Skoda’s India comeback project receives Volkswagen approval

Skoda car showroom in south Delhi. About 18 months ago, Skoda Auto was tasked with developing a sustainable model campaign for both Skoda and Volkswagen brands in the Indian volume segments. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

Skoda car showroom in south Delhi. About 18 months ago, Skoda Auto was tasked with developing a sustainable model campaign for both Skoda and Volkswagen brands in the Indian volume segments. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

Mumbai: The local subsidiary of Czech automaker Skoda Auto will introduce its first model based on the versatile MQB-A0 platform (Modular Transverse Matrix platform) “as early as 2020”, to mark the Volkswagen (VW) group’s India comeback, Skoda Auto India Pvt Ltd said on Friday.

“We are firmly convinced that, after one-and-a-half years of intensive work, together with Volkswagen, we now have a suitable approach to bring the right vehicles into the Indian market at the right time. We will present the first model built on the new MQB-A0-IN platform as early as 2020,” said Skoda Auto chief executive Bernhard Maier.

This project (termed “India 2.0”) has received the go-ahead from the Volkswagen management and supervisory boards and will entail investment of more than 1 billion euros, the largest inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the Indian auto sector. Mint reported this first on 30 April. The project also entails setting up the VW group’s first engineering centre in India and a simplification of the business structure of the group in the country.

Seeking to drive greater volumes on a global level, Volkswagen entrusted Skoda in late 2016 to lead the group’s India operations by entirely re-developing the MQB platform, thus terming it MQB-A0-IN, to drive greater volumes for developing countries, including India. Mint reported this first on 14 August last year.

Skoda, which made its foray into the Indian subcontinent in 2001, will build at least six new body styles on the MQB platform—the current global architecture that underpins almost all small and mid-size VW group cars—and develop India as an export base for these models.

“All models designed and produced locally in India in the future will be based on Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform, which already fulfils the stricter legal requirements for India that come into force in 2020,” the company said, referring to the new emission and safety norms set to kick in from April 2020.

“Most” technical developments on the reworked MQB platform will take place in India, with the platform increasing “flexibility when developing new vehicles” and allowing a reduction in costs and production times via “standardisation of components, dimensions and production processes”, the company said.

The project will be led by newly-appointed Skoda India managing director Gurpratap Boparai, who was chief executive at Fiat India Automobiles Ltd since 2012, and has over 20 years of experience in the industry, having worked at Tata Motors Ltd as well.

Presently offering four models, Skoda has not really picked up pace in the Indian car market after debuting more than 15 years ago.

According to data provided by industry body Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, Skoda India clocked a mere 17,387 units in FY18 sales, an increase of 26.8% from a year ago. In comparison, India’s luxury car market leader Mercedes-Benz India Pvt Ltd sold 15,330 units during the period.

Volkswagen India Pvt Ltd sold 45,329 units in the fiscal year gone by, a decline of 22.5% from a year ago.

For the first two months of the fiscal, Skoda and Volkswagen clocked 2,820 and 6,217 units in sales respectively, posting a 15.76% rise and a 9.95% decline over the year-ago.

News Reporter