Reeling under cascading impact of pandemic, auto brands are learning to live with Covid 19

Almost no cars were sold in the month of April due to the lockdown. The ongoing month is going to be miserable for the industry as well. How are India's leading brands trying to attract the customer? talks to brands to find out

Shradha Mishra
New Update
Reeling under cascading impact of pandemic, auto brands are learning to live with Covid 19

India's auto industry has been among the worst-hit sectors because of the pandemic.

The sector that was already seeing declining sales and high costs because of the implementation of BSVI guidelines is now going through its worse face ever.

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Maruti Suzuki, which controls more than half of India's car market, did not sell a single car in April. The situation wasn't any different for other players.

According to industry estimates, automakers were losing Rs 1,300 crore per day during the time of complete shutdown.

Now with the lockdown lifting partially in some areas of the country, the car brands are trying to open their dealership and assess demand. Stringent safety measures and SOPs related to maintaining consumer and staff safety are being put in place.

However, physical stores aren't the only way. All major brands are strengthening their digital sales presence. The segment is likely to contribute in a very small way in the overall sales but the brands are hopeful that it would take their products to potential consumers in a much better way.

Experts say any boost in sales is unlikely to come in the current situation. However, these steps would help boost consumer confidence in the long run.

What brands are doing to ensure consumer and staff safety

Tata Motors launched 'Click to Drive', an end-to-end full online sales experience, enabling customers to buy a Tata Motors car with the click of a button from the comfort of their homes. The platform integrated with all Tata Motors dealers from more than 750 outlets across the country. It will also offer vehicle home delivery for our customers at a later date.

Maruti Suzuki India and Hyundai Motors India have issued detailed guidelines for showroom and workshop environment, dealership employees, contactless sales, delivery and service to ensure the safety of customers and dealership staff.

Maruti Suzuki India has put in place a comprehensive standard operating procedure (SoP) for its dealerships across the country. The process ensures highest level of hygiene and sanitisation across its showrooms for the safety of its customers and employees.

After the implementation of these SoPs and based on approvals from state governments, the brand's dealerships have started to open and deliver the cars to waiting customers.

Kenichi Ayukawa

Kenichi Ayukawa, Managing Director and CEO, Maruti Suzuki India, said, "Not just our dealerships, but our manufacturing facilities and service workshops are also sanitised. They are following all safety protocols, as prescribed by the Government."

The new Covid-19 SoP designed encapsulates all the facets of customer interaction. Measures are taken to offer a safe, hygienic and a virus-free environment to customers.

On the other hand, Hyundai Motors India is simultaneously conducting broad-scale training to ensure all employees and stakeholders are well informed and work towards the maintenance of a healthy dealership ambience for customers and fellow employees.

Under the ambit of the 'Hyundai Cares' initiative, Hyundai Motors India has laid down guidelines to get followed at its dealerships across India, encompassing all facets of customer interactions from their arrival to departure at showrooms and workshops. It will include display car and test drive car preparedness, customer lounge and washrooms sanitisation (showroom and workshop), delivery process of new car and serviced car, contactless demonstration and servicing. To ensure the safety of facilities, scheduled sanitisation drives are planned for various customer touchpoints. Regular sanitisation contingencies are established along with the thermal screening of employees and visitors.

SS Kim

SS Kim, MD and CEO, Hyundai Motor India, said, "With the evolving situation, we must adapt ourselves for the future. Under the umbrella of the 'Hyundai Cares' initiative, we are geared up to meet these challenges with sufficient measures that will enhance customer confidence while ensuring a safe showroom and workshop environment for customers and employees."

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles India has introduced a digital module named 'Book My Jeep' a touch-free Jeep retail experience, where prospective customers can book and own a jeep and can enjoy the convenience of a test drive and sanitised vehicle delivery at their doorstep.

The dealer showrooms will follow stringent health and cleanliness measures.

Partha Datta

Partha Datta, President and Managing Director, FCA India, said, "The touch-free retail experience, designed to enhance convenience for customers. Physical distancing has become the new normal and keeping this in mind; our approach is to ensure customers, as well as our dealer showroom staffs, are well protected. While the digital module will do its job of providing information and collecting necessary customer data, our dealer personnel will continue to personalise the retail experience the human way."

Audi, the German luxury car manufacturer, announced the rollout of digital car sales and after-sales offerings. The incorporation of Augmented Reality, a 360-degree product visualiser, and online bookings on the Audi India website bring the buying experience straight to a prospective customer's fingertips. 

Balbir Singh Dhillon

Balbir Singh Dhillon, Head of Audi India, said, "While our belief in a digital future is already profound, the advent of Covid-19 has made it stronger as to how we interact with our customers going forward."

"Digitisation plays a major role in buying and engaging with a customer and it will continue to be at the core of our strategy. As a brand, we are investing holistically in all possible avenues to be 'future ready'," he added.

BMW introduced 'The BMW contactless' experience amid the lockdown to initiate online sales. Customers can book cars online. The vehicles will be sanitised and delivered home, keeping in mind the current situation.

COVID-19 auto brands lockdown Reeling under cascading impact of pandemic