2014 Volkswagen India Interview

Volkswagen has been busy updating their portfolio over the last year. The introduction of the Polo GT TSI and GT TDI has given the enthusiast community a much needed reason to cheer while the Vento TSI has fit in perfectly as a performance sedan. Volkswagen also unveiled their Taigun compact SUV at the 2014 Auto Expo. We caught up with Volkswagen India President and MD, Mr Mahesh Kodumudi to discuss on what the company has in store for 2014 and beyond. Here are some pointers from the conversation.

On introduction of airbags as standard fitment in Polo – Volkswagen has introduced front dual airbags as standard across all variants of Polo. This comes immediately after the Global NCAP test result in which the India made Polo (without airbags) had failed. Mr. Kodumudi says that this introduction was pre-planned and was not a reaction to the NCAP tests. Moreover, Volkswagen is also exporting the Polo (with dual front airbags as standard) to other right hand drive markets and this made it easier for the company. Eventually all variants of the Vento will also be getting airbags as standard. We say it’s a great initiative by Volkswagen in the interest of safety and hopefully most manufacturers will follow suit.

On the Beetle – Iconic cars like the Beetle have quite a few takers but the volumes are very less to justify production. Volkswagen is considering the re-introduction of the Beetle again. It will be brought in via the CBU route.

On the Passat – The current Passat is reaching the end of its life cycle and hence Volkswagen is not pushing the model. However, Volkswagen will introduce the next generation Passat in 2015. Codenamed B8, the next generation Passat will be based on the MQB platform.

On the Polo facelift – Volkswagen will launch the Polo facelift by July this year. It will be powered by the new 1.5-litre TDI unit which belongs to the same family of engines as the 1.6-litre TDI. The introduction of the Polo facelift will also see the discontinuation of the 1.2-litre and 1.6-litre units and the 1.5 TDI will be the standard diesel engine across the Polo and Vento range.

On the GT TSI and GT TDI The demand has been stellar and Volkswagen has production constraints since it is unable to source as many engines. Another factor to consider is that in spite of the response, the volumes are still not high enough to justify the local production of the 1.2-litre TSI engine. Volkswagen has catered to the enthusiast community and will continue to bring innovative products in the future. Further, Volkswagen is also considering the introduction of the Jetta with the 1.8 TSI motor.

On after sales and service – The service experience has undergone a significant improvement in the last one year. Volkswagen is focusing to enhance the overall service experience and have put across various teams to ensure this is done. The service personnel are being trained extensively and Volkswagen has also set up a sales and service training centre in Pune. Volkswagen is also taking measures to reduce the cost of ownership by extensively localising parts and components.

On plans for 2014 – 2014 will see the launch of the Polo facelift by July. The Vento will have a mini refresh by the end of the year and will have customer features which are important in the segment. The Vento will undergo a major refresh in 2015.

On introduction of a new automatic transmission – Volkswagen has done away with the conventional automatic in the Vento and has replaced it with the state of the art DSG gearbox. Even the Polo GT TSI is equipped with the DSG box. On being asked whether Volkswagen is considering other automatic transmissions besides the DSG in the small cars, Mr. Kodumudi said that the company is looking at other options and is in discussion. Now, this is big news as we don’t know whether Volkswagen will go the AMT way or no, but the focus is clearly on a cost effective automatic solution which should hit the road by late 2015. This is likely to be a big hit with the customers.

On introduction of Taigun and Up! – Volkswagen says nothing is yet decided on the introduction of both these models but we reckon the Taigun, for sure, will make it to the road by early 2016.