Late last year when BMW India unveiled the X1, its small sports utility vehicle, or SUV, it was dubbed a success even before the press event announcing its launch ended. Not only was it small and compact, but it would also leave a much smaller dent in the pockets of those who bought it than you would expect from a BMW brand. The X1's entrylevel petrol engine model has an ex-showroom price of Rs 23 lakh.
So great was the demand for the 'baby' SUV that a somewhat unprepared BMW India had to hurriedly upgrade its assembly operations in Chennai. "That led to some problems at the start of the year, in terms of getting deliveries to customers," says Andreas Schaff, President, BMW India. Buyers such as Aditya Bhadauria, a 32-year-old businessman, had to wait for three months for the X1. But now that he is driving one, Bhadauria says the wait was worth it.
Schaff admits the X1 was launched to attract a whole new segment of young buyers to the BMW brand, "and then grow the brand with them, so when they upgrade to bigger and better cars, we will be there".
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Not surprisingly, BMW's move had the other two members of the German luxury car troika alarmed, but both Audi and Mercedes claim they have the vehicles to retaliate with. Michael Perschke, Managing Director, Audi India, is extremely bullish about Audi's small SUV, the Q3, to be unveiled shortly, "We believe it is better than what BMW has to offer," he says. While Mercedes has no small SUV to pit against the X1, it has pulled out all stops to bring its B-Class to India, which will be showcased at the Auto Expo 2012.
But catching up with BMW might not be easy, with the X1 expected to bolster India sales volumes by around 3,000 units to a total of 10,000 in 2011. BMW also plans to add still more capacity to its Chennai facility.