By : RACHNA TYAGI
At Volkswagen’s state-of-the art Chakan plant, we caught up with Ashish Gupta, Brand Director, Volkswagen India, who spoke to us about all that they’ve been up to in the last two years and what customers can look forward to in the coming months. Read on…
TOS: Over the last two years, you’ve introduced a beautiful sedan and some robust SUVs besides keeping the momentum going with new variants, what is next at Volkswagen India? What can customers expect to look forward to?
AG: I think there is a lot to look forward to. If you look at any brand or any product for that matter, there is definitely room for enriching that product even more… talking about the existing portfolio. If you see over the last two years, even after launching the Taigun and the Virtus, we’ve been constantly enriching it with new features, new colours and new variants, so that is something that we would like to continue because technology is developing and new features are being added by competitors as well and so, you have to keep abreast with the market. That will definitely continue…new exciting colours, new exciting features, new exciting variants, but at the same time to widen the portfolio also, we’re going more premium, so definitely looking at some of our products in the global portfolio to bring in to India.
TOS: Will your next product come from MQB-AO-IN, MEB or your MQB-A2 platform?
AG: All are open.
TOS: Customers are expecting newer body styles from carmakers, what different body style, if at all, can they look forward to from Volkswagen in the future?
AG: I think the only new body style that has developed over the last five-six years is the Crossover sedan, otherwise it is just variations of an SUV or a hatchback or a sedan. But the new body style that is globally evolving is the Crossover Sedan so let’s see if Volkswagen global designers would also like to adopt that kind of a design language.
TOS: What has the response in India been like? What are people leaning towards more – SUVs?
AG: Definitely towards SUVs. It’s not only India, it’s part of the global trend, SUVs have moved from maybe 20% of the market to maybe 55% of the market globally but this is a global trend and the same trend that is continuing in India as well.
TOS: What is the feedback that you’re getting from customers now who in the past complained about how maintaining Volkswagen cars in India was an expensive thing to do?
AG: Feedback is really really positive. If you look at it, the yearly maintenance cost of a Taigun or a Virtus has now come down to INR 6,500-7,000.
TOS: As compared to?
AG: It depends. On the Polo and the Vento also, I would say it was INR 6,500-7,000, maybe upto INR 9,000 but compared to the vehicle price it was more. So, that’s the comparison a customer makes. I’ve had this feedback because I have handled aftersales also for a long period of time at Volkswagen. This feedback used to be there. Partly true, partly perception. But anyway, we had to act on it. Lot of efforts were done on that part including localization, child parts, reducing the prices of our parts, reducing the prices of oils, introducing four-year warranty, introducing service value packs, so with all these efforts combined, now, you can actually service a car once a year, which is the USP of Volkswagen, in INR 6,500-7,000. And if you buy a service value pack for four years you don’t have to pay anything for service. So, as a matter of proof or data points almost 70% of my new cars today are bought by customers along with service value packs. So, they love that product, they can very clearly see that it makes economic sense for them and whichever customer I speak to, he says, definitely the service cost is much better than cars of a smaller segment.
TOS: You gave a glimpse of the ID.4 sometime back and it has raised a lot of interest, when can we expect it to be launched here?
AG: Soon. I am Sales & Marketing and looking at the interest from customers and you, I would like to launch it tomorrow but any organization has to weigh in the fact whether the product is suitable for the market, whether the technical specifications that are available… what adaptations are needed for that, so for this purpose, I already brought it, it is there in India. I’m using it personally as well as for testing purpose so, definitely the intention is there, now once the validation and the platform is released for India, surely, we would like to bring it as soon as possible.
TOS: Last time when we spoke you mentioned that you will try and get the Polo in some avatar or the other. So, can we expect the GTI?
AG: Why not? That is always at the back of my mind. If you look at the Polo GTI it is made in only one place in the world – South Africa. So, it is going to be a hard one because production is limited there and is available only for the next couple of years, but definitely, it is still on my mind.
TOS: Can you throw some light on the numbers, in terms of exports happening from here (Chakan plant)?
AG: For the Volkswagen brand itself we export to, I think, more than 30 countries but if you put together the exports for the other brand that we have in our portfolio, the Volkswagen Group, we export to around 45-50 countries all over the world. Of course, the volumes being exported differ from country to country. Two major markets that we export to are Mexico and South Africa which are high volume markets for us and where the Volkswagen brand is very strong, so it makes sense to export there, so, typically in a year we export close to 50,000 -55,000 cars world over from this plant in Chakan.