“The In­dian cus­tomer looks at value for money”

In con­ver­sa­tion with the head of Volk­swa­gen pas­sen­ger cars in In­dia, St­ef­fen Knapp, on 2019 plans

Evo India - - INTERVIEW - AS TOLD to SIRISH CHAN­DRAN

Dis­counts are not as im­por­tant as value Of course, we have to drive a cer­tain vol­ume, but we have to in­stil a sense of pride in our sales and ser­vice con­sul­tants. Peo­ple­wise, we have reached a pretty de­cent level, our qual­ity has im­proved and at­tri­tion lev­els have dropped to lower than 30 per cent. Our re­peat re­pair lev­els which were at around 10 per cent are now at 1-2 per cent. As of last year we sold about 65 per cent ex­tended war­ranties whereas be­fore we were only do­ing 29 per cent. With our Polo Trend­line, 91 per cent of the cars sold last year were to first-time cus­tomers.

The In­dian cus­tomer looks at value for money They're ed­u­cated enough to see that if you make the price very low, then it won't be good enough value. Ob­vi­ously, price mat­ters in their de­ci­sion so we have to keep that com­pet­i­tive. When we launched our Polo at ` 4.99 lakh for the Trend­line vari­ant, it made the Polo more ac­ces­si­ble.

Next, a lot of cus­tomers look at the run­ning costs, and there has been a per­cep­tion that VW is an ex­pen­sive brand to run, some­thing which also fig­ures in ar­gu­ments against diesel, although that's not the case at the fuel pumps. When he goes for his ser­vice at 7,500km he pays 50 per cent more that what he will pay in our case [be­cause ser­vice is] at 15,000km. So that is the per­cep­tion that needs to be changed. We have to fac­tor in the fact that we may be more ex­pen­sive, but we can com­bat it by pro­vid­ing re­ally high-qual­ity ser­vice value pack­age.

With the new To­tal Cost of Own­er­ship plans, in case of the Vento, we add 15 per cent to the value of the car. We put a lot of value in the car, and I think the state­ment of peace­ful, has­sle­free own­er­ship is very im­por­tant.

The high­est im­prove­ment in mar­ket shares are of Pas­sat

The growth is cur­rently at about 11-12 per cent. The car has re­ally picked up dra­mat­i­cally from 25-30 cars a month to al­most 100 cars now. This isn't only due to the price cor­rec­tion. It also in­volved chang­ing our style of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, as well as ap­peal­ing to our tar­get au­di­ence. And now, with the four-year war­ranty, we'll prob­a­bly go even fur­ther. Speak­ing about the Tiguan, in­grain­ing the idea of the MQB plat­form in the minds of the peo­ple was a chal­lenge. How­ever the re­sponse is good and sales vol­umes have im­proved over the last year by al­most 40 per cent, with even some cases of avail­abil­ity is­sues at the end of the year!

The Polo GT TSI is a com­bi­na­tion of all that the VW group stands for

Our cars, ir­re­spec­tive of time pass­ing, don't tend to look old. The changes may some­times seem min­i­mal, but they're so re­fined. This in fact helps in the long run, be­cause any dra­matic changes to the car may back­fire in terms of resid­ual value.

With our hum­ble re­sources, we’re still able to make a dif­fer­ence It's still a small en­tity, but what the team is per­form­ing is amaz­ing. I like work­ing with Sirish (Vissa, head, VW Mo­tor­sport In­dia). His team is al­ways ready to work and sup­port us and are over­all so en­gaged and mo­ti­vated that they can in­spire the other VW de­part­ments. It may not un­for­tu­nately make a big dif­fer­ence in the masses, as we're not re­ally a ‘mass' brand. But it mo­ti­vates my team and also our part­ners in the mar­ket, and it also gets peo­ple who are mo­tor­sport fans to fol­low and write more. Ul­ti­mately, it trans­fers the en­thu­si­asm through magazines and it's a chance to talk about the driv­ing dy­nam­ics, which we want to show as a qual­ity prod­uct that's safe and fun to drive. VW isn’t re­ally too much of a vol­ume­fo­cussed brand

Last year, our pre­dic­tions fell short, so this year, we had ini­tially targeted a higher num­ber, but we're cur­rently de­bat­ing our strat­egy. The re­tail num­bers went up a lit­tle in Jan­uary, so it's a good start. We plan to keep work­ing on our ini­tia­tives and main­tain trac­tion. We have to keep a clear di­rec­tion for our brand. Our deal­ers know that the com­ing days, till 2020 will be hard, and there will be con­sid­er­able in­vest­ments too.

“WITH THE NEW TCO PLANS, IN CASE OF THE VENTO, WE ADD 15 PER CENT TO THE VALUE OF THE CAR”

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