Skoda to fill product gaps, introduce new models

Czech car brand Skoda Auto, one of the world's earliest car brands to enter India, is working on plugging several product gaps in its India line-up as efforts are on to increase sales and market share.

The company, owned by German auto giant Volkswagen, is studying launches of hatchbacks, compact sports utility vehicles (SUVs), mid-size SUVs, sedans and crossovers for the Indian market.

Skoda is studying the possibility of launching a new sedan below the Rapid, which is already on sale in India. It is also exploring options to bring in a new SUV just above the existing Yeti. It will be based on the Vision S concept that will be showcased at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show.

All of these next-generation products from Skoda will be designed and developed keeping the global audience in mind. However, the company has said it is open to taking local inputs for product development.

Werner Eichhorn, member of the board, sales & marketing at ŠKODA Auto, said: “We are analysing if we can bring the successor of the Fabia to come back to India. In five to six years, there can be more cars in the SUV crossovers etc, because those segments are growing and we would have to make up our mind where we want grow.”

However, this year would be dominated by sedans.

On Tuesday, Skoda launched the third-generation flagship model Superb with a starting price of Rs 22.68 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai). The luxury sedan, which will compete with Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and the Hyundai Sonata, will be available in five variants in petrol and diesel options. An updated Rapid, Skoda's entry model in India, will follow towards the end of the year.  “Saloons are the key, we have to consolidate and grow that business. In 2016, we have to grow (volumes) by 10 per cent. We would update the Rapid towards the end of the year. We are working heavily on products. Shortly, we would be talking about an additional SUV worldwide. We are seeing if that car can fit into the Indian market,” added Eichhorn.

During the 10-month period of April-January, Skoda Auto's domestic sales grew three per cent to 12,790 units compared to the same period a year ago, according to data by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers. Its market share stands at 0.5 per cent as of end-January.

The company exited the compact hatchback segment with the phasing out of the Fabia, a premium hatchback, following continued low demand. Skoda, thus, do not have a model to compete in the hatchback segment, which generates 70 per cent volumes for the industry. It has a portfolio of four sedans and a urban SUV.