevance of the event itself as reasons for their reluctance to participate. The missing names make up more than 80% of India’s total domestic volumes. The Auto Expo is taking place after a gap of three years.
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While regulars like Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai and Tata Motors will unveil their vehicle concepts and production-ready models, Mahindra & Mahindra, Volkswagen, Citroen, Skoda and Honda will be missing from action. The entire line-up of legacy brands in the two-wheeler and luxury car space will be absent. These include Hero MotoCorp, Bajaj Auto, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Jaguar Land Rover.
But it is not that auto companies are riding on the retail demand wave and do not need publicity. Some brands like BMW and Bajaj Auto-promoted KTM, hold independent outdoor events where they invite the general public and existing brand owners.
While such events cost much more than holding the seven-day event at Auto Expo, brands appear content spending on their target audience instead.
Speaking to FE, Vikram Pawah, president and CEO, BMW Group India, said, “Whenever we do any activity, we should be able to reach our customers. We are a luxury carmaker and our customer base is different.”
BMW Group, which also includes Mini and Motorrad brands, organised JoyTown, an outdoor event where visitors paid an entry fee of ₹2,500 in Mumbai’s Bandra Kurla Complex. “An event like this costs us a lot more but we are able to reach our customers. These decisions are not about whether you are in the event (Auto Expo) or not, it is more about whether you are able to reach your customer effectively,” Pawah added.
Skoda Auto, which had record breaking sales last year, is confident of keeping the momentum going by remaining independent of the Auto Expo and keeping the suspense factor alive about its offerings.
Petr Solc, brand director, Skoda Auto India, said, “We have many products to bring in the months to come and we will disclose them at the right time and not necessarily at the Auto Expo. There is a cautious decision to define the right timing of the introduction and unveil them at a later stage.”
Lack of enthusiasm among auto companies in the previous editions of the Auto Expo was visible with the meagre growth in footfall. A total of 608,526 visitors attended the Expo in 2020, a growth of 0.55% over the 2018 edition, which received 605,175 visitors. That figure, in turn, was 0.54% higher than the 2016 edition, which received 601,914 visitors.