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The Curious Case of The Sleepwalking Audi

Gondal - a tech wiz of sorts, lives a serious life on the web. He's the kind of guy who tracks everything - from his workout to his car's whereabouts.

Ashish K Mishra
Published: 26, Nov 2012

Former senior principal correspondent at Forbes (India). Since 2008, I have been writing on corporate strategy in the automobiles, clean technology and supply chain space. Before I got onto this assignment, I was part of the team that covered feature articles at The Economic Times. I actually started out as a trainee journalist on the ET desk in 2006. I graduated in commerce from Shri Ram College of Commerce in New Delhi and now live in Mumbai. I love automobiles and spend hours reading up on them and then devote painfully long hours to work on old cars that attract my fancy. Right now I own four cars (my colleagues call them fancy, junk or whatever) and a bicycle which outside my work hours get most of my attention.

Update: Vishal Gondal bought the Audi Q7 in early 2011. He paid about Rs. 65 lakhs for it.

Vishal Gondal is an angry man. The founder and CEO of Indiagames, can’t seem to get his head around what really happened with his Batmobile, Audi Q7. You've probably read the riveting story of the Rs. 1 crore car that went for a midnight drive, when it was not supposed to. The incident has raised some uncomfortable questions for the Indian automotive industry.

The Audi Q7

 

Gondal - a tech wiz of sorts lives much of his life on the web. He's the kind of guy who tracks everything - from his workout to his car's whereabouts. The car being an Audi Q7, fitted with a GPS tracker. While Gondal was away on a vacation, his car was due for a service. On 20th November 2012 (Tuesday), his driver dropped the vehicle at Audi Mumbai West’s workshop in Kalina, Santacruz (East). He got back to India on 22nd November (Thursday). At about 3: 30 AM on Friday morning, he received a text alert that Batmobile has exceeded the speed limit. Scared that the vehicle might have been stolen, he logged on to find out its location – He found that it was speeding on Western Express highway.

Over the next four hours, Gondal sits watched horrified as his car was taken for a 100 km spin all over Maximum city - from Kalina to Juhu, Marine Drive, Ghatkopar, Chembur and Kurla. “That’s not all. I have just found out that before the car went out for the joyride, on 22nd November (Thursday), between 11: 40 PM to 1: 20 AM, the car was standing at Kurla scrap yard,” says Gondal. Anyway, according to the GPS tracker, on Friday morning at about 7: 45 AM, the Q7 got back to the workshop.

Gondal logs into his Facebook and Twitter profile and puts out the whole story which generates enormous response. Several people pan Audi and lament about sad state of the Indian automobile industry. Everyone says mechanics often take cars for a spin, except that there is usually no proof of this. Its usually either joyrides, people chilling out in the car while the air conditioning is on full blast, stolen fuel or sometimes genuine parts replaced with spurious ones…vehicle owners are always suspicious about how their car is being treated at a workshop. Thanks to technology, Gondal now has proof of it. And like everything else in his life, he put the proof out on social media for everybody to see.

Audi's joyride tracked with GPS

Now, this could have been an open and shut case- if the Audi dealer had agreed with what happened. But he has decided to contest the allegation. When Gondal confronted the dealer. “I had the proof but instead of backing me, the way they reacted was very poor. In fact they were screaming,” he claims. The workshop refused to acknowledge that the Q7 was driven out. They continue to hold that position. Responding to Gondal’s banter on social media, Michael Perschke, Audi’s India head, who is also active on Twitter, said he would look into the matter.

As things stand today, the case of Gondal’s sleepwalking Q7 is unresolved. Audi has not issued any apology and says it is investigating the matter. Perschke has scheduled a meeting with Gondal tomorrow (Tuesday). Not surprisingly,  Gondal is upset. Audi is a premium machine that costs big bucks. “They should have agreed and apologized. What more proof can I provide? I really have to think about the car now. My kid and wife love it. But after we found out that it was standing at the Kurla scrap yard, we are not very sure,” he says.

  • Arcanjoe Almeida

    You should b thank full that your car is back as you have money and status to fight back. You can imagine what happens to poor and middle class family whose cars are stolen with out a trace.... My friend this only happens in india.

    on Jun 13, 2014
  • Vodafone Inks Partnership To Provide Mahindra Reva Cars With M2M Solutions - MediaNama

    [...] MD for Disney India Vishal Gondal had learned that his Audi, which had been sent for servicing, had been taken out for a drive in the middle of the night, because of a GPS tracker and an SMS alert.... Last month, AssetTrackr, a company which intends to provide real time car tracking services, [...]

    on Apr 11, 2013
  • Vishal Gondal: 1 Audi: 0 | Forbes India Blog

    [...] The incident started when Vishal Gondal, 36, the managing director of DisneyUTV Digital, came to know that his Q7 which had been sent for servicing, was being driven across Mumbai for nearly 8 hours after midnight, at speeds much higher than official limits. It “ended” when Audi India decided to replace Gondal’s Rs.65 lac Q7 yesterday, a car which he bought just over a year back. The decision to replace Gondal’s Q7 was taken after a meeting between Perschke and Gondal on 27th, followed by another two days of discussions. [...]

    on Nov 30, 2012
  • Abhishek.K

    Startups in India: "Vishal Gondals Car Q7 audi taken for a spin is planned marketing stunt to promote technopurple ? Super angles angle cant be ruled out? Technopurple is a company which has been chosen by super angels for mentorship vishal Gondal is one of the VC's at Super Angles".

    on Nov 30, 2012
  • Abhishek.K

    I would like to add a link from www.quora.com http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.quora.com%2FStartups-in-India%2FVishal-Gondals-Car-Q7-audi-taken-for-a-spin-is-planned-marketing-stunt-to-promote-technopurple-Super-angles-angle-cant-be-ruled-out&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNFPdrJUKLMhq4ghaMM7n9ckCHZ_rA Startups in India: Loading...Startups in India: Vishal Gondals Car Q7 audi taken for a spin is planned marketing stunt to promote technopurple ? Super angles angle cant be ruled out?Vishal Gondals Car Q7 audi taken for a spin is planned marketing stunt to promote technopurple ? Super angles angle cant be ruled out? Article : Given for service, Audi taken out for joyride around city (mumbaimirror.com) technopurple is a company which has been chosen by super angels for mentorship vishal is one of theVcs @ SA.

    on Nov 30, 2012
  • Dinesh Sharma

    This has become a curious case of why is Audi silent. Looking at the images that Mr. Gondal posted and Mr. Jain's post there definitely seems substance to all the sleepwalking. Whatever happens to this case, bottomline is it pays to have a tracker installed in the car. I visited the site www.technopurple.com and I am sure the guys know what the technology and the product well. Also with a quick chat got the price of the tracker which is around 10000 , they say it is a one time cost for the tracker and all-inclusive subscription is 6k. I am curious to know what happened to Vishal Gondal and Michael perschke meeting on tuesday.

    on Nov 29, 2012
  • Hemant

    Similar experience with fortpoint. New maruti vehicle purchased from them, when sent to them, all 3 free services were incomplete, behind schedule and the answer from the GM of this company was 'aisa kabhi kabhi hota hai, thoda adjust kar lo'. No wonder, even though I requested a different FortPoint workshop to do the service, the same behavior was reflected in the 3rd service. That half the papers were never returned when the vehicle came back from this 3rd service is another story. Finally the local Maruti manager intervened and had a free service done from Sai the day after receiving it from the 3rd free service. As I keep saying, currently in India, customer service is non-existent in most businesses which are 'corporate driven'. This is a market for the seller, growing purchasing capability increases customers, hardly anyone cares if they loose few customers, since they know competition is selling in the same boat. now all we need is someone making a youtube video like the one made when united broke the guitar http://youtu.be/5YGc4zOqozo

    on Nov 28, 2012
  • Akshat Kant

    But isn't a practice with every Car workshop to record the speedometer - total KM reading before allowing an entry in the workshop. And with vehicle like Audi, I'm sure it can't be tampered. Vishal's case is ofcourse curious because till date no one from Audi had gone public in regard to respond back. And Social Media being the biggest hue and cry depot, Audi owners need to respond.

    on Nov 28, 2012
  • Amit Jain

    Dear Forbes Blog Readers, I, Amit Jain, Managing Director - TechnoPurple IT Solutions Pvt Ltd, have decided to post on Forbes India Blog specifically to refute the charges levelled against our company that the Audi Joyride Case is nothing but a ‘PR Exercise by TechnoPurple’. TechnoPurple is an company of great repute in the GPS Tracking Domain in India and has been awarded at forums like The Economic Times – Power of Ideas, Department of Science & Technology – Govt of India, IIM Ahmedabad, iWeekend, Proto.in. Also, we are not a ‘fly by night’ operator in this domain which needs to cook up these kind of stories to lure customers. In the last 2.5 yrs of operation, we have heavily invested in the development - stability of GPS tracking device, establishing services across India and software development catering to various verticals like schools, transporters, refrigerated vehicles, transporters, chemical & heavy industries, public transport and passenger information systems. Our focus has always been enterprise oriented and individual/private vehicles account for only a minuscule fraction of total devices we track. Our services are used by the likes of Reserve Bank of India, MSRTC, BASF, Gammon, Suzlon, DAVP, Ingersoll Rand to name a few and these clients trust our integrity. Further I would like to allay fears that Mr. Vishal Gondal has invested in TechnoPurple and is promoting Audi Joyride Case on social networks like Facebook and Twitter so that TechnoPurple gets to sell additional devices. I would like to assure the community that TechnoPurple has not diluted any equity till take and relationship with Mr. Vishal Gondal is purely a Company – Customer relationship. Also, TechnoPurple does not have any linkage with BMW nor it has anything against Audi. We got involved in this only because TechnoPurple’s Tracker was connected in Mr. Vishal’s Audi Q7. Our customers manage their own accounts and we do not have any access whatsoever once the password is changed. This news came to our knowledge only when TechnoPurple was tagged in Mr. Vishal’s post on Facebook. Subsequently, Mr. Vishal requested all the snapshots from 20th Nov (when the vehicle left his home and reached the workshop) to 23rd Nov (when the joyride actually happened). Also, we have added disclaimer to all the information given to Mr. Vishal that a remote possibility can be that the tracker has been removed from Q7 and out in another vehicle and taken for the joyride. TechnoPurple’s name got publicised only when Mumbai Mirror carried the news on 2nd page on Nov 24 and we had no role to play in that. I hope Forbes Blog Readers will find the arguments listed above convincing enough to stop posting personal attacks against our company TechnoPurple. It has reached here after years of hardwork and incidents like these can destroy the reputation in seconds. We are open to allow community members to test our GPS tracking hardware with its certification, software with IT infrastructure and installation procedures. Lets stick to the topic and preserve the community for its openness, integrity and genuineness of members. Warm regards, Amit Jain Managing Director TechnoPurple IT Solutions Pvt Ltd Mumbai www.TechnoPurple.com

    on Nov 27, 2012
  • Rajesh Panth

    Guys Vishal is the HERO here who had the balls to take on a big company like Audi most of us would have given some abuses to the service center and moved on & continued with our CHALTA HAI attitude.. it is a well know fact that our cars are misused in service centers in india..its the first time someone has got it on GPS tracker..as a car owner i would applaud & support such efforts and surely a good story by Forbes as far as who Vishal is best is to google his name & u can find he is quiet credible

    on Nov 27, 2012
  • Abhishek.K.

    Sorry I missed out one point. As per reports Mr.Gondal sold the stake in 2005 and currently the company is owned by Disney and Mr.Gondal is the head of Digital there and not the CEO.

    on Nov 26, 2012
  • Abhishek.K.

    I have Been following the posts on Facebook as well as other sites. There are alot of flaws in the statements made on facebook as well as what was printed in the newspaper article. The car costs Rs 65 Lakhs ex showroom and on road it is Rs 85 Lakhs and not Rs 1 crore as mentioned here as well. There are two different timings given for the cars return 5am and 7:45am, which one is to be believed?. There is also the question raised in many minds of why was there no police complaint made as soon as the first alert came in, I am sure anyone who finds his vehicle being misused would want to get to the bottom of things instead of spending time behind a computer screen and that too for a period of 4 hours. The police would have gone with the owner to the service centre and verified the cars presence. Even if the car would have been there a simple touch on the bonnet would have given away if the car was used or not. The fact that the car was hurriedly collected first thing in the morning without varying things with the dealership and directly posting things over all social media pages and going to the press seems very fishy at least to me. The gps tracker is also a portable device and it's authenticity can also be questioned. Audi has provided the owner with the entry and exit log which does state the car being driven in the day for 11 kms and also the CCTV footage of the car shown. There also was the speedo picture of the car which was sent to the owner but as per his Facebook page he has doubts about it's authenticity, but the kms do match with what he has said his car has done. There definitely is more than what meets the eye in this case.

    on Nov 26, 2012
  • Devesh

    Forbes picking up tabloid stories???

    on Nov 26, 2012
  • Champ

    VAG is known for stuff like this happening and worse of all they deny it always.

    on Nov 26, 2012
  • rakshit

    Audi is in real trouble if it does not resolve this one

    on Nov 26, 2012
  • Sunil

    This merits a story on Forbes India site? Building a straw man out of a single horrible experience,hauling up someone and making a hero out of someone else. Grow up please and provide some mature perspectives based on a pool of experiences with perspectives of both the protagonist and the antagonist.

    on Nov 26, 2012
    • Ashish K Mishra

      Hey Sunil, I think it does merit a story. Service is a critical part of the automobile business. And when something as serious as this comes to light, it should be talked about. I am sure you will agree that it is a developing story. The piece does not give any verdict. I have simply put out what both parties have communicated till now.

      on Nov 26, 2012
      • Roshan Ashraf Shaikh

        This is not the only issue with VW India. If you go to Team BHP forum, there are many horrible stories like this, including a very bad story about VW Polo. Even in the past, Skoda also had similar horrible stories as well which can be clearly be read in great detail when you check out community driven forums such as Team BHP. This issue only came into light because it is Vishal Gondal, the owner of India games. Not that I am saying its a bad thing, but it shows that no matter who you are and how much you paid for a product, this is how you will be treated and there's nothing you can do thanks to red tape and non- responsive system within their dealership and the company. Skoda rather preferred to threaten to sue Team BHP for letting the car owner show the facts rather than to fix the issue. In a way- in a very cold hearted way- I am glad this happened to a person such as Vishal Gondal. He will not like this comment, but reality is that such issues only get highlighted when people in his position gets affected. In all seriousness, I hope Vishal's issue gets resolved- but what about others? Will Forbes India publish speak for those whose only way to voice out their grievance is only via forums?

        on Nov 27, 2012
  • Sukhjeet Singh

    Putting it on FB and Twitter haha.... Looks like a gold digger to me...

    on Nov 26, 2012
    • Rj

      Except he is worth well over 100 crores

      on Nov 27, 2012
      • Ajay Jha

        Let's not even get into that..

        on Nov 27, 2012
  • Vinay

    .. Pathetic. I am sure Audi no longer has a bright future in India !!! Take Audi to Court ? Hell Yeah !

    on Nov 26, 2012
    • Ashish K Mishra

      Vinay, that's a bit harsh. To my mind, they should have responded better.

      on Nov 26, 2012
  • Ajay Jha

    1 crore car? are you sure? Did he try calling the cops when he thought that it was stolen or did he assume that someone has taken it for a joyride? Sounds fishy to me. It almost seems that he is trying to promote the GPS company and trying to bargain for a good deal.

    on Nov 26, 2012
    • Ashish K Mishra

      Hey Ajay, I think the ex showroom price of the Q7 should be from 64-70 lakhs in Mumbai. Add all the taxes and it should be close to a crore. Well, Gondal's first reaction was that it might have been stolen but he quickly realized it is a joyride. I wouldn't call it fishy. Not with the information we have right now. Michael Perschke is meeting Gondal tomorrow. Let's wait to see how it goes.

      on Nov 26, 2012
      • Ajay Jha

        Yes, look forward. Read the report in Mumbai Mirror too.

        on Nov 26, 2012
  • Khizar

    I have been following this case from the start and by looking at the response AUDI is giving, I dont think there is anything good expected from AUDI. The way AUDI and the dealer reacted is very unprofessional, I was hoping that this matter would define how AUDI takes care of its premium customer base but NO, they have instead declined at first. If this is the state of high tech companies to their customers then we can understand why things are so bad at bottom. A person of Vishal stature (knowledgeable + wealthy) is facing so much that clearly tells the state of affair for bottom of pyramid.

    on Nov 26, 2012
    • Anand Joshi

      What else can we expect in India ? Surprisingly the treatment is not from an indian company but a giant like Audi. Very poor. Slightly irrelevant & not against anyone but laws in India are different for poor and rich. Forget about super/ultra rich and powerful (read anything related to politics)

      on Nov 29, 2012
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