When the Volkswagen Group entered India more than two decades ago, no one thought they’d become the tour de force that they are now. Okay, they are the ones who made the people’s car, their wide range of brands and extremely capable products are a thing of envy for rival conglomerates, and innovation never takes a back seat at VW. Having said that, one mustn’t forget that the Indian market can be a tough nut to crack — and many carmakers learnt that the hard way. Volkswagen, though, had a different plan altogether.
Starting the Volkswagen India range with a top-drawer product like the VW Polo and continuing with it for a decade, the brand showed what they were capable of. The influx of global products — from the Beetle, Jetta, Passat, etc. to luxury-focussed ones like the Touareg and Phaeton, and not to forget, grossly underrated ones like the T-Roc — meaning no matter how big or small your budget was, there was a Volkswagen ready to win your heart and its well-earned space on your drive. The local range of Polo-based products enabled VW to continue offering Indian customers segment-topping cars (in terms of performance, safety, driving dynamics, build quality… you name it) and competitive prices. Their interest in the Indian market soared to new heights with the introduction of a thoroughly impressive motorsport division, which didn’t just allow Indian racers to showcase their talent here but also use it as a ladder to compete in a variety of global race series. A paragraph is most definitely not enough space to list out how seriously Volkswagen viewed the Indian market right from day one, but this ought to give you an idea that if you offer the Indian customer great products, they’d welcome you with arms wide open.
Another reason behind Volkswagen’s success is the brand’s ability to quickly recognise the market’s needs and strategise accordingly. Towards the end of the 2010s, it was evident that to maximise its appeal, the SUV segment had to be taken more seriously. And thus came the SUVW approach, under which, the brand reiterated its focus on the Indian market with a wide range of sport utility vehicles, made available across different prices, again offering something for everyone. Its added impetus came courtesy of VW Group’s India 2.0 strategy. Now called Skoda Auto Volkswagen India (Pvt. Ltd.), the group announced an investment of a whopping EUR 1 billion to further strengthen its presence in the Indian market.
The first INR 2000 crore led to the establishment of the brand’s technical centre in Pune. This is where they worked on the brand-new platform that now underpins Volkswagen’s two most successful modern products: the VW Taigun and the Virtus. Called MQBA0-IN, the platform is a clear mix of Volkswagen’s engineering skills and high levels of localisation. Joining the SUV and the saloon is the VW Tiguan, a five-seat SUV that epitomises Germanic standards that none of its rivals can match. With its three-product-wide portfolio, the brand is extremely focused with its approach, but at the same time, offering exactly what it’s been traditionally known for: quality.
And everyone seems to love that, too. The eventual (and inevitable) demise of the Polo could’ve left a gaping hole in the model range. And ardent VW fans wouldn’t have let that go unnoticed, either. But take a drive in either of the MQB-A0-IN products, and you’d be able to appreciate that both the Taigun and Virtus are modern-day iterations of VW’s India-focussed products. Great space, check. Unrivalled looks, check. A wide range of engine and gearbox choices, a big check. And most importantly, the robustness that only a VW car can offer, you can almost hear VW enthusiasts unanimously saying: check. Safety is another parameter where Volkswagen has always been at the forefront, and the Taigun recently reaffirmed that. Under Global NCAP’s latest test protocol, the SUV scored a full-fat FIVE stars. That not just means it’s well ahead of its rivals, but it also proves that if you’re buying a Volkswagen in India, you can be assured that it’s got your back. Always.
Does that mean they’d skimp on features? Well, other brands might, but not VW — they understand the needs and demands of the Indian customer. From a high-quality touchscreen audio system, sunroof, premium cabin that looks and feels great, and all-digital instrument cluster, to a host of connected-car tech (My VW Connect Plus), both the Taigun and Virtus are loaded to the brim. And then there are 40+ safety features including up to 6 airbags, driver aids like ESC and Hill-Hold, and Multi-Collision Braking. Ownership too has been made easy with added peace of mind by Volkswagen 4EVER Care included standard and lucrative service packages.
This is by no means a dig at brands which couldn’t work in India but a clear indication that if you plan your products right, the Indian market isn’t exactly a tough nut to crack. Even if you have large shoes to fill. Just ask Volkswagen!