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.
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.
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.