Banking on new launches

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Dr Hamid Haqparwar, Managing Director, BMW Middle East is confident that new launches and upgrades will attract customers to the brand. Mayank Singh reports

Dr Hamid Haqparwar, Managing Director, BMW Middle East is an experienced senior executive with a demonstrated history of working in the automotive industry. A strong professional with a PhD in strategic marketing from Universität St.Gallen – Hochschule für Wirtschafts-, Rechts- und Sozialwissenschaften, his skills include marketing management, business planning, sales, retail and sales operations. He spoke to OER on the sidelines of the BMW X7 launch in Oman. Excerpts from the interview:

Can you give us a road map of the launches planned for 2019?

We have beautiful launches coming up and the X7 is the pinnacle car that we have for 2019. We have already launched the 3 series in February followed by the Z-4. We have launched the X7 and we will be launching the 7 series with a face lift, followed by the X3 and X4M. Later in the year, we will launch the 8 series convertible, the 8 series Grand Coupe and the X6. So there are a lot of launches coming up in the year 2019.

Things have been challenging economically in the GCC. How has BMW’s performance been in the region?

The year 2018 was a challenging year for the entire automotive industry; but we are trying to negotiate this with a number of launches. This is a measure to revive the situation. The beginning of 2018 saw the introduction of VAT and this too impacted our business, but from Ramadan in 2018 things have been better. We are looking forward to the year 2019 now with the upcoming launches.

Though people are spending, people are more judicious by spending on lower-priced models in preference to the higher-priced ones or downsizing. How are you negotiating this shift?

We do not see downsizing as a major trend, but have witnessed people holding on to their cars for longer periods. The only way in which we can entice people to spend is by launching new cars. We are therefore launching new vehicles to re-attract customers to the BMW family.

You mentioned about people retaining cars for a longer time frame. Do new launches have the potential to encourage them to buy?

There are two elements to this. One, the availability of new products gives a new freshness and the other thing is to offer new financing options. So we have established a leasing facility, with attractive financing schemes to reduce the monthly burden of customers. So you can buy a car without any down payment. This includes service along with registration support and a guaranteed buy back offer after a certain period. If you take this mental burden of holding an asset, it encourages people to try to buy products compared to buying on cash.

How has BMW’s performance been in the Oman market?   

Like in the region, things have been challenging in Oman, but if we look at the new model line-up things will get better in 2019. We have to incorporate the fact that VAT is being introduced in 2019 and usually what happens is that people try to buy products before the introduction of VAT. I believe that VAT is planned to be introduced by September this year in Oman. This coupled with Ramadan should help business.

What are your plans and expectations from MINI in Oman and the region?

We have the MINI brand in Oman and the region, we have a lineup of the three door convertible and the Countryman. These are products that are getting new upgrades and this will continue.

Is the demographic profile of your customers changing as GCC has a growing young population. If so, how are you attracting this audience?

In general, from a BMW perspective, the customer groups in the region and Oman are already younger than in Europe or in other countries, so we already know how to tackle them. We start with the marketing, so we put a lot of focus on digital media and make them mobile friendly so that it attracts younsters wherever they are. If you see young customers want to have flexibility in terms of payments, timelines of buying a car and so we have attractive leasing and buying programmes. The design language of BMW has changed and it is much more attractive to younger customers as well. Young customers are supposed to be young, dynamic, sporty and this is what embodies our brand as well.

Is the GCC more of a sedan or an SUV market?

The sedan market was dominating, but the trend is definitely going towards the SUV segment. This is the reason why we have the new X7 line up and we are refreshing the X5 and X6, but we can see that the trend is going towards SUVs.

What can customers look forward to from the 7 series?

We have a major face lift coming for the 7 series, there is a tremendous change in terms of its exterior. We have made it very bold from the exterior, while the interior has always been very good. We have upgraded it from a technology point of view, so it is a complete refresh of the product that will come in the next couple of weeks.

How important is the Middle East market for BMW?

From a global perspective it is quite important, obviously volume wise the other markets are much bigger, but in the GCC we have a very healthy product portfolio as we sell a lot of 7 and 5 series and this is important for us as a brand and as a manufacturer. In future we will have features inspired from the Middle East in the car.

How do you assess BMWs prospects for 2019?

We are confident, with the product line up, I can see that BMW is in a better position than last year, with the market stabilising we are bound to see a successful 2019.

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