Volkswagen will never compromise with vehicle safety just to lower prices: Ashish Gupta – Times of India

Volkswagen will never compromise with vehicle safety just to lower prices: Ashish Gupta - Times of India

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Over the last few years, we have seen a major change in customer preferences for new car purchases and a shift in OEMs prioritising safety, build quality and features over fuel-efficiency, maintenance cost and price. With the growing focus on safety in particular, the Global NCAP results for 2023 especially put the limelight on Volkswagen’s Virtus and Taigun, which got 5-star safety ratings. The brand has long been known for building cars with high safety standards and the INDIA 2.0 models made the benchmark of ‘German build-quality’ accessible to more customers. In addition, the sales numbers have shown the willingness of the Indian buyer to pay more for peace of mind that comes with better safety.

Volkswagen Virtus scored 5-star in Global NCAP crash tests.

Volkswagen Virtus scored 5-star in Global NCAP crash tests.

The sales numbers for Volkswagen India since the arrival of the Taigun and Virtus support this thesis. Compared to July 2022, Volkswagen India has grown by 30 percent Y-oY in 2023. Model wise, the demand for the Taigun has grown by 36 percent Y-o-Y in July 2023 and Volkswagen claims that similar increments are reported on the Virtus and Tiguan. During a recent conversation with TOI Auto, Ashish Gupta, Brand Director, Volkswagen Passenger Cars India, said, “People always knew that Volkswagen makes safe cars but getting a third party certification also helps the customers in identifying a baseline on what they need. The biggest testament to safety becoming a talking point is not only with the customer but now almost every new launch by other automakers is highlighting about having similar safety standards as our cars, without providing any third-party certification or proof for it. Earlier, this was never the conversation from OEMs during new car launches. So that is the kind of change I think we have brought in because safety has now become a priority among customers. I would say that now safety is among the top three buying reasons among customers. Earlier it used to be fuel-efficiency, maintenance cost and price, now I see safety as the number two concern among buyers of new cars.”
So does the success of the MQB-A0 platform and the INDIA 2.0 strategy have more affordably priced Volkswagens’ in store for India? Unfortunately not, while Gupta firmly believes that Volkswagen India’s strategy to position the brand as ‘premium accessible’, has worked for now with the Virtus and Taigun, the brand direction is still geared towards the premium end. “For any brand to survive and remain sustainable in the market, it is important to have enough profitability to not only sustain the operations but also invest in future projects. That is the phase we are in, we have to make sure that the investments we have made in the Taigun and Virtus, pave the way for our future investments. In terms of new launches, our focus is towards the premium segment and bringing in more cars from our global portfolio. Whether it is through the completely built up (CBU) route or parts and components, that is what we need to focus on to ensure that our brand target of being in the premium segment is achieved.” He told TOI Auto.

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While the success of the Taigun and Virtus has brought the brand back on track, the Tiguan SUV from Volkswagen’s global portfolio is still seeing low volumes despite posting growth and is considered to be an expensive proposition at over Rs 35 lakh ex-showroom. This would mean that the upcoming global products that Volkswagen is gearing up to bring to the country, would naturally be on the premium end of their respective segments. In order to promote sales of the global and INDIA 2.0 products, a competitive pricing strategy would need to be in place. Could stripping the cars of some safety features help alleviate the cost pressure?
To this Gupta said, “I would not be in favour of stripping down any safety features for the sake of cost compromise, it is something that a brand like Volkswagen would never do. It is a golden rule for us that there would never be any compromise on safety features just because of cost pressures. Of course, as a measure towards cost optimisation, we are always looking for ways to bring them down with our engineering efforts, through supply chain cost reductions and more but we will never compromise on the basic DNA of our vehicles.

Ashish Gupta, Brand Director, Volkswagen Passenger Cars India

Ashish Gupta, Brand Director, Volkswagen Passenger Cars India

As for getting new affordable cars from Volkswagen in India, the brand seems to be content with the two models they have on sale. To keep the buyers excited, Volkswagen also launched special editions for the Taigun and Virtus recently and Gupta claims that the response has been encouraging. “It’s been a brilliant response, especially to the GT Edge collection in both the Virtus and Taigun. We are exclusively selling the GT Edge collection online and in the first four weeks, we received close to 800 bookings for these cars. Out of these, around 500 bookings were for the black edition Virtus and the rest of 300 were for the matte edition and black edition of the Taigun SUV. To give you some perspective on the Virtus GT Edge black edition, we are booked out till November 2023 and people who want to book them now will have to wait till the latter part of the year to get delivery. The Taigun editions have a waiting period of till September.” Gupta said.
On the electric vehicle front, Gupta said that there’s no change in the plans of Volkswagen India and any major development including commercial launches can be expected around 2025.



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