Automobiles: The retailer's perspective

The Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations (FADA) in association with Society of Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) organised the Auto Summit 2008, on the sidelines of the Auto Expo 2008. It was a two-day summit on the theme, Auto Retail - Challenges of Sustaining Growth and Keeping Pace.

The opening session drew representatives from global majors in automobile retailing and noted experts in automobile training and research. Pradip Kamdar, chairman, FADA, said in his opening address. "With Indian and international representation from the industry as well as dealers and institutional clients such as transport companies, the summit is an excellent networking and discussion forum for the industry."

Albert Gallagos, director, International Affairs for US National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) explained issues facing auto retailers in the US market, which is currently seeing a recession in new car sales and very few dealership brands (Lexus, BMW, Mercedes) earning any revenues at all.

In this scenario, auto retailers have no option but to also enter the used-vehicles business, finance, insurance, and service contracts. Being an emerging market, he said, India should build retail capabilities to offer the entire bouquet of services as soon as possible. NADA represents automobile dealers in the US, the world's biggest automobile market.

Following him closely in his recommendations, Craig Cather of auto industry market research and consulting firm CSM Worldwide said that light commercial vehicles were seeing a growth rate of 3.8 per cent worldwide, while in emerging markets such as India, sales were as high as 16 per cent to 17 per cent. With the launch of the Tata Nano and similar products expected from other players, the market is set to explode, he said.

Kieran Godwin, group strategic projects manager with Inchcape Plc, UK, presented his company's ability to deploy resources across around 140 dealerships across the UK and other markets. He shared ways in which Indian automobile retailers could scale up to a similar size using IT and other systems.

The concluding speaker for the session Marc Cabeza, head, international department, GNFA, a Paris-based international automotive training company, shared the tools used by GNFA for training automobile staff such as e-learning solutions using online tutorials and virtual classrooms, besides face-to-face training sessions with automobile industry heads.

Individual sessions with two-wheeler, car and commercial vehicle manufacturers were a bonus at the summit, the auto industry's premier event from the retailers' perspective.