NEW DELHI -- DaimlerChrysler is keen to introduce its Maybach super luxury sedan in India in 2004, hoping to meet a growing taste for exclusive products among the country's rich.
In a country dominated by low-price mini cars, the Maybach could carry a staggering price tag of $1.1 million. But it was still the biggest crowd-puller at India's biennial auto fair in January.
"Our dealers are very bullish about it after we showed the car for the first time at the auto show," Suhas Kadlaskar, finance director at DaimlerChrysler's India unit, told Reuters.
"Depending on the feedback over the next two months, we will decide whether to seek regulatory approval. Most probably, you will see the car on the road in the third quarter."
More than a decade of rapid economic growth in India, Asia's third-largest economy and one of the world's fastest growing, has created a rich elite with a penchant for plush lifestyles, expensive cars and a desire to match western lifestyles.
The hand-assembled Maybach, customized to a buyer's needs, boasts features such as an electronically controlled sun-roof that regulates the amount of light, reclining seats like on an airplane and TV displays.
DaimlerChrysler, the world's fifth-biggest automaker, makes only about a 1,000 such cars a year.
Kadlaskar said it was too early to say how many Maybachs DaimlerChrysler could sell in India, but it could not be very many as it was looking at families with annual incomes of at least $1.32 million.
The local firm, DaimlerChrysler India Pvt Ltd, assembles the C, E and S-class Mercedes Benz sedans at a plant in the western city of Pune, India. It sold 1,518 cars in 2003, posting a profit before tax of 340 million rupees, its third straight year in the black.
It had sales of 4.34 billion rupees in 2003.
The firm also exported auto parts worth 72 million euros in 2003, up from 63 million euros in 2002 and expects this to rise to 80 million euros in 2004.
Kadlaskar said the company expected to sell 1,800 cars in 2004 and was also carrying out trials of an over 40-tonne multi-axle truck in the country. But he said, it was too early to say if the product would be introduced in India.