Interview: Skoda India CEO Gurpratap Boparai on the possibility of more than SUVs being planned for the country
Skoda India CEO Gurpratap Boparai tells OVERDRIVE about the future of the brand's products, line-up, developments, and strategy. He also hints at the possible launch of more than one body style apart from the MQB A0-based SUV planned by the brand by 2020. He also speaks about is a huge investment planned for India including an engineering centre to develop BS VI compliant engines which will be mandatory in India from 2020.
Skoda India CEO Gurpratap Boparai
Products which will come to India from the Indian plant.
This (MQB A0) platform is a fairly flexible one, which can give rise to various body styles as well as differing wheelbases. We will start with an SUV and with more body styles to follow.
How soon after the mid-sized SUV launch will the hatchback or sedan follow?
We shall reveal more of these as we get closer to the day. We would not like to give away too much but definitely, it's going to be more than one body style.
As of now, what we know is four SUVs - two each from Skoda and Volkswagen starting 2020
We said four cars. We did not mention four SUVs.
What does the project mean for Skoda India and its relation with VW India, the plant, and the development?
So as Mr (Bernhard) Maier mentioned, both in Russia and India, VW Group has entrusted Skoda with leading the development of products as well as running the operations. And therefore, the development of Skoda and VW brand cars will be carried out by Skoda.
So, this will be at the Chakan plant?
The engineering development is coming to Chakan, yes.
Five years ago, when talking about the MQB platform, VW considered it too expensive for India. So what has changed?
The regulatory environment in India has changed. Crash tests have become mandatory. Also, The BS VI standard that is going to come in 2020 followed by BS VI+ or BS VI P-stage in 2023 makes us competitive with whatever others will now add to their class.
When is the investment coming? And is there a phase to the investment?
The first phase of investment meets 1 billion euros to be brought into the country and that will be completed for the next two and a half years.
What is the investment for? Any details?
The investment is both for increasing our capacity and localisation of the products. The engineering centre, of course, is part of the investment as well.
We have not discussed this level of localisation among Volkswagen cars earlier. Why now?
It is fundamental to being profitable in India that you localise to this extent. Otherwise, you can't make products competitive and be viable.
Was there a different understanding of this situation in the past that did not require so much localisation?
Well, the market has evolved since then. Also, the capabilities of the supply base here have evolved. If it was a few years ago, maybe some of those capabilities weren't there. But today,
with the Indian supply base, It is possible to have this level of localisation.