While the impact of the pandemic on the automobile sector will be determined by the duration of the lockdown in India, industry stakeholders, at a special panel discussion ‘Zooming Ahead with Green Wheels’, bet big on demand for electric vehicles in the future.
The panel discussion was part of Stimulus 2020, a two-day webinar that assessed the impact of COVID-19 on the luxury sector. Held on April 13 and 14, it brought together 70 participants across the luxury business, entertainment, fashion, retail, automobile and art to discuss the way forward. It was organised by The Global Luxury Group, Crosshairs Communications (PR Partner) and WIN (Women Inspiring Network – Content Partner).
The session dedicated to the luxury auto industry had Hemant Arora, CEO, Aston Martin, New Delhi; Ramesh Somani, Editor-in-chief, Exhibit Magazine & BBC Top Gear India; Jatin Ahuja, Founder, Big Boy Toyz; and Raghu Nayak, Managing Director, Friendly Group of Companies as speakers.
Fashion, automobile, F&B, jewellery and retail are all suffering due to COVID-19. The automobile sector, however, seems to be more affected, as the sales were weak even before the pandemic.
Jatin Ahuja, Founder, Big Boy Toyz, thinks that it is difficult to gauge the losses of the auto industry at this point. “The lockdown timeline will determine the actual impact. If it gets over in a month or so, business recovery for the auto industry will not be difficult,” he says. Alternatively, if the lockdown extends for six months, then it will create a huge impact, informs Ahuja.
Does that mean, that cautious buying will continue in these times? Hemant Arora, CEO, Aston Martin, New Delhi sounds positive. “People who have booked cars with us are in constant touch and have not cancelled their orders. In the past, a lot of disruptions have shaken us, but the spirit of people is strong,” he says. He is confident that in the times to come, the sector will be in a better position.
Sharing similar sentiment is Ramesh Somani, Editor-in-chief, Exhibit Magazine & BBC Top Gear India. He thinks that the COVID-19 crisis has created an opportunity for people as well as for the automobile industry. “People will now feel the need to own a vehicle rather than use Ola and Uber,” says the Editor-in-chief. Raghu Nayak, Managing Director, Friendly Group of Companies is of the opinion that even though the delivery of luxury cars will be delayed, the industry will not collapse.
However, the speakers felt that the government plays a significant role in enabling stability. Hence, hand-holding in the form of tax reduction, subsidies and lesser duties will help recover from the losses at a substantial pace.
“While a lot of economies will grow in negative, India is one of the few countries, where the economy will grow at 1.5 to 2 per cent, which is great news for all of us,” opines Arora. He adds that if the lockdown gets over in a month or so, then the auto industry will only witness an impact of 15-20 per cent, thus allowing enough time to the entrepreneurs to re-strategise and reinvent themselves.
A wave of sustainability has taken over the country for some time now and a lot of big companies are betting big on electric vehicles (EV). “Entrepreneurs are making conscious choices. Luxury is important, but conscious luxury is of utmost significance,” says Somani.
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