Skoda drops a fragrant hint of its Indian intended SUV
Many carmakers have invested heavily in the fast-developing Indian subcontinent, as their other markets either stabilise, or experience decline, reports Iain Robertson, and with Skoda empowered to be ‘in charge’ of VW Group activities there, its Vision IN project could develop longer legs.
While the information is scant at the moment, apart from a small selection of images from Skoda’s design centre, in Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic, it does seem as though its brand is growing teeth. Unsurprisingly, for an enticing new model, well, concept at least, the Vision IN is an SUV. It will be shown in concept form at February’s New Delhi Motor Show.
Skoda, as part of the immutably enormous VW Group, has a subservient role to play to its masters’ main board in Wolfsburg. Yes. It can appear to play some degrees of brand independence. Yes. It provides a valuable profit centre for the Group. However, it is manacled tightly to a well-versed corporate line, which does beg a question about several major automotive groups and the ways in which they over-invest in elements of branding that only serve to whack-up list prices. In addition, it Skoda ‘fails’, it does not impact majorly on VW brand values.
Skoda is tied irrefutably to parts bins provided by its Volkswagen parent. This can and does have a restrictive influence over what it purports to be its unique slant on Group models overall. Remember that the images you see here are ‘artist’s renderings’ and not entirely what may result in the production alternative. Yet, Skoda’s design centre drawings are invariably close to final product and, with production of the Vision IN (albeit with a new name attached to it) set to commence this year, you can take it for granted that examples of the real thing already exist and it is more than feasible that it will have a name ending in ‘iq’, to follow established Skoda practice.
Skoda has been manufacturing in India (Aurangabad) since 2001. Unlike Suzuki (or Maruti, as it is known in India), which has at least one sales/servicing outlet in virtually every town and village in India, Skoda operates just 131 outlets around the entire country. Its 300,000 square metre Shendra plant has a production capacity of just 89,000 vehicles and, although Fabia production ceased in 2013, due to a combination of low sales and high assembly costs, Vision IN is being ramped-up for that market. With such a low capacity potential, it is unlikely that the new car will be sold outside the Indian market.
The new model certainly looks the part, with a significantly more aggressive stance than any other Skoda SUV/crossover. However, as suggested above, remove the badges and it could be virtually any one of the VW Group offerings, let alone following slavishly a pattern being worked by around 90% of the rest of the burgeoning SUV scene. At 4.26m in length, Vision IN is a compact model and the influence of the VW T-Roc on its interior styling is also abundantly clear, with body coloured trim inserts and powerful horizontal lines.
Based on the Group’s MQB A0 platform that underpins more than 50% of the overall company’s production models, if Vision IN is deemed a success (as an SUV, while not a guarantee, the odds are in its favour), it could be replicated in almost any of the VW Group’s international network of plants. However, as the Skoda India operation is being ‘led’ by the Czech brand and it has overall responsibility for all Group activities in India, Volkswagen is clearly shortening the odds on achieving greater pan-brands’ successes. It is worth noting that Skoda/VW India sold only 17,244 units in 2018 (2019 figures are not yet available), which means that it is one of the smaller players in that developing nation.
Due to an import tax of 125% on foreign made, imported motor vehicles (although only 10% is applied to components), it is inevitable that the major multi-national carmakers are keen to invest in India. In fact, the automotive sector is one of the biggest in the country, producing around 24m vehicles annually, thereby accounting for around 7.1% of its GDP. Its local used car market is around 3.5m units annually. The most popular brand in India used to be Hindustan, with its 1950s Morris Oxford derived Ambassador models. However, Suzuki/Maruti is now the biggest Indian brand.
Conclusion: Skoda hopes that its VW corporate offering to the Indian market will produce a stronger sales response. If it works, it is a model that can be exported worldwide.