The Skoda-led India 2.0 project is gradually gathering momentum. Bolstering its commitment to the auto market in the sub-continent, Skoda recently inaugurated a new Technology Centre at its facility in Chakan, Pune to facilitate the production of India-specific products on its new MQB A0 IN platform. It was in 2018 that the Volkswagen Group had committed to invest a Rs 7,900 cr war chest to drive growth and improve its value proposition in India. The company has set aside around Rs 2,000 cr for its new technology centre aimed at R&D towards new products that will begin rolling out from 2020 onwards.
Skoda will be leading the charge for the Volkswagen Group in the India 2.0 project, with an aim to achieve a combined market share of 5 % by 2025. The project will become an integral part of the VW Group’s global strategy. Part of the plan is to up the localisation content in its products on the MQB A0 IN platform, from the current level of 76 % on its mass market products. Localisation of other segments will depend on volumes, said company officials, adding that a deeper level of localisation may not be justified due to the varying growth of those segments. The Volkswagen Group is also looking to increase the use of locally sourced materials, including steel. In doing so, a lot of parts and components will need to be re-tailored, we were told.
The VW Group will not conduct any fundamental research in India, which effectively means that ground-up vehicles will not be developed in the country yet; rather, the focus would be on components and systems. Engineers at the Pune centre would be responsible for conducting facelift engineering work; for instance, prototyping along with interior design. In addition, there will be focus on project management, electronics & infotainment, body design, interior, chassis and complete vehicle.
INDIA-SPECIFIC MQB A0 IN PLATFORM
The Pune centre will be responsible for the development of the India-specific MQB A0 IN platform, based on the Group’s MQB A0 platform. The MQB A0 platform has been used successfully by several group companies worldwide, while the MQB A0 IN will be adapted specifically for the Indian market. All models and families to be brought in the future will be based on the adapted MQB A0 IN platform, which will feature a combination of fixed and variable dimensions.
The platform allows a reduction of complexity that will enable the Volkswagen Group to offer attractive models for India in the near future. It will also assist the company to fit in all upcoming products with modern and efficient engines that would meet the Bharat Stage (BS) VI emission norms, as well as latest active and passive safety features. The flexibility of the platform entails the use of advanced safety systems as well as offering more space inside the cabin of new vehicles.
Gurpratap Boparai, Head – Volkswagen Group India (L) claimed that the new products will be far superior on torsional rigidity and will be at par with the standards and specifications of its global products. Unlike the previous models – for example, Volkswagen Vento and Skoda Rapid – which shared a common platform and had many design similarities, the new models will be differentiated in design.
The styling of the Volkswagen products will happen in Wolfsburg, while the styling of the Skoda products will take place in Mlada Boleslav. There will be commonalities between the two products, but they will look sufficiently different to each other. Styling of these vehicles will not be handled here in India at least for the near future, but going forward, the company may carry out more engineering work on these products, Boparai said.
The company claims to be on track to unveil its first model built on the MQB A0 IN platform at the Auto Expo 2020 to be held in New Delhi. Christian Strube, Member of the Board for Technical Development, Skoda Auto a.s. (R) stated that the designs and technical concepts of the upcoming models are competitive and promising. He further added that these products would meet the needs of the upcoming programmes and align well with the expectations of the Indian customers.
The first vehicle to roll out on the MQB A0 IN platform will be a compact SUV from the Skoda Auto stable. The SUV will be launched in India in mid-2020 with Skoda planning to host the first ever global unveil of a product in the sub-continent. At the time of launch, the localisation level on the Skoda SUV will stand at 90 %, going up to 95 % within six to eight months. The remaining 5 %, constituting ECU and a few electronic components, will continue to be imported.
Strube said the company is aware of the fact that the Indian automotive market is highly competitive and it is difficult to achieve a strong market position. The company has learned many lessons in India and it is in the process of implementing these learnings into its future products.
Essentially, these changes would be in featuring more powerful air-conditioners, a higher ground clearance in its vehicles, more seating space for passengers, transmissions focussed on more driving comfort and better seating comfort. Both companies have also been working on correcting the prices of their parts; Skoda has brought down cost in the last one year by 15 %, while VW has done the same by 24 %.
TEXT: Joshua David Luther