Skoda, like almost every other automaker in the world, is wading through challenging times due to Covid-19-related circumstances but those challenges have not deterred the company from its lofty plans in India and product plans and launches remain on schedule.
Speaking to HT Auto in a live session on Thursday evening, Zac Hollis - Director at Skoda Auto India, reaffirmed just how important the market here is and that all plans announced at the start of 2020 remain firmly on place. This includes the launch of cars under the widely publicized India 2.0 project. "2020 was what we called the bridging year which was between our existing products and ready for new cars. When it comes to India 2.0, Skoda Auto has invested ₹8,000 crore into production facilities, network and marketing. Majority of it has been spent. We are not cutting down on any of our investments in India," he said. "Our plan is to still launch the first of those India 2.0 in Q2 of 2021. What I am really trying to do with the engineers and the whole team in Pune is to protect the launch date. At the moment, things look good. I am putting a lot of pressure on the guys but to be honest, they are creating their own pressure as well. They want to achieve the SOPs."
Hollis was referring to the Vision IN concept SUV that was showcased by the company earlier this year. Pointing at how the car could be a game-changer in its segment, Hollis highlighted the strong points of the upcoming offerings from Skoda. "The first is a mid-sized SUV and it will be very competitively priced because it is based on 90% to 95% localisation. It is (also) very important to have a car in India that is designed for India and made in India using local supplies," he said. "The second car is a sedan coming towards the end of 2021."
Asked about the role of sedans in the Indian market, Hollis explained that the shrinking importance of the segment has been largely due to lack of fresh products, something Skoda is attempting to address. "The three-box sedan still plays an important role in the Indian market. Let's also remember that part of the reason why the three-box sedan market is falling is because there's nothing new for customers. When we start seeing brand new products launched in the market, this market is here to stay," he explained.
And while new products - sedans, SUVs or those in other segments, always have the potential to catapult an OEM to newer heights, it is the post-sales network that also cement fortunes. Skoda may have had niggling issues on that front but Hollis said there is a conscious effort to address any of those concerns. "Many people have criticized the after-sales service from Skoda but the good news is that I have had many mails from customers who are very happy with the service. Many of our dealers are doing a good job (but) sometimes, some dealers have let us down. It is our job as the manufacturer to put the customer first and this is what we are striving to do through the dealer network," he said. "It is important that we have the right dealer partners going forward and it is also important that we have enough of them."
With new products and customer-centric dealer network, Skoda may have found its twin mantras for redemption in India as it now charts its way for a greater market share here. "My plan is to make India top-five as a market for Skoda worldwide," Hollis explained.