The $1.1m Maybach comes to India

By Girija Shivakumar

Mercedes-Benz has made a new foray into India, this time targeting the super luxury segment of the automobile market.

The carmaker has launched the Maybach – priced at a hefty Rs 51m ($1.1m) – after struggling to make headway in India. Peter Honegg, chief executive of Mercedes-Benz India said that it was “time for a second push” for the company, which first entered the country in 2004.

In spite of soaring fuel prices and higher automobile loan rates, India’s automobile market is booming. According to the Society of Indian Automobile Association (SIAM), last month car sales grew 26 per cent year-on-year to hit a record high of 184,000. This previous monthly record of 183,000 was set in October.

Mercedes, however, has struggled to get a slice of the action. In 2010 it sold a mere 6,246 units in India. To put this into perspective, it sold almost 150,000 units in China over the same period.

The company hopes that the Maybach will give it a vital foothold in India’s car market. Though only a small segment of the overall market, luxury car sales are growing at 80 per cent per year, reaching an impressive 17,000 in 2010.

Growth has been powered by increasing demand from India’s rising number of dollar millionaires, which reached 130,000 in 2010. There were 69 dollar billionaires.

But the Maybach will face stiff competition. Rolls Royce and Bentley already have a strong presence in the country. The former sold 70 cars in 2010.

Mercedes hopes the Maybach’s hefty price tag, refined decor and maximum speed of 250km per hour will distingiush it from competitors.

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