Skoda plans India’s safest small SUV and EV
While the locally produced small SUV is slated for launch in India in second- half 2024, the locally produced EV is still under study; Kushaq SUV and Slavia sedan rated safest family cars in India, protecting even the rear occupants in a crash.
Having raised the safety bar with its Kushaq midsize SUV and Slavia sedan passing muster as the safest vehicles on Indian roads, Skoda Auto now plans to bring in India's safest small SUV and also an EV in the future as part of its vision to expand market share.
The European car major claims that all its vehicles sold since 2008 have been five-star rated and cleared stringent European safety norms. In line with the Indian government's safety vision, the Czech carmaker intends to build its safe vehicle portfolio in the future.
Petr Solc, the brand head of Skoda in India, says safety has been the company’s USP or unique selling proposition over the years, which it is now proactively communicating to prospective Indian buyers of the brand.
"Unlike the past, the key buying criteria for increasing the number of Indian buyers has moved away from price or features to safety and our products fit the requirement. We are adopting a parallel track for future products, which ranges from locally produced models, assembly of parts and components and fully built imports to offer best of global standards to Indian buyers and we aim to raise the bar on safety going ahead," added Solc.
The Kushaq and Slavia have aced the Global NCAP crash test, scoring a full 5-star rating for adult and child occupants under updated safety test protocol.
Five-star and beyond: a minimum threshold for Skoda-VW cars
Even as Skoda cars were always safer for Indian roads, this push towards promoting the critical safety narrative is happening at a time when homegrown carmakers like Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra's attempt to proactively promote the five-star rating in their vehicles has helped them gain popularity with prospective buyers in the last few years.
With India having the dubious distinction of most deaths in the world due to road accidents, the government of India is pushing towards the mandatory six airbags regulation for passenger vehicles.
The Skoda Kushaq midsize SUV and the Slavia midsize sedan have both aced the Global NCAP crash test, scoring a full five-star rating for adult and child occupants under the updated safety test protocol. And the Kodiaq SUV has also received a five-star rating for adults and children in Euro NCAP crash tests.
L-R: Christian Cahn von Seelen, Executive Director, Sales, Marketing and Digital, Skoda Auto Volkswagen India, and Petr Solc, Brand Director, Skoda Auto India.
Skoda Auto India is displaying the car body or sheet metal at various dealerships to educate prospective buyers on the elements behind safety. Skoda’s brand director says that beyond the body shell, the company will be proactively adding a slew of active and passive safety features including ADAS and lane departure warnings in the future.
Christian Cahn von Seelen, Executive Director, Sales, Marketing and Digital, Škoda Auto Volkswagen India says: "It is not just about number of features or airbags in the car . . . it is the expertise of engineering these features into millions of cars globally that has been implemented into the cars in India which differentiates the Group from the others. The safety incorporated in the design, development and decision-making stage of engineering."
'Safer With Skoda' event, held at NATRAX in Indore, showcased the best-in-class safety of the Kushaq, Slavia and Kodiaq. Images: Skoda India/Twitter.
Last week, at NATRAX in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, Skoda Auto India had organised the ‘Safer With Škoda’ Track Day to showcase active safety features and braking manoeuvres. Skoda Auto India will continue with its "no-compromise drive towards safety," assured the management. The company already tops safety charts among made-in-India cars in Global NCAP crash tests and its India 2.0 cars are developed from the ground up with extra emphasis on safety.
While the locally produced small SUV – internally codenamed SK216 – is scheduled for the launch in the second half of 2024, the locally produced EV is still under study. According to sources, a locally produced small SUV is a given, it is not a matter of if, but when.
EVs core to Skoda’s future
Last month, Skoda Auto's global CEO Klaus Zellmer told Autocar Professional that the company wants to produce EVs in India for India in the future.
To ensure the product excitement continues till the locally produced models are introduced in the future, the Czech carmaker will be bringing in its Enyaq EV and the Superb sedan in CBU form later in the year. The Octavia RS too is under consideration over the next 12-18 months.
On April 25, Skoda Auto unveiled its e-mobility offensive comprising six new electric vehicles by 2026. At its headquarters in Mlada Boleslav, the company showcased six clay models of its forthcoming EV portfolio, some them being explored for the Indian market.
Skoda believes the market for EVs in India is set to cross half-a-million units annually in the coming three to four years, which is why it is keen to participate in this fast-growing shift. While it be bringing in the Enyaq EV later in the year as a completely built import unit, it is also exploring models like the Enyaq coupe and Elroq EV for the Indian market before a locally produced EV model is finalised for the Indian market, confirmed Solc.
“The EVs account for 3% of the overall market . . . it is likely to be 10% in the next three to four years and hence we are looking at multiple options. We will start with the Enyaq. If the development is positive and there is a good movement, then the Elroq is a good possibility. There are six models being developed globally – we will decide what could be brought in as a fully built imports, what is to be brought in as parts and components, and how do we localise,” he added.
Targeting outperformance in 2023
With the Kushaq and Slavia still fresh in the market and with the recent communication on top-notch safety for both vehicles, there has been an increased traction at Skoda India dealerships. Solc expects the Indian market will continue with its outperformance.
“Last year, there was a strong growth due to the pent-up demand. We could see a bit of pent-up demand in Q1 but the retail market is not as strong albeit it is double-digit growth and we are watching it carefully. I still see a potential of double-digit growth for Skoda. The market (for PVs) is set to cross 4 million units and we will continue to outperform and we will gain market share,” said Solc.
India, which is the third-biggest global market for Skoda, is a key pillar for the Czech carmaker’s internationalisation and future growth. The company plans to ship its made-in-India passenger vehicles to the Middle East, Africa and the expansion into the ASEAN region will be served from India.
In CY2022, Skoda Auto India more than doubled its sales to over 53,000 units. It expects close CY2023 with sales of 60,000 units at a minimum with the full year volumes of both the Kushaq and Slavia.
Much like Skoda, Cahn von Seelen says all the brands of the Group are on a growth path and the European major will look to better the 100,000-unit cumulative sales it achieved last calendar year.
Chip issues easing
The semiconductor shortage did have an impact on the company’s production in the last couple of months, but Cahn Von Seelen says the worst is hopefully behind the group and it will look to ramp up output to cater to demand, both locally and globally, which will ensure strong sustenance of profitable operations in the country.
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