Petrolhead interview: Gautam Singhania, MD, the Raymond Group

Gautam is the Managing Director of the Raymond Group and the Founding Chairman of the Super Car Club. He has an extremely tasteful collection of supercars, imports & classics.

Big shoutout to Gautam Singhania for taking the time out & sharing his industry knowledge with us! Gautam is the Managing Director of the Raymond Group and the Founding Chairman of the Super Car Club. He has an extremely tasteful collection of supercars, imports & classics - check his garage out here.

Q. The top 5 favourite cars from your current collection & reasons for the same?

I really don’t have any favourite cars. Because I think different cars have unique characteristics, which is why I collect cars. For instance - if you take two cars like a Ferrari 458 and the Lamborghini Superleggera, while they might appear similar to a normal person, they are as different as different can be. The 458 is a rear-wheel drive, the Lamborghini is an AWD, the 458 is a softer car to drive and the Lamborghini is a harder car to drive. The Lamborghini is a lower car than the 458 & the whole driving feel is different. So having said that, I actually appreciate the uniqueness of every single car and I don’t particularly have a favorite.

Q. Which was the 1st car that you bought? Do you still have it?

My first car was a Premier Padmini 1100R which is still with me.

Q. Which fast car did you buy, but regret purchasing?

I don't think there's a premium car that I had bought that I regret purchasing. I do a lot of homework before I buy a car and fortunately, I am happy with every single purchase that I have made in my life.

Q. How do you decide on which supercar to buy? What specific factors do you look for?

I study the market quite regularly. I'm always looking for what new technology is there and what new cars are there in the market and whether the car maker actually sells the niche from something I don’t have. Currently, if you see in the market, McLaren has come out in a different space from the traditional Ferrari and Lamborghini with the carbon tub technology. I think McLaren has done a phenomenal job this time. On the other hand, Ferrari has come out with the SF90. It’s also time for the new V12 replacement and one has to see what will come out. So looking at the market and looking at what is available and where there is a significant jump in the technology, that really adds to my decision.

Q. If someone was buying his first brand new supercar in India with no bar on the budget, which would you say is the ideal model and why?

It's a difficult question to answer because it really depends on what you are looking for. If you want a much harder and more radical car, I would look at the Lamborghini. If I wanted a brand and a softer car, I would look at the Ferrari 488. I mean obviously, you could buy the SF90 if you have a different budget level. And of course, if you wanted to see different technologies which are a little racier, which is a blend, I would look at the McLaren 720. Of course, the 765 and 620 are great options now. So it really depends where your mindset fits and where your comfort zone is. A lot of people are not comfortable buying the Lamborghini and prefer the Ferrari and vice versa.

Q. If someone was buying his first pre-owned supercar in India with a budget of 1.5 crores, which would you say is the ideal model and why?

This is a very subjective question, but in a 1.5 crore bracket, I'm sure we could get a decent Lamborghini Gallardo, it’s just a little too low. But if you are in a 2.0 to 2.5 crore bracket, you would get a pre-owned 458. A second hand Huracan would be slightly better. Of course, if you want to go down the Nissan GT-R route, it’s a great car.

Q. Do you agree that the Porsche 911 is the best daily driver supercar?

I think the Porsche 911 is a great car and has been there for decades, but I am not particularly a Porsche guy. I would prefer driving a BMW M3 or McLaren 540 as a daily car. The McLaren 540 is giving me sports car value with very easy driveability which has become a signature of cars today.

Q. Which is your "daily driver" supercar that you feel you can take anywhere? Which supercar of yours is used the most and why?

I use all my cars by rotation and there is no particular car that I drive every day. I do drive a lot every week. I even drive the vintage cars on some days. That really depends on what I feel while driving. Owning a 458 and a Superleggera, both are totally different cars from different markets, so again, depends on the mood.

Q. Which are your top 3 favourite roads in India?

I will have to say that the best roads in the country would be in Rajasthan where I have driven extensively. Pokhran to Jodhpur, Tanot and Jaisalmer have some great roads. The other place I love to drive to is Leh Ladakh and Srinagar at high altitudes. I have not yet driven in Gujarat, Rann of Kutch. That is something I want to do. I enjoy driving from Bombay to Goa and someone told me that some of the roads in eastern India are very good and I want to explore those.

Q. Do you ever do driving holidays in your performance cars? Like to say, Mahabaleshwar, Alibagh or Goa?

Yes. In fact, I take my performance cars to all these locations. Today, all performance cars have lifting systems, and contrary to the belief that they are very low, they actually have surface clearance which is as good as a Toyota Camry!! I have done two trips to Nargol beach in the last one week. It’s almost 200 kms from Bombay and I don’t find Indian roads to be a limitation to drive supercars, specifically if they have the lifting system.

Q. We guess some supercars have waiting periods running into years. How do you handle those? Many BHPians lose sleep over a 2-month waiting period for the Creta!

The waiting period for supercars has come down considerably since we had the pandemic. Number two, most big manufacturers have shifted away from limited edition cars.

Q. Whose supercar reviews do you trust & follow to make a purchase decision?

I don’t follow supercar reviews as much as I go with my own instinct. I talk to my friends, especially those who are in the auto space, and get good insights from them. From time to time, there are auto magazines that also are insightful and help me in fine-tuning my decision making.

Q. Aside from supercars, which luxury cars do you use? And which luxury car is your favourite?

I normally use a BMW for my day-to-day business activities which is chauffeur-driven.

Q. Among luxury cars, do you prefer sedans or SUVs?

I prefer sedans and I am not really an SUV person.

Q. Do you self-drive your luxury cars too? Or do you prefer being chauffeur-driven to work?

Mostly when I am on business, I drive my luxury cars. Many times, when I go to my facility out of Bombay, I drive myself.

Q. Since you are a Ferrari fan, should Ferrari make an SUV? Would you buy it?

I'm not necessarily an SUV person. I have not bought the Lamborghini or Porsche SUVs and I am unlikely to buy a Ferrari SUV.

Q. Thoughts & opinion on performance / luxury cars like the AMGs and ///Ms?

I think the AMG for Mercedes and the M series for BMW have been extremely successful. It just gives the customer that extra performance image that one aspires for. I am a great fan of the M series BMWs and I have a few of those.

Q. How do you maintain your cars? Any dedicated team? What is the team size?

We have the Supercar Club Garage that is a state-of-the-art, dedicated facility for supercar owners including myself, and like-minded car enthusiasts. It is set up at a prime location in Thane. We have a big experienced team of people and all my cars are maintained in this facility, along with many other super and vintage cars. The Super Car Club facility welcomes luxury car owners who are seeking the best services for their cars, irrespective of the size of the car or nature of the work. It is the most professionally set up facility in the country.

Q. How do you source spare parts for your cars? How easy / difficult is it to get these parts in?

As far as most of the cars are concerned, spare parts is not a problem as we have created a global supply chain by collaborating with multiple partners across the globe. However, at times, procuring spares for vintage cars does take a while. We have our connections with various vintage car owners / clubs through which we are able to get this done.

Q. Do you entrust the local Lamborghini / Ferrari dealers with your cars? How have you found their sales & service support to be?

Since we have our Supercar Club Garage (SCCG), I get all my work done there. The SCCG works out economical compared to an authorized dealer. Whether it is a Ferrari, Lamborghini or a BMW or a Mercedes, getting work done for all my different cars under one roof at the SCCG would be approximately 35% to 40% cheaper than at a dealership. As we all know, dealerships make big money on after-sales.

Q. What would be the average cost per year to maintain a Ferrari 458 out of warranty in India? And a Lamborghini Gallardo?

It's very difficult to say what will be the annual operating cost. This is directly a function of how much you use the cars. There will be two aspects to this scenario. One would be, unfortunately, if there has been an accident or a major mechanical issue, then the cost would be higher. Otherwise, with cars today, where the technology is good, it is really a question of consumables and service, which is not really expensive for a supercar owner. The consumables being tyres, brakes, oils, filters etc.

Q. Which of your supercars have pleasantly surprised you with their good reliability?

I think most supercars made over the last 15 years really don't have a reliability problem barring a few brands that have had some serious reliability issues when they came out with new models. But by and large, I think today’s supercars are extremely reliable.

Q. What are the 5 best things about owning a supercar in India?

To own a supercar in India obviously is you get to drive them and enjoy them where you live. When you are traveling in India or abroad, the joy or pleasure of having and owning a supercar is totally different given the great roads.

Q. The 5 worst things about owning a supercar in India?

At times, the dealerships do not have certain facilities to service your cars. Also, the poor road conditions aren’t well suited for the supercar driving experience. However, if you find the right groups in India (like I had mentioned earlier), I'm sure we can have a lot of answers to issues on the availability of spares with technical assistance. The challenges, more so, are for brands which are not represented in India directly. If you take a specific brand's car and if you do not have a local dealer, it becomes very difficult to get the right service upgrades because a lot of these cars have electronically connected computers and the proprietary software are only available with dealerships. So the basic diagnostics of the car becomes a massive challenge.

Q. What are the challenges faced while driving your fast cars in India…both in the city and on the highways?

The two major challenges are the conditions of the roads in many parts and the complete indiscipline of drivers which is a definite cause of concern to me. Today, the amount of scooters and rickshaws plying on the wrong side of the road has increased disproportionately and I strongly believe that the concerned authorities should take action - if anybody is seen driving on the wrong side of the road, their driving licenses should be cancelled. Although indiscipline is fined, the penalties aren’t heavy enough to bring about a change in the scenario and the increasing number of accidents.

Q. How & where do you fill up your cars with high octane fuel?

There are a few facilities available close to my house (South Bombay).

Q. Which do you like more - drifting or racing on circuits? Why?

Both of them are completely different disciplines and I enjoy them both, though racing on circuits requires a completely different skill set to that of drifting a car. I am a petrolhead and for me, both of them are very exciting.

Q. What hooked you on to drifting?

I think I saw a video that a friend of mine had sent to me from where I started and moved forward. I truly enjoy the sport because it can be done in a limited amount of space, such as a closed parking lot.

Q. Thoughts on Corse Clienti…how do you find it? Can it come to India? How do you rate the racing in Corse Clienti?

Corse Clienti is great exposure for anybody who wants to get into the world of racing but of course, there are many other ways to get into it. I enjoyed the Corse Clienti and from there, I went on to race in the Ferrari Challenge. If one wants to get into racing, some of the other recommended ways apart from this would be normal go-karting. There are various people who also practice with an instructor and it is very similar to Corse Clienti.

Q. Any plans of getting into the XX program?

No, currently I have no plans to get into the XX program.

Q. Favourite memory / story from when you used to rally back in the Padmini days?

There were many interesting stories that I had when I used to rally back in the Padmini days. I think a couple of them were when we were really doing well on a stage and my navigator made a call which I misheard. He had said LO which means Lift off and I heard FO which means flat out. So instead of slowing down, I sped ahead. We went out of control as we were at a much higher speed than what we should have been. We crashed and landed near the river!! Thank god both of us were safe in the end!

Q. Your thoughts & opinions on electric cars?

I'm not an electrical person and I just don't find a petrol head dealing with the same.

Q. Would you buy a fast Tesla that can do 0 – 100 in 2 seconds? Would you buy a Porsche Taycan?

I would buy neither of the two because I don’t like Porsche and I am not into electric cars.

Q. If you had to buy an Indian car for 20 lakhs on-road, which would you buy and why?

It really depends on what I am using the car for, so it’s a difficult question to answer. But as a second Indian car, I use the Toyota Camry, which works well for me.

Q. Do you personally prefer MT or AT supercars? Do you have any MT supercars?

Today, most supercars come with both the options so you can drive them on manual or auto mode as you like at a switch of a button.

Q. What does your family think of your supercars? Do they also enjoy them?

My kids have started enjoying my supercars and of course, they know my passion for cars.

Q. How does Ferrari choose buyers for its exclusive cars?

I think the era of choosing the buyers is pretty much over now and given the SF90, it has no such restrictions. By invitation is now limited to track-only cars.

Q. Any advice for McLaren as they set up shop in India?

I am sure they have done their homework and they know what they are doing, but my only piece of advice to them would be to price the car correctly.

Q. Which supercar brands have executed their India story well?

I think the only company that’s doing numbers in India is Porsche, but that also has challenges off late. India is a very difficult marketplace for supercars and will always have very low volumes because of the duty structure.

Q. Next 3 cars on your purchase list & why?

I haven’t really thought about what I want to get next, but I think the BMW M2 Competition will be a good car to get, as it’s a small compact car and could be a lot of fun to drive.

Q. Any other car collection from India that you find tasteful?

I think vintage cars and supercars are very different. Vivek Goenka has a great vintage car collection and many others have built up a good collection. In supercars, there are a lot of people in South India who have got a great collection.

Q. Which is the most underrated performance car in your opinion?

I have been truly enjoying driving a McLaren. If I have to pick one car which I think is very understated, it would be the McLaren 540.

Q. Which is the most overrated performance car in your opinion?

It has to be one of the Lamborghini SVJs.

Q. Have you been bitten by the classic car bug?

Yes. I have a few of them.

Q. What are the next plans for the supercar club?

Hoping once the pandemic gets over, we should restart with some of our events. That really is the agenda right now.

Here's what GTO had to say on the matter:

To have money is one thing, but to have taste entirely another. I went for a couple of Supercar parades organised by him and have found his collection to be spectacular. I mean, come on, the man has a Countach + Ariel Atom and an S2000!!!

What I like most is how he shares his supercar passion with others (evidenced by taking the time out for this interview too). I've seen him interact with car enthusiasts and he's always up to showing them his supercars.

Man clearly loves his McLarens. Didn't know that. He does indeed take his cars everywhere and feels they are meant to be driven. I've always read on about the reliability & usability of modern Ferraris. Guess its the same in India too.

Seems to be proud of his brand and only wears Raymond-branded tees. Something we have in common. During the day, I am only wearing Team-BHP tshirts! In fact, I don't think I have too many tees besides the Team-BHP branded ones.

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