Volkswagen as a brand has evolved in the Indian car market. With Polo being one of the forerunners of popular car in the country, this brand has achieved a feat that is aspirational with a tag of affordability. While the other mass brands have made numerous launches thus staying ahead in headlines, this brand is reserved. But then that’s the staircase to premiumness, staying silent but delivering.
To get some insight into its India plans, we caught up with Steffen Knapp, Director, Volkswagen Passenger Cars, on the side lines of Ameo Handling Drive at Budh International Circuit, Greater Noida where the sedan is put to rigorous test on racing tracks. Excerpts:
Q. How important is the Indian market for Volkswagen?
India is an extremely important market for Volkswagen. The group recently announced an investment of Rs 7,900 crore under the India 2.0 project for developing and manufacturing new carlines.
The brand also has a fully functional manufacturing facility in Chakan, Pune, since 2009 which was the biggest investment made by any German manufacturer.
Further, it launched a made-for-India and made-in-India Ameo, a subcompact sedan specifically for the Indian customers.
Q. Volkswagen has a premium image in India. How do you want to preserve it over next five years?
In the next five years, Volkswagen aims to achieve a market share of three per cent in India. With this ambition the brand will continue to offer a premium product line-up, with a distinct design language, build quality, safety, driving dynamics and an overall class leading experience to its customers.
Further, the brand has been strengthening its sales and after-sales initiatives. Last year, the brand introduced a fully digital and paperless dealership in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. With an aim to expand the digital dealership across India, Volkswagen will be working towards strengthening its premium imagery in India.
Q. Given the premium tag, this brand isn’t affordable by a part of Indians who prefer within a budget. Do you think you will be offering something soon or concentrate on the current client base?
We are focusing our efforts on the growing middle class. These customers not only value safety, quality and fun to drive to a higher degree but also have a good purchasing power. So being a premium player can be quite a nice thing because premium also means something you aspire too.
Higher cost means we can stay loyal to the values of the brand. We can use better technology, making quality better and the cars safer.
But there’s also the question of accessibility. We’re not that far off from rivals’ pricing but there is a premium. We offer our customers a value for- money proposition. Build quality, safety, technology and a fun-to-drive experience.
The brand has been improving its after-sales initiatives and reduced servicing costs on major components by 15 per cent. We’ve been working towards reducing the total cost of ownership thus making it affordable for customers to purchase a Volkswagen.
Q. Which way do you see the Indian automotive market heading towards in terms of safety and design aspects?
The automobile industry in India is expected to become the third largest in the world. The industry has been tremendously evolving with the Government giving special emphasis to the sector w.r.t safety norms and technological upgrades. This positive direction by the government will improve the passenger and pedestrian safety hopefully resulting in reduced road accidents in a year.
For Volkswagen, safety has been of paramount importance that has been showcased with the Polo receiving a four-star NCAP rating in 2014. Recently, the brand also added dual front side airbags to the Vento.
Q. India has a big used-car market which serves a good way to recycle around six-year-old cars. What do you think about the prospect of this?
The used-car market in India is still at its nascent stage and functions in an unorganised manner. It’s a highly potential sector that can be explored provided it is more organised and regulated within the industry.
We at Volkswagen have a nationwide set of used car selling points. With our used car concept “Das Welt Auto” we are ahead of the competition, serving customers with state-of-the-art used cars and class-leading buying experience.
Q. There’s a lot of push from policy makers towards electric cars and hybrid is taking over. What’s VW’s vision for this?
Globally, Volkswagen is driving the transition to e-mobility with a consistency and commitment. In September, the brand launched its “Electric for all” campaign and showcased its Modular electric drive matrix platform.
This platform will be the base for manufacturing Volkswagen’s electric product portfolio. With a clear intention to drive e-mobility, Volkswagen in Indian is currently monitoring the market for it to become a viable business case and to ensure a “value-formoney” proposition for the end customer.
Q. How many new launches do we see in next one year?
Volkswagen is continuously evolving its products in terms of value proposition and we shall continue to offer the best of our product portfolio to our discerning buyers in the country.
The brand recently introduced the Polo, Ameo, Vento and Passat in a connected avatar —an advanced connectivity solution that offers a holistic experience to its customers.
The Connect app, an intelligent new-age vehicle assistance system, enables users to experience advanced connected features such as trip tracking, fuel cost monitoring, driving behaviour, SOS call and much more.