It's not easy being the owner of an exceedingly expensive car in India. Just ask Rishabh Jain, whose Lamborghini Murciélago LP640, in a shade of metallic gray called Grigio Telesto, spends an inordinate amount of time under a cover in the parking lot of his apartment building in the affluent Malabar Hill neighborhood here.
On a recent Sunday drive along the sea-hugging Marine Drive, one of the city's wider roads, Mr. Jain detailed the woes that afflict supercar owners in a tropical city known for traffic jams, erratic driving and crumbling infrastructure. "The most challenging thing is the roads, because they are bumpy as hell," said Mr. Jain, a slight 26-year-old who wore designer jeans, Aviator sunglasses and a polo-style shirt with upturned collar.
Mr. Jain has deflated his tires by six pounds to compensate, but every lump in the road still announced itself with a thud of the tightly coiled suspension. The low-profile tires are also prone to puncture on pitted roads, and in April, one of the hottest months, the car is undrivable for long stretches lest it overheat, said Mr. Jain, who says he owns a construction company.
As he drove, Mr. Jain accelerated briskly between intersections, occasionally touching 90 miles per hour — at one point leaving in his wake a Toyota Camry with a "police" placard on its windshield — before braking hard at red lights to yield to the sea of motorized humanity pouring onto Marine Drive. (In Mumbai, speed limits are rarely enforced, and police officers often accept bribes not to write tickets.)
Then there's the public. "Another problem is the crowd that surrounds these cars when we take them out," Mr. Jain said, adding that he often spends more time posing for photographs than driving. In India, the public tends to react to displays of wealth with envy rather than resentment.
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These and other nuisances aside, "the main problem in India is actually the duty," Mr. Jain said, referring to import taxes and other tariffs that can inflate the sticker price of an imported car nearly threefold. "People are very passionate about these cars," he said. "You have to be passionate to want to own one here."
That passion, along with a new willingness to spend among the growing affluent class in India, has lured high-end automakers to India. Wealth-X, a consulting firm that compiles data on "ultrahigh net worth" individuals, says India has the fifth-most billionaires of any country.
Abdul Majeed, an auto analyst at PricewaterhouseCoopers, predicts that growth in the high-end segment will be "fantastic" despite recent lackluster economic indicators. Initially, he said, automakers were hesitant to enter a market beset by high import duties and road taxes, and skeptical about India's rapid creation of wealth.
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"Ten years back, they were not too sure if the trend would continue," Mr. Majeed said. "Now they are convinced this is a long-haul market, and they want to make sure they are here."
Formal partnerships between automakers and local dealers, he said, have essentially snuffed out a gray market in which expensive cars often changed hands in off-the-books cash transactions.
Before it opened a dealership in Mumbai in 2005, Rolls-Royce noticed that its cars were being imported either directly by customers or through independent dealers, said Herfried Hasenoehrl, the company's head of business development for South Asia. Speaking in February at the opening in Hyderabad of Rolls's third Indian dealership, he said, "It became clear India is a very important market for us."
The company is also exploring dealerships in Chandigarh, Ahmedabad and Chennai, Mr. Hasenoehrl said, and is hoping to capitalize on its historical ties to India.