“It moves the price down and makes it more affordable,” says Steffen Knapp on the DSG being dropped from the Polo GT

In conversation with Steffen Knapp about petrol engines, the Tiguan Allspace along with engine and transmission options in smaller cars like the Polo
Steffen Knapp with the Tiguan Allspace
Steffen Knapp with the Tiguan Allspace Steffen Knapp, Director, Volkswagen Passenger Cars

On the sidelines of the launch of the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace, the Ed Sirish Chandran talks to Steffen Knapp, Director, Volkswagen Passenger Cars, about the trends in the industry. One trend in particular played out at the launch itself, with Volkswagen launching the Tiguan Allspace with a petrol engine and no option of a diesel. Volkswagen has made clear its commitment to petrol engines and will have a whole range of turbo-petrol engines in its line-up — right from the 1-litre in the Polo, to the 1.5 in the upcoming T-Roc and the 2-litre TSI engine in this Allspace. Their conversation veered from petrol engines to the Tiguan in particular — about the value that the third row brings, as well as the need for all-wheel drive in this SUV. Steffen points out that the third row is a logical extension to the line-up and the all-wheel drive system fits the premium positioning of the Tiguan. The Ed also brings up the Polo that had its prices recently announced, and asks Steffen about why the popular DSG transmission has been from its portfolio and whether the Polo GT will ever be offered with a manual. Read the full interview below.

Sirish Chandran: What is your expectation from this, considering now there is no diesel. Do you see a resistance to petrols in this segment?

Steffen Knapp: No. I think, in particular for Volkswagen, we are selling predominantly in the bigger cities. Like in Delhi, like in Mumbai, where customers tend to calculate very sharply their business case. And if you are not driving long distances there is always better business case for petrol. We also see in the industry that the petrol segment is growing faster than, much faster than we expected. So we are now at almost 65 per cent petrol already as we speak. So we are not worried about this. We know that in the bigger cars TDI or diesel technologies seems to be still a pretty important thing, that is the reason why we are initially coming in this TSI to see where the reaction is. But, if you ask me personally, I don't have any worries with the TSI technology.

SC: With the seven seats, is that something that your customers had been asking for very long in the Tiguan?

SK: Yes, they have been asking. As you know, our sister brand has offered this for quite a while and if you are buying such a vehicle you really want to move your family with you and I think it is a very nice extension of the lineup and it’s a good offer in terms of flexibility.

SC: Is 4x4 very crucial to the Tiguan brand in India?

SK: Well, that is a very good question. If you look at statistics in principal, customers never use it as a 4x4 and in the small SUV segment, you hardly see any 4x4 solutions. I think it’s an SUV, it’s our SUV, it’s the biggest what we are offering here in India. So I think 4x4 was a logical step for us.

SC: Have you looked at a more cut-price version of the Tiguan for India. Maybe with a manual gearbox, only front wheel drive, is that in the pipeline?

SK: No, because if you get into this price bracket, customers want comfort. You are obviously a Motorsports guy, you love to shift but, still there are all semi-automatics often. If you want to really cruise you go for an automatic. In particular here we have the DSG transmission which you can smoothly use at every time. Also, when you want to shift, there is a tiptonic as you know. So, I really think in this category automatic is a must.

SC: I wanna talk about the DSG also, now the Polo GT does not have a DSG transmission. What are your customers saying for that and why don't you have a DSG transmission in that?

SK: Actually, we have not yet gotten a lot of feedback from our customers, to be honest. The reason why we took it is, because its much lighter, it offers the possibility to go for us to go down in the chain. Because our future strategy will be that, in the let’s say higher series, we will offer DSG and in the lower series there will be automatic. So, initially we now come up with the automatic transmission, as a converter, and to be honest from my driving style in the city, its even a better solution. So we have tested a lot, it’s really smooth to drive, it has less fuel consumption and we are able to differentiate. That means we can make it more accessible. So, you will see a Highline Polo with TSI and automatic transmission, that moves the price extensively down and makes it affordable for lot more customers.

SC: The Polo GT has always been an enthusiast’s car, now you have a manual gearbox with the turbo-petrol engine. But why don't you offer the manual gearbox with GT?

SK: Because we believe there is legacy. In India, it always related to automatic transmission. So, therefore we said no, let’s restrict it to the classic and put the automatic transmission combination in there. If we see people coming and asking for it. Obviously, it is an easy thing to put it in. But initially, the brand is about consistency you know and we never offered it and therefore we kept it as an automatic.

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