It turns out that over the sounds of roaring gas-guzzler engines and bespoke car audio systems the dreaded recession that lurks around the corner doesn’t raise more than a squeak.
At a time when passenger car sales in India for October fell 6.6% compared to the same month a year before, according to data from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, the sales figures of luxury car companies—notably Mercedes Benz India, BMW India and Audi Motors—saw significant growth. BMW India sold 1,680 cars in April-October. “We increased our sales targets by 40% in August this year, and we’re on track to achieving them,” says Abhay Dange, a spokesperson for BMW India.
Mercedes Benz has had its best year in India in at least a decade. The company has sold 46.44% more cars this year till November than 2007. If the global economy is indeed swirling down a drain lined with structured derivatives, no one seems to have told the eager luxury car buyers.
But surely this is all just buoyant optimism, you say. After all, there is the vague sense of Great Depression déjà vu here. Thriving premium car makers from the Roaring Twenties— Packard, The Peerless Motor Co., and Pierce-Arrows, famously called the Three Ps—were forced to either shut shop or change beyond recognition when the depression set in. So hold on before you stuff that retirement fund with luxury car stock.
Back then few luxury car companies had the financial cushion of mighty parent corporations. In 1929, Cadillac and Lincoln were rare survivors thanks to parent companies GM and Ford, respectively. And with the auto sector as a whole facing times of unprecedented trouble, manufacturers are clinging on to their high-margin labels, hungry for any profits. So, little wonder that GM’s luxury sedan, the Chevrolet Cruze, is coming in to India next year, while Audi’s new R8 debuted three weeks ago.
What, me worry? The icy, devil-may-care Chevrolet Impala. AFP
Meanwhile, for the more frugally minded but no less classy, an entire fleet of luxury vehicles, from Audi A4s to BMW series’ 1-7 (take your pick!), can be snapped up from online used-car sites such as Carwale.com, or through dealer networks such as Mumbai-based Wheelocity, or Delhi’s Ajay Motor Plaza.
But what luxury car is really meant for you? A vintage Studebaker or the latest Lamborghini Reventón available only to 20 buyers with a million euros to spare per piece? Find out for yourself or have a go at our wacky auto-psychology quiz that evaluates your responses to seven transportation conundrums. Your responses will magically reveal details about you and the wheels that go with your style—all the fun and sensibility of a monster truck rally!
1. While driving, you feel the sudden urge to listen to one of Delhi’s wonderfully identical radio stations. You reach for the place where the radio sits and find:
a) The radio. What else?
b) A DVD satellite navigation system with route guidance, a TV tuner, four-zone climate control, suspension and ride height adjustment, mobile telephone controls, and on-board computer controls—but no Himesh Reshammiya button. How queer!
c) The tattered remains of a six-CD changer. The roar of the engine is the only music to your ears now.
d) Your hand shaking. The thought of the Karzzz soundtrack blasting over a 15-speaker surround system scares you.
2. Though you don’t usually endorse this sort of behaviour, which of these would you secretly try at least once?
a) Use the retractable headlights to communicate in Morse code with other cars. For added bonus, learn Hindi gaalis!
b) Turn off the V12 engines, open up the hydraulic rear doors, slide back the sunroof and loudly sing ‘Mere sapnon ki gaadi kab aayegi tu’ at traffic lights.
c) Confuse the advanced in-car navigation system by asking it to cross the Indian Ocean.
d) No really, I don’t endorse this sort of behaviour.
3. What do you cherish the most about your first bicycle?
a) Your ability to drive haphazardly down steep curves with no hands on the handlebar.
b) The custom-built fog lamp wired to a portable battery.
c) The custom-built fog lamp wired to a portable battery that also charges mobile devices.
d) The training wheels. They made driving so much easier!
4. It’s peak hour, and traffic slows to a crawl. As luck would have it, you’re stuck behind a clattering, malfunctioning car holding up traffic for kilometres. You...
a) Press R for Rocket Launcher.
b) Connect your fancy-pants in-car telephone system to a megaphone so you can swear from the comfort of your seat.
c) Make threatening bull-like noises by pressing on the accelerator repeatedly.
d) Switch to flight mode, fire up the afterburners and lift off—hey, your car company also makes jet engines, so this should work.
5. What bumper sticker or other assorted decorative decal would line the outside of your car?
a) “Twin Cam 16 Valve” and “If I’m driving rashly, please report me to the number below”.
b) A customized, needlessly expensive licence plate is all the exterior decoration I require.
c) Garish neon underneath, and fancy brand logos on every inch of windshield space.
d) What? A base sticker disturbing the custom-picked paint and the smooth, painstakingly engineered curves? I think not, sir!
6. What is the sound of your maniacal laughter?
b) A muffled, floaty “hmmhmhm”—so controlled and practised it’s impossible to hear.
c) A deep, mirthless, rasping laugh—dry as crumbling leaves.
d) An elegant chuckle, followed by a smooth, almost rhythmic “hahahaha”.
BONUS REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY QUESTION:
If your car were a person, which logo would be stamped unceremoniously across its forehead?
a) An eerie blue white and black circular thingumajig reminiscent of the nuclear symbol.
b) Some arcane letter-shaped thing with wings.
c) A raging bull in a diamond shield (stock market fanatic or obsessive tattoo artist?).
d) A flying pixie jutting out like a unicorn horn.
Mostly As:Your ideal car is a 1987 Aston Martin Vantage Volante as driven by Timothy Dalton—the sensitive James Bond—in ‘The Living Daylights’. You probably found it abandoned in a garage but then painstakingly mended it back to supercar health. Even though you seldom drive it fast for fear of breaking the rules, you harbour a secret desire to one day drive through Karol Bagh market in rush hour at top speed without ever slowing for pedestrians. You make your money by running an insurance firm.
Mostly Bs: Your car is all about making a statement. A very loud, shiny and impossible-to-miss statement. When people see your car they must immediately forget all the other obvious weaknesses in your personality. Therefore, the car of choice must be a 1959 Chevrolet Impala convertible with spotless white paint job, blood red upholstery and shiny chrome. Best of luck parking the damn thing. Thanks to a number of flourishing family businesses, you spend all day updating the Maserati Wikipedia entry.
Mostly Cs: Speed is your only need. The faster you go, the happier you are. Which is why nothing less than the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 will do for you. With a top speed of about 400kmph, you drive your car exclusively on the Delhi-Jaipur highway after midnight on weekends. Your life insurance premium is astronomic. You pay for the Veyron with the ridiculously large sums of money you make from working for a boutique investment bank that pays dollar salaries to its very happy employees in India.
Mostly Ds: Speed and shine are secondary to pure class for you. Your car must exude the same spit, polish and pedigree you do. And when it comes to class, few things can compare with the 1972 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II. Your car is always polished to mirror finish and you have no children because they tend to eat biscuits in the car. You are the prince of an erstwhile kingdom in Rajasthan and your garage is the single largest building on the palace grounds. Besides your walk-in closet.