After a couple of abortive attempts to put up a full fledged manufacturing facility in the country, Volkswagen (VW), makers of the famous car Beetle and Europe's largest car manufacturer, today launched Passat, its first locally assembled car in India.
Passat will be available at Rs 22.35 lakh and Rs 24.35 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) and will compete in the D-segment which is dominated by Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Skoda Superb.
Passat will be the company's first of the four launches by the year 2009, when Volkswagen will be ready with its own India-specific small car. The next possible launch will be the mid-sized sedan, Jetta (the size of the Honda City), by mid next year.
Passat and other models will get locally assembled at Skoda's manufacturing facility in Aurangabad before its own Rs 2,450-crore facility comes up in Pune. Skoda is a Volkswagen group company.
Kevin Rose, executive director of Volkswagen's international sales division said, "Work on our new plant in Pune is in fullswing and should be able to be fully ready by 2009-end." This facility will have the capacity to make 110,000 vehicle annually.
In addition, the company is actively working on the small car for India which will compete with Maruti's Swift,
Hyundai's Getz and the GM U-VA. But the company states that the project is at a very nacent stage, and a more concrete decision will be taken in the coming 6-9 months after it gathers the initial response for the VW brand.
The company aims at getting a firm footing in the Indian market following today's launch. It's looking to build the VW brand first followed by raising the localisation content to upto 50-60% before finally moving its manufacturing operations to the new plant.
As models including the Passat will be assembled in India, the company, however, has indicated that it wants to have a much larger presence in the domestic market.
Joerg Mueller, MD (group sales India), Volkswagen said, "Passat will set the pace for our future product launches in India as it is the key market for our overall strategic growth plans."
Over the next two years, the company plans to launch the Jetta, the sport utility vehicle Tourareg, the Polo/Golf into the India market.
The car will be available only in the diesel version through a delear network, which is three at present. The company plans to raise the number to 10 by year-end. It is also looking to grab a considerable share of the 10,000-units-a-year of the premium D segment market.