Volkswagen gears up to change India strategy

Going through lackadaisical sales for the first time in five years, Volkswagen India is now changing track to ensure it continues to stay on the growth path in the coming years. Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, head of product development at Volkswagen AG, spoke about some measures that the company was taking towards this end at the recently concluded Paris Motor Show.

“We are extensively testing an extended version of the Up in order to adapt the car for Indian conditions,” said Hackenberg on the sidelines of the show. Volkswagen will extend the wheelbase (distance between two wheel wells) by about 50 mm in order to offer good interior room and a better interior package. The Up is being re-designed to compete in the market with cars like the Hyundai i10, the Suzuki Zen Estilo and the Chevrolet Beat, and it will be the cheapest VW on sale in India when it is launched in 2014 at Rs 3.5 to 4.5 lakh.

Acknowledging this fact that the Indian market has become largely feature driven, he admitted that VW is now changing its approach. “A balance needed to be struck between safety and features, so future VW models would come fitted with the sort of features that Indian customers expect,” he said. Volkswagen India had just a few weeks ago launched more feature rich versions of the Polo hatchback and Vento sedan with a price drop, a response after sales had started to slide since the beginning of 2012. Dr Hackenberg also mentioned that a CNG-powered variant of the Vento will soon be launched in India.

Another segment that is poised for rapid growth in India is the one for compact SUVs – the recent launch of the Mahindra Quanto and Renault Duster points towards this trend, and we will soon see the much-awaited Ford Ecosport joining the fray. Dr Hackenberg revealed that Volkswagen too is working on a product for this category. A car in this segment will give VW more ammunition to take the fight to its competition, and Dr Hackenberg concluded by saying that VW already has the technology in place to meet and exceed the upcoming BS V emission norms.