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Skoda and Volkswagen inaugurate the new technology Center in Pune

Sudipto Chaudhury

Skoda and Volkswagen inaugurate the new technology Center in Pune

As part of the ‘India 2.0′ campaign, Skoda is taking on an even more important role for Volkswagen Group in India. Considering that it has taken up the responsibility of leading the brand in India, a combined Volkswagen-Skoda team is working with “full power and commitment to try and make everything happen” said Christian Strube, member of the board of management for technical development.

The opening of the new technology centre marks a milestone in India 2.0 project and the “Skoda model offensive” of the Volkswagen Group in India, which can be considered an important cornerstone in Skoda’s global growth strategy. The long term goal involves strengthening their position in India, for which the Volkswagen Group and Skoda auto have invested Euro 250 million in research and development, including project management, electronics and infotainment, body design, interior, chassis and complete vehicle. All this will be done at their new facility in Chakan, as a part of the brand’s “India 2.0” programme.

This will create 250 jobs in engineering, playing a key role in developing Skoda and Volkswagen vehicles perfectly tailored to the needs of the Indian customers, building up a strong development base in India. It is the second development site at Skoda Auto besides their Czech HQ that will focus on local development as well as on other markets in the next step, which is ultimately achieving long-term localisation levels of 95 per cent. The India 2.0 project is a crucial step for achieving the long term vision of a combined Volkswagen and Skoda market share of 5 per cent in the passenger vehicle market in India by 2025.

Skoda’s main task in the next month will be to develop the MQB A0 IN platform for the Indian market. All future models of both brands developed and produced in India will be made on the same MQB platform, which already fulfill the strict legal requirements that will come into force in 2020.

Skoda’s MQB A0 IN platform is based on the successful worldwide MQB A0 platform. All modular families of the A0 platform will be adapted to Indian requirements, which will essentially be a combination of fixed and variable dimensions that will reduce complexity and allow us to offer attractive models for the Indian market.

The MQB A0 IN platform enables Skoda to fit all the upcoming products with modern and efficient engines to fulfill the BS-VI norms as well as latest active and passive safety features and to add advanced systems and more importantly, this platform offers more space which belongs to Skoda DNA.

Preparation for local development and production, the newer volume models for the Skoda and Volkswagen brands on MQB A0 IN are already in full swing. To be able to keep the pace, Skoda will showcase their new made-in-Pune model, based on the new MQB A0 platform as early as 2020, as a concept at the Delhi Auto Expo.

Skoda is aware that the Indian automotive trade is highly competitive and it is not easy to achieve and maintain a strong position, Skoda says there are a lot of lessons learnt so far that they will implement into future projects. Keeping in mind a certain adherence to the global MQB A0 platform, Skoda want to maintain their MQB A0 IN platform using local materials, for which many parts of the cars will be retailored, and better adapted to Indian requirements. Next, since Indian driving conditions are totally different, considering the stop and go nature, or the temperatures here, comfort oriented changes, such as the increasing the capability of the air conditioner will be implemented. Skoda has ambitious plans saying that this and lot more will be accomplished in the future.

Speaking on localising components, Gurpratap Boparai, head, Volkswagen Group India, said that there will be a focus on what the suppliers are buying, which means reacquiring even the steel procurement, as a lot of the steel components are local but the steel itself is imported. Similarly, some adaptation of will be needed for the designs, but they’ll be far superior on torsional rigidity, as on Skoda’s current generation products. Skoda has always had been a brand in the luxury spot, something they plan to continue despite the projected 76 per cent level of localisation.

Keeping in mind a ‘Skoda-led product offensive’ the competition will not be solely on price, with the assurance that the value they bring will be sure to bring a paradigm shift. Besides, with each product having its own lifecycle, any overlap between existing and new model platforms is a long time away.

Addressing the age-old grouse of high fuel consumption, Skoda said that it was usually from their petrol power trains, something they plan to address. Also, as far as high parts’ prices go, Skoda says this will not be an issue as and when the projected levels of localisation are achieved. In fact, this is already in progress, as costs have come down by 15 per cent and it has been 24 per cent for Volkswagen on an average over the past year. Though new products may be 90 per cent imported at launch, plans are in place to reach full potential for localization within six to eight months.

Regarding drivetrain development, the basic development will be done at Wolfsberg (for Volkswagen) and Mlada Boleslav (for Skoda) which will also ensure a unique styling for every product. However, as time passes by more of prototyping, conceptualization and design work more will happen in the Pune Design Centre. The design centre is very proactive on feedback. People from India have a far greater voice in how the car is going to look and for interiors as well. Additionally, mass-market technologies, such as CNG may be under consideration, whereas other technologies such as AMTs may not be considered in the outset.

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