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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Audi India Q7 misuse issue [updated]

My few cents on recent issue involving Audi India and a Q7 owner in Mumbai

It is very common practice in India for dealerships to misuse customer vehicles. I experienced it first hand at Bajaj dealership in Hyderabad (Madhapur area), wherein service centre staff just drove off in a bike that had come for servicing, to get some diesel for the generator. Even in other dealerships, once customer picks a bike for purchase, till it is registered and handed over, it is often used as test drive vehicle. The temptation for service centre staff is much higher, when the bike/car in question is a premium vehicle, which they may never be able to buy for themselves.

News that’s going rounds at present is about an Audi Q7 sleep walking in Mumbai. It’s owner, Vishal Gondal is MD, DisneyUTV Digital whose Q7 was reportedly given for servicing at an Audi authorized service centre in Mumbai West. The owner was alerted by GPS triggered SMS that his vehicle is overspeeding on the streets of Mumbai at midnight. Quick scanning of GPS trail reveals that vehicle is being driven for 100s of kms all around Mumbai all through the night, with a prolonged stop near a popular scrap market, before returning to dealership silently the next morning.

Apparently some service centre personnel took the Q7 out for a joyride- may be to impress his girlfriend or to enjoy the sheer driving pleasure Q7 offers- we don’t know yet. This unauthorized usage, proved by GPS data soon gained momentum on the internet. Vishal Gondal is no ordinary citizen, he has his circle of influence which includes several people from media. Prima facie there was enough truth in Vishal’s claims and the incident was soon giving indications of a PR disaster for Audi India.
Audi local dealership has outright rejected the allegation, and claim vehicle never left their premises. Below are the “Proofs” shown by Audi dealership and counter argument…
·         Entries at the register maintained by security guard of the service centre, which logs when a vehicle came in and was driven out. This is a hand written sheet and obviously the inside person who takes a customer car for joyride will not be foolish enough to make an entry with security and take a gatepass
·         A photograph showing a Q7 console, which indicates a trip meter reading of 10.6kms- this needs more investigation- is it standard practice in audi to take trip meter photographs? Was it taken just for this case? When? After customer complained and before he taking his car back? How to ascertain it is from the same Q7 that belongs to Vishal Gondal (the photo shows an Odo reading of 10600kms- Vishal should tell if he drove his car for only 10k kms since its purchase in 2011? If not, Audi service centre is caught red handed, trying to provide a fake evidence.
·         CCTV footage that shows Q7 is in the service centre- I’ve not seen the footage and Owner Vishan Gondal claims registration number is not visible in the footage. Need to investigate if there were any footage capturing the entrance during non office hours

Audi officials did realize where this was heading to, none other than MD Mr. Michael Perschke did tweet that he’s looking into it. But 3-4 days since the incident broke out, Audi is yet to resolve the matter with the consumer in particular and explain to general public in general as to what’s happened. Dealership continues to reject the claim and a senior audi official has met the customer, we need to wait for the outcome. While the MD is busy with Neha Dhupia in Ahmedabad, hope his team is at work on the matter.

That being background, I’m adding my share of thoughts:

A police complaint could have helped. A city like Mumbai will have hundreds of cctvs in public places- by checking these CCTV footages at the time and location as indicated by GPS, police can confirm if any Audi Q7 passed through these streets at the time. This will be a fool proof evidence to decide who’s speaking the truth- the customer or the service centre. Vishal would have paid over 20 lakhs in tax alone while buying his Q7, so providing some CCTV footage is the minimum law enforcing agencies can do to help the tax payer when he has a situation at hand. Police/people at checkposts, tea stalls, toll booths etc can also tell if they saw a white Audi that night.

Another option would have been to catch them red handed. If I was in Vishal’s place, I would have either driven to the place where the vehicle was can make some video recording to prove that someone else is using it, or driven direct to service centre and demand that they show me my vehicle. But I know it is easy to give this idea after the incident and not everyone are bound or required to think and act in same way.
We don’t know much about the GPS device involved. Was it an external one easy to detach and attach? Is the data accurate? (GPS company issued a statement that data log is accurate, with only other possibility being device being mounted on different vehicle. There is no motive for anyone to falsify GPS data, so prima facie it appears genuine.

Engine immobilizer could have been another idea, but here the driver would have had authentic key.
In all probability, a service centre employee would have taken the car out for a joy ride, probably hand in glove with security guard and few other employees. Service centre management might not be aware of the reality and might be refusing to accept/investigate the matter fearing negative publicity. However, trying to suppress an allegation will have more negative impact. It is better for Audi to conduct a detailed investigation and accept the faults if any.

Below: a file photo of Audi Q7 limo, clicked at US
Years ago Kiruba Shankar had a similar issue with cleartrip. Kiruba had booked the ticket with a name which was not exactly as in his passport. He arrived at the airport with his ticket, only to be told that ticket has been cancelled. Cleartrip had noticed the discrepancy in his name, had cancelled his original ticket and got  anew ticket for him. However, cleartrip missed to inform Kiruba of the error and new ticket. Kiruba’s tweets that he’s not able to fly despite having paid cleartrip caused a PR issue for cleartrip, which offered an unconditional apology, though the customer was partially at fault for giving wrongly spelt name in the first place. Kiruba flew with a freshly bought ticket- this amount was refunded to him and Kiruba was upgraded to business class on his return flight at Cleartrip’s expense and everything ended in positive. Now customer is willingly spreading good words about the portal and cleartrip’s prompt action gave them good positive coverage and increased customer faith. [The Kiruba Incident: read more on this at cleartrip blog]

Audi has a similar opportunity to turn crisis to its advantage. We need to see how this situation reaches its conclusion. Company that provided GPS to Vishal Gondal is also getting good limelight for revealing the theft/misuse. I am sure their sales will increase by leap and bounds after this incident. Audi’s rival BMW has already made a killer move, by giving Vishal Gondal a BMW Mini Cooper S Countrymen for him to try out.

What other security measures we can take for our cars? May be fix a micro cctv camera that captures live feed of drivers' seat and feeds back on internet? Auto forums are abuzz with discussions on this topic-who is right and who is wrong. Hope we'll have answers soon

Disclaimer: All information as available in public domain. I am not a party to this issue and have nothing to loose/gain from the situation. I am just sharing my personal opinion/thoughts. Please use your discretion.
Similar: Audi Q7 Limo at US * Jaguar and Landrover pics * Prado and Land Cruiser Pics

Update: Looks like Audi India and Vishal have settled the matter in private. Nothing much has been made public as to how it is resolved or what happened. I guess Audi managed to win back its customer with some goodies and in exchange requested him not to pursue the matter further, fearing more backlash and getting similar complaints from other customers. I feel it is not fair on Vishal to keep complete silent. Since he used social media to garner support, there's curiosity as to what's happening. Forbes reports that Audi has agreed to replace Gondal's car. But by not owning their mistakes and trying to keep quite, Audi will be raising more questions and concerns among prospective customers. Further, there're claims that Vishal has a stake in Technopurple, the GPS company and all these is a staged incident for publicity. We can only speculate since Vishal and Audi won't reveal anything more. And speculation can do more damage at times

6 comments :

Madhava said...

Good article.. Interesting.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Madhava

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Madhava

Lodda mia said...

Audi introduced their business in India. It is the large vehicle market. But audi how can prosper against other company like as Honda, Toyota etc..

Anonymous said...

Hey read your article, good work, even I read the article in the newspaper. Smart work by Mr. Vishal to actually have a tracking Device in his car. I don't recollect which company is it of. Anyone knows about the tracking device??? Please help!

car rental in singapore said...

The mouse of Audi India q7 has been discussed in detail by you. The information shared by you has been very useful