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How auto companies found Indian consumer's new love for quiet luxury; here's what it means

How auto companies found Indian consumer's new love for quiet luxury; here's what it means

Luxury auto brands are seeing Indian customer's tastes shift to a new-found love for understated elegance

Luxury auto brands are seeing Indian customer's tastes shift to a new-found love for understated elegance. (Image that of Lamborghini Huracan) Luxury auto brands are seeing Indian customer's tastes shift to a new-found love for understated elegance. (Image that of Lamborghini Huracan)

In India’s bustling streets, where the cacophony of daily life mingles with the purr of high-performance engines, a subtle revolution is underway in the realm of luxury automobiles. Gone are the days when opulence was measured solely in chrome and bling; today, the discerning Indian customer is seeking something deeper, something more profound: quiet luxury.

Simply put, it’s the idea that true luxury does not need to shout; it speaks softly through quality, craftsmanship, and the overall experience it offers. But are carmakers ready to keep pace with the changing tastes of the customer?

Carmakers see quiet luxury as a concept that redefines opulence as understated, sophisticated, and deeply experiential. Unlike the ostentatious displays of wealth often associated with luxury, the quiet kind emphasises subtlety and sophistication, focussing on the harmony between design, functionality, and the overall driving experience.

This transformation comes at a time when most luxury carmakers—barring a few notable exceptions—have seen sales grow above pre-Covid-19 levels, putting the trough of the pandemic years behind them.

The New Path

At the crest of this wave of change is Vikram Pawah, President and CEO of BMW Group India, who recognises that the definition of luxury is undergoing a profound shift. “India’s consumers are forging a new path in luxury,” Pawah asserts, in a tone that has more than a hint of the excitement of a pioneer entering uncharted territory. “It’s not just about owning a car anymore; it’s about a statement, about practicality, about a blend of luxury and utility.”

According to Pawah, it’s not merely about traditional symbols of wealth anymore; it’s about a fusion of technology, performance, and elegance. “Our approach is all about minimalistic elegance. In our latest BMW 7 series, traditional buttons have made way for touch, voice, and gesture commands. We call it shy tech. Features appear only when you need them,” he explains.

Additionally, customisation and personalisation play a pivotal role. Manufacturers offer an array of options—like lighting enhancements, personalised upholstery, climate control features—allowing customers to tailor their vehicles according to their preferences. This bespoke approach ensures that each car becomes a reflection of its owner’s individual style and taste, says Lamborghini’s Sharad Agarwal. The company’s Ad Personam programme allows customers to create their own personalised Lamborghini, tailored to their specifications. “Our clients aren’t just buying a car; they’re investing in a piece of art that mirrors their soul. Customers willingly invest a substantial portion of the car’s value in personalisation, underscoring the growing importance of customisation in the luxury market,” says Agarwal, the Head of Lamborghini India.

Model: Audi RS Q8; Price: Rs 2.22 Crore

Addressing the changing perception of luxury in India, Agarwal says Lamborghini is not just a luxury car; it’s an aspiration, which is why luxury carmakers prefer exclusivity more than volume. “The brand is not driven by mass numbers, but by the pursuit of excellence. Our focus is not just on cutting-edge technology and design; it’s on ensuring that each Lamborghini outperforms its predecessor, meeting the heightened expectations of our customers,” he adds.

It’s a Lifestyle

The change, Agarwal says, is because first-generation entrepreneurs, start-up founders, and women are stepping into the luxury world. “These dreamers are not just seeking a car; they’re pursuing a lifestyle.” Carmakers reckon that luxury is no longer about flaunting a brand; it’s about products that resonate with individual lifestyles and personalities. “We understand that modern luxury is not just about the product; it’s about the entire ownership experience,” he adds.

Model: BMW i7; Price: Rs 1.95 Crore

Naveen Soni, President of Lexus India, has seen first-hand the seismic shift in consumer behaviour post Covid-19. “It’s not just about having the money; it’s about the desire to spend,” Soni states. He acknowledges the surge in post-pandemic demand was fuelled not just by pent-up desires but also a newfound need for self-expression. A younger generation is entering the scene, injecting fresh energy into the industry. “People want to enjoy their wealth, experiment, learn, and embrace new technologies. We’re not merely in the business of luxury mobility; we’re crafting a luxury lifestyle. Our goal is to cater to passions, whether it’s food, travel, fashion, or sports,” he says.

Soni stands by a cherished Japanese principle, omotenashi, symbolising the art of anticipating and exceeding a guest’s needs, a principle he envisions integrating into the Indian luxury experience. He acknowledges the influx of a younger demographic, estimated at a substantial 30-35 per cent of the market. “It’s no longer about features and usability. Brand storytelling and a profound emotional bond with the customer have become paramount,” says the Head of Lexus India.

Model: Porsche 911 Sport Classic; Price: Rs 2.23 Crore

Audi’s Balbir Dhillon agrees. He says it’s about the quality and quantity of a luxury brand today. The shift is palpable, he notes, from the ostentatious mass advertising of yesteryear to a more intimate engagement with the discerning few. “People want to celebrate their luxury,” says the Head of Audi India. Demographics play a pivotal role; 40 per cent of Audi’s clientele belongs to the 25 to 40 years cohort.

No More Excesses

Globally, a new trend is emerging, one that Audi India is carefully nurturing—the concept of experiential ownership. While traditional ownership still holds sway in India, the winds of change are blowing. “It’s about owning an experience. The younger populace, a demographic deeply entrenched in the digital realm, is propelling India towards electrification,” Dhillon says. Audi’s foray into electric vehicles has found a receptive audience among first-time buyers. He says another trend that’s set to take over is the desire to buy luxury earlier in their lives. That’s visible in the staggering 63 per cent growth Audi’s pre-owned car segment saw in the first nine months of this year.

Model: Ferrari SF90; Price: Rs 7.5 Crore

Quiet luxury, therefore, is not just a status symbol; it’s a lifestyle choice. Agarwal says a lot of it has to do with the changing ethos. “We’re witnessing a shift in perception. Entrepreneurship is now celebrated, and success is rewarded with dreams like owning a Lamborghini. It’s a testament to our evolving society, where achievement is met with a car, which is a lot more personal,” he says.

Describing the kind of meticulous craftsmanship that BMW buyers demand, Pawah says the leather that is used in their cars is not chemically treated but crafted to suit the tastes of its customers. “Even the wood in our cars is recycled, echoing our commitment to sustainability and what our customers want. Luxury is not about excess anymore. It’s about thoughtful design, seamless integration of technology, and a commitment to environmental consciousness,” he adds.

“The future of luxury is here, and it’s dynamic, subtle, and intelligent,” Pawah declares. “It’s not just a revolution in automobiles; it’s a revolution in lifestyle,” he adds.

In this tapestry of change, luxury car brands in India feel that they’re no longer just catching up with global trends; rather, they’re setting new standards as they try to meet the demands of Indian luxury car buyers, who certainly want more than that old bling.



Published on: Nov 17, 2023, 6:28 PM IST
Posted by: Arnav Das Sharma, Nov 17, 2023, 3:30 PM IST