‘It is part of our DNA and philosophy to build safe cars’: Petr Solc
Skoda is no stranger to safety rules, as all the company’s cars produced globally since 50 years have had 5-star safety ratings by the EuroNCPA. Petr Solc, Brand Director, Skoda Auto India talks of how India-made cars Kushaq and Slavia have been recognised for the same, not only for the front passengers but also the rear seat passengers.
“Our proposition is focusing on the families, he said, adding that it is part of their company’s DNA and philosophy to build safe cars, which starts with the technical development, he goes on to add. Admitting that they are not the cheapest in the market with the cars they offer, Petr explains that they would like to pass on the message to customers that they understand what they are paying for.
He goes on to explain that for them, safety starts with the development of the car, with the bonnet and the structure of the car, and this is something that they have started introducing where they show the bonnet and structure? of the car to the customers at the dealership. Saying that this is something that is a part of their premium as well, which starts with the technical development and the engineering of the car. We took a conscious decision five years ago, and we started to develop the cars with India 2.0, that we really put emphasis on safety, knowing that we might be more expensive than the competition, but safety is part of Skoda’s DNA, and ‘we will continue in this.’
“We are happy with the achievements in terms of the volumes for last year, and we will continue to expand on the market and bring more products to the market, which will have the same focus- to bring safe cars to the Indian roads for Indian customers. “I can see that the Indian government is also putting more and more emphasis on safety, and also that the customers are more conscious about safety, and look for safety features, rather than some other aspects, like speed, for example,” he adds.
“I appreciate the initiative of the Indian government of supporting safety and introducing certain monetary requirements, so now with the strict protocol of the global NCAP, this is a very good initiative, and it will become the standard of the future. 15-20 years ago, it was not really a standard in Europe, and now all the OEMs are deliberately going for a crash test and safety testing, he said adding that he was convinced it will also happen in India, with the development of the infrastructure and new roads that are planned over the next years in India.
Active versus passive safety
In terms of safety, the company offers ESC and tyre pressure monitoring, and adaptive cruise control line assist, amongst other features at the moment.
“We are also taking ideas and safety features from our cars and our engineers from Europe, so something that is now being introduced in Europe, we are then taking over to our cars in India, and this will also happen for the future. For example, the Kodiaq that we have now, and the Kodiaq offer in the future, the same also our engineers in India, are now developing future models here, to be produced in India.
It is in our roadmap in the future to bring, with every new generation or new facelift, or model year, every year, to bring extra new safety features. We have a good base in Europe, where we can inspire to bring the additional safety features to the Indian roads.
Being an European manufacturer in safety features, there is a challenge of cost and safety.
Tradeoff between cost and safety
“We are not the cheapest in our segment, but also as the safety will develop, it will put pressure on all of us, all the OEMs to adapt to that, and all of us will have to invest in safety.
I can also see that in Europe, where the strict requirements will put pressure on the costs and new development. So yes, something that might be more premium and hence priced higher at the moment, might be a standard for the future.
A couple of years ago, Skoda had taken a conscious decision to focus on safety, despite it being a certain pricing premium. This is also our strong communication tool, that for our customers, we ensure safety in our vehicles, and this is something that I am convinced is also for the other OEMs. If it is not a 100% mandated, then it gives you a certain space for manoeuvrability, and it has to be in balance, he added.
Taking the high ground on safety
The slew of regulations for global OEMS has to be revalidated for global standards, he says, taking the case of electric cars as an example.
“If you talk of the EV cars that might be brought from Europe, then all these vehicles are already fulfilling safety standards and five-star regulations in Europe. I don’t see any risk in adding any additional cost factor, with regards to some newly introduced safety regulations in India.
“I do agree it is important for the local OEMs here that such regulations are announced in advance so we have good reaction time. This is something that is really important, and in general, I really appreciate the steps of the Indian government on putting a greater focus on safety.” He added that so far for them, they had taken a deliberate decision to communicate the safety and bring maybe more than required safety to our vehicles. For safety on the road, what is also important is a greater amount of education. Education of society and people is important, not just OEMs.
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