on 16, May 2015

VW will finally try and once again justify not just its reputation as a global auto behemoth, but also its investment in India with a renewed Indian market strategy. The plan outlines the launch of 5 new models for India over a 24 month period.

We can share details with you about 4 of them. The 5th shall be a facelifted product that will launch in this calendar year. It really is high time that VW went from introspection, on what went wrong with its initial high decibel market entry, and went back to simply catering to the market’s many demands in the form of new products. And no – right up front let me tell you that the subcompact SUV, VW so desperately needs, is not part of this plan! So what is?

Well let’s start with another SUV that I have foolishly waited for in vain for many years – but will finally make it to India. The Tiguan though will drive in perhaps as the last of the lot of new cars, in its second generation avatar that is set for its global unveil at the Frankfurt Motor Show closer to the end of the year. The idea is to have a top-down approach to the SUV space – so after years of having the Touareg, we will now have the Tiguan, and then eventually the subcompact SUV (did anyone say Taigun? I sure heard it!) that will only arrive around mid or late 2017.

The new Tiguan is likely to be priced in the range of Rs. 22-26 lakh and will compete with the likes of theHonda CR-V. It will also have to deal with the larger SUVs like the Toyota Fortuner and Hyundai Santa Fe though – on sheer price point. And the second gen Tiguan is expected to also have a 7-seater variant which means it will anyway be larger than the current car. It will use VW’s MQB modular platform, on which we currently have the Skoda Octavia and Audi A3.

Another car built on MQB will be the new generation of the Passat – which has recently been the first runner up at the World Car Awards. This new car will also be launched in India, and will likely offer the 2.0 TDI diesel heart. The Passat is a desirable car, and the new generation will pamper buyers with higher levels of luxury. The problem for Volkswagen though is that since the Passat first drove in to India in the last generation, a lot has changed in the Rs. 20-30 lakh sedan space.

The likes of the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA have queered the pitch somewhat – and even though the new Passat will be much bigger on space, it will need to bear the heat from the premium brand offerings – that even start at prices lower than the Passat’s expected 30 lakh pricing. And add to that the new 2nd generation Superb that will arrive early next year, and the hybrid Toyota Camry, and you know it won’t be an easy ride for Volkswagen with the Passat.

While the Tiguan and the Passat will be locally assembled, we will also get one completely built import, and one car that will be fully manufactured here at VW’s Chakan plant. The latter is the much-awaited subcompact sedan or as VW calls it – New Compact Sedan (NCS). The same nomenclature was used for the platform VW developed for the current Jetta when it moved away from being the Golf sedan, and a leaner, lower priced car for the US market.

But the car I am talking of will be based on the Polo/Vento and will essentially be the Polo sedan that sits under 4 metres in length. The reason I am not referring to it as the sub-4 metre Vento is that VW would like to create a separation between the two sedans, and the NCS will be priced closer to the Polo anyway since it will have to take on the likes of the Honda Amaze and Maruti Swift Dzire. This will be a slightly larger car with presumably stronger driving credentials – based purely on the fact that it is Polo based, unlike say an Amaze which is Brio-based. But it is fickle of me to go down this road before laying eyes on the car, and then driving it of course.

The direct import will be the new Beetle. VW had brought us the last gen of the iconic car, and though it had very limited sales, it certainly got a lot of attention. The new car was introduced worldwide in 2012, but never made it to India – until now. It could be the VW launch at the 2016 Auto Expo I reckon. Prices will go in the Rs. 34-36 lakh space, and I expect VW to bring us just the 138 bhp 2.0 TDI and perhaps the 197 bhp, 2.0 TSI as well.

The plan is a clear one – and while it will not attack all ends of the market, it will certainly give VW more ammunition than it currently holds. The company has had a 7 model portfolio, but that was populated by cars like the Phaeton, Touareg and yes the Beetle – which have great appeal, but limited takers.

With the Tiguan, NCS and the facelifted lineup, VW will hope to garner more attention from buyers. I still believe that VW needs a car that sits below the Polo to really make a dent in the market. But it says it cannot do that at the price points those cars operate at – without compromising on VW’s quality parameters – and so won’t. Hence, the need for the Taigun then. So I hope that once the 24 month plan unfolds, we do still get that or something like it.



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