Photo: Flickr via FotoSleuth
Britain’s castles, the green meadows that dot its countryside and its fabled shopping districts have always held a special charm for India’s wealthy, but these days the jet-set are streaming to some unlikely spots.
Like, for instance, a 74-year-old factory in the rail town of Crewe in north-west England. Except that this is no ordinary factory and the visitors are not there out of serendipity.
This one makes iconic Bentley cars, and these days the factory’s 4,000 or so workers find themselves part hosting and also part indulging a growing number of rich Indians who come visiting, family and friends in tow, to watch their cars being put together.
They will experience the making of their own super-luxury machine – from customised features to intricately hand-stitched upholstery to body paint, which, in one recent case involving a Delhi businessman, had to be the same shade as the nail polish colour his wife was in love with.
These people are guests of Bentley, having booked the cars – carrying a price tag of at least Rs 2 crore – and want to see for themselves how their car is being built. In some cases, they are planning to buy the vehicle and want to know more about its history and heritage. Bentley is not alone in organising such ‘fam’, or familiarisation, trips.
What Luxury Carmakers in Europe Are Doing
A host of luxury carmakers across Europe are doing the same for their wealthy Indian clients, a testament to the growing tribe of Indian millionaires who have the wealth and are willing to spend – and flaunt it.
“One can visit Ferrari’s hometown (Maranello in Italy) which breathes and lives the iconic race car, and also rent Enzo Ferrari’s home for a night for an experience,” says Ashish Chordia, managing director of Shreyans Motors.
Chordia, whose firm is the exclusive seller of Ferrari, Porsche, Maserati and Ducati brands in India, and his ilk are not the conventional car dealers, with the starting price of much of the wares they stock in excess of Rs 1 crore. These dealers are not members of the automobile industry body, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, making it hard to pin a precise number on their annual sales.
However, dealers of these ultra-luxury vehicles estimate that some 500-600 units are sold each year. The market for these cars, industry officials believe, is growing at more than 25 per cent annually, far outpacing the sector average that is dominated by more plebeian models.
Despite this growth, India is a far small market compared with neighbouring China, prompting some to wonder whether such indulging of Indian customers by luxury carmakers is a bit too much.
But the sellers of these vehicles have a ready answer – Indian customers want more information on vehicles and would want to experience the car before tearing out the cheque.
“In China, you can’t sit in the car before you buy it,” says Amy Arora, brand manager at Bentley in India. “Customers in different markets have different tastes and demands. Every country is different.” Rich Indian buyers, for instance, find the heritage and history of some of the iconic European brands alluring.
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