Car sales in India have collapsed with even Maruti Suzuki India, the country’s largest manufacturer, reporting that it did not sell a single unit in the domestic market in April, yet some luxury brands are finding innovative ways to fight back.

MG Motor India and Mahindra & Mahindra also announced last week that they had zero domestic sales in April as they complied with government orders to close all production facilities and showrooms in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

However, both Maruti Suzuki and Mahindra & Mahindra were able to export a few vehicles – 632 and 733 respectively – following a resumption of port operations, News18 reported.

Although Indian carmakers hope that restrictions will ease in May, so they can ramp up production, the situation remains dire for what the India Brand Equity Foundation estimates is the fourth-largest automobile industry in the world.

However, some luxury brands seem largely unaffected by all this, particularly BMW and Mercedes-Benz India, who are now selling their range of new and used cars online, afaqs reported.

Both German-owned brands have suffered a drop of year-on-year first quarter sales – BMW saw a 16.8% decline while Mercedes-Benz witnessed a bigger fall of 38% – yet both have found that online sales and an accompanying range of digital support services have lessened the blow.

Mercedes-Benz, for example, has taken advantage of its #MercFromHome digital car-buying service, which offers online customer service, consultation, appointment bookings, estimates and offers.

In addition, #MercFromHome comes with a test drive uniquely adapted to deal with the necessary social-distancing restrictions imposed to stall the spread of the virus.

“We ensure the car is completely sanitised, and if our sales consultant goes on the test drive with the customer, he sits diagonal to the customer,” explained Santosh Iyer, VP of sales and marketing at Mercedes-Benz India.

“There‘s a PPE kit for both of them, along with the Aarogya Setu app, ensuring both are safe. This will help take away [any] customer's concerns,” he added.

Mercedes-Benz also set up an e-commerce marketplace for used cars, called the Roadster platform, which Iyer said helped to sell 150 cars between the beginning of February and mid-March – or nearly 30% of the company’s usual used car sales.

Meanwhile, BMW has introduced the “BMW Contactless Experience”, a digital service that involves a high degree of personalisation and consultations with advisers via video or email.

“Experts from across dealerships in the country have been trained extensively on the contactless process,” said Arlindo Teixeira, acting president of BMW Group India.

“This campaign has not only transformed our customer’s digital journey, but also our internal teams. All queries are answered thoroughly, and all possible options related to the product, customisation and financial offers are presented to the customers.”

Sourced from News18, afaqs; additional content by WARC staff