Fans of the James Bond franchise of films in India (at least the well-heeled ones) are set for a double treat this year, with the announcement that British luxury sports car manufacturer Aston Martin is set to open its second showroom in the county, in the capital city of New Delhi. The Daniel Craig-starrer Skyfall - the 23rd James Bond film - is set to open in theaters around the world later in the year.
The Aston Martin brand makes as many as eight appearances in Bonds' films, which is considerably more than any other brand (Ford does have more appearances but not as Bond's personal car) and was prominent in the last two films - Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. The models featured in those two films were the DB5, the DBS and the DBS V12.
The luxury car market in India has, surprisingly, been one of the few bright spots in an already weak and rapidly weakening automobile market in India. According to a 2011 report in The Times of India, the high-end market grew by a stunning 45 - 50 percent, which is considerably more than the 6 percent growth the entire industry averaged. The report continued, stating that BMW, Audi and Mercedes would, between them, clocked up sales of 20,000 units, compared to the 15,000 from 2010.
That prospect was key in convincing Aston Martin of the potential in Indian markets. An Economic Times report quoted the company's Global Sales director, Andy Gawthorpe, at the launch in New Delhi, as saying while the brand may start slow, they have every intention of being in the country for the long term.
"It has taken us some time to come here as we were strengthening our existing bases like the US and Europe. Now we want to be strong in 160 to 170 key locations including Mumbai and Delhi. We want to do good here. It is a long term business," Gawthorpe said to the Economic Times.
Aston Martin sold over 7,000 units in 2007 before seeing sales slump dramatically over the next three years, to barely cross 4,000 in each of the 2010 and 2011 periods.
"The global market has not recovered yet. Economic conditions in the US, UK and in Europe are very different and difficult today then what we had in 2007," Gawthorpe added.
However, the conditions in the Indian markets may not be as rosy as they were last year and could give Gawthorpe and his executives some cause for concern.
In a report by Hindustan Times, market leader BMW has projected only a 10 to 15 percent growth for 2012, its most conservative estimates since it first opened in the country. Mercedes reported similar estimates, adding that it believed the days of 50 percent growth were over. Audi, however, reported slightly better prospects and said it hoped to sell 8,000 units (a 45 percent growth).
Gawthorpe, nevertheless, was confident of the future, stressing the company expected a fifth of its 2012 sales to come markets like China, India and the Middle East, a senior UK officials said to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). In fact, he said the company would look to double total dealerships in China by December.
"We are growing tremendously in emerging markets. That's where the spark really is," he added, noting the company would soon also open dealerships in Malaysia and South Korea. However, he refrained from giving any clear sales projections.
"India is a relatively small market at this point. It's about getting a footprint. It's about getting the [Indian] market to grow. It's a long-term strategy," he said.
The new Aston Martin showroom in Delhi will have 14 selected models of luxury sports cars, including the V12 Vantage, Vantage S (Coupe and / or Roadster), V8 Vantage Coupe, V8 Vantage Roadster, DB9 Coupe, DB9 Volante, DBS Coupe, DBS Volante and the four-door sports car and Rapide. The cars are expected to retail between, approximately, £200,000 and £500,000.