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BMW may look at MINI production in India


Hyderabad, Dec 19 (IANS) Luxury car-maker BMW Wednesday said it may look at manufacturing its MINI brand in India but that would depend on the market potential for the premium small car.

BMW Group India president Philipp von Sahr said the company’s first priority was to establish MINI as a brand.

"BMW Group has a policy that production follows market. The MINI market is huge and I would not exclude (that) we will produce here," he told reporters here after launching the MINI.

"At the moment we are in the learning phase. We will not exclude MINI production facility in India but at the moment it is 100 percent imported car and we are 100 percent concentrated on learning how the brand is accepted," he said.

He pointed out that BMW was sourcing many parts of MINI from India for its world-wide production.

"India is really an important supplier market for BMW Group, especially for MINI. Lot of techniques, especially engine technique, in MINI are from India," he said and indicated that localisation in other brands would also increase.

Hyderabad became the third city after Mumbai and Delhi to see the rollout of the premium brand in the small car segment.

Since the launch in January, BMW has sold 280 MINI cars till November and expects to end the year with 300 units.

KUN Exclusive, exclusive dealership for MINI, also opened in Hyderabad. This is the fourth dealership of the brand and the company expects the number to go up to eight in 2014.

He hoped that the new dealerships and additional models would drive MINI’s growth in 2013, though the economic situation was likely to remain more or less at the same level as 2012.

"The total luxury car market in India is around 30,000 units at the moment but we think it will grow next year. Though the economic situation is not so positive, with additional dealers and additional models there is always a potential to grow," he said.

"The first months were surprisingly good. There is big demand. There is big market. We want to continue learning in 2013," he said while declining to project any numbers for the next year.

To another query, he said BMW India did not expect any sales drop in other brands during 2012. He also ruled out price cut to counter the adverse market conditions.

"We will not have any price support, discount or so. Even in other brands you will not see that a lot. If you start with discounts it will immediately damage the brand. We want to develop MINI brand as also the other brands," he said.

He said no cut in the interests rate would also not have any impact on MINI as it was in a starting phase. "BMW as a group is always known for a strategy which is sustainable and not short term sales," he added.

Describing MINI as the only luxury brand in India selling smaller cars, Sahr hoped that sooner or later it would be a brand in all major cities. He said they started rolling out the brand in major cities and in the long term would expand to tier-II and tier-III cities.

In the long term, BMW expects success in India the way it achieved in other markets in the world.

"Indians are car crazy. They love cars. This is a great country with a lot of history and a vast market," said Sahr, who took over in October.

BMW has sold three million MINI cars worldwide since the launch. It has six different models but has initially rolled out three models in India – MINI, MINI Cooper and MINI Cooper S. With a price band of Rs.25-35 lakh, they are available in six-speed automatic transmission with powerful and efficient petrol variants.