'The compact SUV segment is one of the most interesting segments and definitely one we are looking into.'

Michael Mayer, Director, VW Passenger Cars India, speaks to Sumantra B Barooah and Nikhil Bhatia on the company’s plan to be in the consumer’s top-of-mind recall.

By Sumantra B Barooah and Nikhil Bhatia calendar 06 Aug 2014 Views icon3890 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp

Michael Mayer, Director, VW Passenger Cars India, speaks to Sumantra B Barooah and Nikhil Bhatia on the company’s plan to be in the consumer’s top-of-mind recall.

What is the new phase for Volkswagen in India going to look like?
One has to look at it from the perspective of a global vision of the Volkswagen brand and the Volkswagen Group, and India plays an important role there. We have successfully established the brand. Now it is time for consolidation, and also after the market and economy took a slightly different development than initially expected, to prepare for the next stage.

Volkswagen’s products, while they work well abroad, do not seem to be in line with customer’s requirements in India. Does VW have a better understanding of Indian buyers’ wants now?
It is a difficult question: ‘What does an Indian customer want?’ It is something that changes. When we look at the Polo since its launch in 2010, it has obviously catered to some need of the Indian buyer. What we need to do is to look into what is really substantial for the customer. There’s one aspect which is key for the future and that is safety. Safety will matter more and more. It is an inherent quality of a Volkswagen product.

You want Volkswagen to be in the consumer’s top-of-mind recall when the need for mobility arises?
Exactly. To be more precise, there’s already a substantial market — 2.3-2.4 million is a lot. It is like the second biggest European market. But more importantly for us as a brand with more premium and aspirational elements in it, we need to be there when people are ready to move up from basic inexpensive cars to higher quality, more space, and more performance cars.

Will the Taigun be the next big thing from Volkswagen?
The compact SUV segment is one of the most interesting segments. The larger picture of global production and demand will help us decide whether to launch it here. There might be other opportunities, but it is definitely one of the segments we are looking into.

The compact sedan segment is another interesting area, isn’t it?
We are looking into it. In the mid-term, it will still be an important segment for people moving into their first sedan.

Will safety, over a period of time, become a differentiator for Volkswagen cars in India?
Safety is a hidden value which goes gradually into people’s mind. When it is there, it plays a big and decisive role. The other thing is driveability, the ‘fun to drive’, the performance.
We need to communicate more on the qualities of our TSI and TDI engines which are superior to our competition. Another aspect is quality and robustness of the car. I think these are the three pillars. Fun to drive on one side, safety as a strategic value, and the core value of robustness.

Is the Volkswagen brand going to increasingly target Tier 2 and Tier 3 markets?
Given the segments we are in, and we are interested also to go into, we can still have a lot of the market covered up by Tier 1 cities. At present, I do not intend to extend the dealer network. I’m looking into more viability and customer satisfaction.

The Polo’s diesel engine has been replaced. Do you plan to change the petrol motor too?
When you have the ‘fun-to-drive’ attribute of the brand, you need fun engines. But one also has to take care of some economic needs. There are opportunities. Maybe we can do something similar to the diesel story. It is part of the product line-up. Within the distinct segments, we want to enter, we are also looking into the engine strategy.


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