“We are actually going to position the Taigun and the Virtus side by side as two first choices for customers.” - Ashish Gupta, Director, Volkswagen India, on the newly unveiled VW Virtus.

The Virtus can be one of the most important products for Volkswagen in India. On the sidelines of the official unveiling of the car, we speak to VW Passenger Cars India Brand Director, Ashish Gupta, about the car, its siblings and the core ethos of Volkswagen in India.
2022 Volkswagen Virtus
2022 Volkswagen VirtusShot by Sachin Khot

Volkswagen’s first launch of 2022 is the new Virtus. Built on the Indianised MQB-A0-IN platform, this car hopes to prove that sedans are not an extinct species. Built in India and with plans to be exported to 25 countries, the Virtus is a remarkably important model for the brand, not just in India, but worldwide. Closely related to the Taigun, the Virtus has two turbo-petrol engine options — a 1.0-litre and a 1.5-litre mill. We speak to Ashish Gupta, Brand Director, Volkswagen Passenger Cars India, about the car and its importance in the Indian market.

Aatish Mishra: Congratulations firstly, on the launch of the new Virtus. You’ve got a 1.0-litre, you’ve got a 1.5-litre. What sort of split are you expecting once these go on sale?

Ashish Gupta: In terms of demand? If the Taigun is anything to go by, the demand split is likely to be 75-25 per cent. 25 per cent for the 1.5-litre and 75 per cent for the 1.0-litre. That is what I expect for the Virtus as well. Whenever you launch a new car, typically, the top variants are much more in demand, so that's the kind of split I expect for the Virtus.

AM: What’s the plan for the Polo and Vento? Are they still in production?

AG: The Polo and Vento are still on sale. I’ve already gone on record as saying that the Polo, which is based on the old PQ25 platform is something which is going out, we’ll soon be ending the production of that car but it is still available in our network, because we know we have a lot of fans of the Polo and the Vento, so we are keeping some volumes for the customers who want to buy them, as “legends”.

AM: Are there plans of them phasing out? By when can we expect that?

AG: Yes, yes. As I was saying, the end of production happens very soon, and then the cars are in the showrooms to be sold out.

AM: You said the Virtus will be exported to 25 countries, could you tell us which countries we can expect?

AG: Some of the notable countries which I can recall right now are Mexico, South Africa, lots of countries in Central America, and in Africa. Oceania will also be taking this car from us.

2022 Volkswagen Virtus
2022 Volkswagen VirtusShot by Sachin Khot

AM: Once the initial demand for the Virtus dies down, where do you expect the numbers to stabilise at?

AG: I would not expect the demand to die down, but I would say that the split would stabilise more. Long term, I see an 85-15 per cent split.

AM: About the pandemic and the chip shortage, is it hard to launch a new car in this time period? You have two new products now.

AG: Definitely it is. Kudos to the entire machinery in our organisation which makes these kinds of things possible, otherwise the shortages are really hitting us. You never know which component is going to be missing after two or three weeks. It’s difficult to plan production, but still in that scenario, being part of a big company actually helps, where we are able to pull out all resources and bring everybody together to still make it happen.

AM: You’ve continued with the GT line here. There’s a huge fan following of the Polo GT and others. What’s the rationale behind splitting them visually, on the interiors, and obviously on the engines?

AG: It’s part of our positioning as a brand, the fundamental core DNA that we speak about: safety, build quality and fun to drive experience. The fun to drive experience aspect is synonymous with the GT. That’s something which we promise as a brand to our customers and both our Dynamic line and the Performance line, which is actually highlighted by the GT, have that fun to drive experience, that is why fundamental to every car we have only TSI, turbocharged petrol engines, to make sure that that DNA is delivered to customers. The GT only takes it further. GT has been a legend as you said, with the Polo, and customers in India definitely love the GT, so we wanted to make sure that whichever product we bring into India, we have the GT on that.

AM: I noticed the 16-inch wheels, was there ever any discussion to upsize them to 17-inches?

AG: The discussions are still on, but we have to also be careful about whether it compromises the comfort for the customers. 17-inch alloy wheels are usually low-profile tires, and with the kind of road conditions we have, with a low slung sedan, it can compromise the comfort level for the customers. But we are on the lookout for whether it can be upgraded to 17-inch.

AM: Where will your sedan be positioned with respect to your SUV?

AG: Our positioning is very clear. If you look at how the market has developed over the last two years, there’s a lot of personal mobility which has picked up. When I say personal mobility, it also includes additional car buying by families. When you go for an additional car in families, typically, you would have two body styles. Being a typical Indian family man, I would say it wouldn’t make sense for me rationally to have two SUVs or two sedans. I would typically have an SUV and a sedan, or a hatchback. That’s where this whole market movement towards personal mobility and additional car buying, is actually going to position the Taigun and the Virtus side by side as two first choices for customers.

AM: When can we expect the prices?

AG: We are planning to do the market introduction towards the end of May. The price announcement will be towards the end of May, and the car’s deliveries will also start at the same time.

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