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Come September, Skoda brandwagon to roll

Murali Gopalan | Updated on January 24, 2018

Connecting Skoda will rollout a brand campaign in India to create a stronger connect with customers, with the introduction of the Kodiaq and three other products including the Octavia RS.

Along with the Kodiaq global launch in Berlin, new brand campaign planned for India

In less than a week from now, Skoda will be ready to kick off a new chapter in its global strategy. On September 1, the Czech carmaker will unveil its Kodiaq SUV at a global premiere in Berlin. Thousands of miles away, this date will also see the rollout of a brand campaign in India largely intended to create a stronger connect with customers.

One common thread in both events is that the Kodiaq will make its way into the Indian market next year along with three other products including the Octavia RS and a Rapid refresh. The focus on SUVs is in line with Skoda’s Strategy 2025 which has identified this product category as a key growth engine.

And even while its market share in India is little to write home about, the strong SUV momentum here is enough reason to be part of the action. This is evident from the heady market response to products like Maruti’s Vitara Brezza and the Hyundai Creta.

In this backdrop, Kodiaq becomes integral to the product launches planned in 2017 even while Sudhir Rao, Chairman and Managing Director of the Indian operations, and his team have pulled out all stops to put the house in order. A lot of work has gone into preparing a strong back-end which is expected to translate into better sales and service. The idea is to ensure greater transparency which will lead to higher footfalls at dealerships.

In a way, Skoda is starting from scratch all over again which may seem a tad ironical considering that it was the one to herald the premium sedan (D-segment) wave with the Octavia nearly 15 years ago. It had everything going in its favour beginning with the first mover advantage but it was only a matter of time before rivals caught up. In addition, Skoda had its own internal issues to grapple with and is now keen on putting all this behind while embarking upon its new innings.

Globally, China is its most relevant market right now in terms of numbers (2.81 lakh cars sold in 2015) which makes India’s tally of barely 16,000 units seem almost Lilliputian in comparison. And for all the talk of a slowdown, the Chinese market still accounted for sales of 1.46 lakh Skoda cars in the first half of this calendar which means the half million mark annually could be comfortably achieved by the end of this decade.

Yet, what India offers is a rapidly growing base of affluent buyers who value premium products and this is where the Czech brand is attempting to reposition itself strongly all over again. It will, of course, have to contend with the likes of Mercedes, Audi and BMW which are no pushovers and are already going flat out to woo customers in the luxury space.

In its 2015 annual report, Skoda has reiterated that it will position itself ‘more broadly’ in the global SUV segment where it already has the Yeti which will soon be complemented by the all-new Kodiaq. At present, the growth plan covers the period from 2010 to 2018, while Strategy 2025 will look at future requirements in areas like electromobility, digitalisation and connectivity.

As the company has stated, the strategy for the future ‘grapples with a period that will usher in monumental change in personal mobility’. New technical capabilities and increasing digitisation in the transport sector will redefine customers’ individual driving experience in the coming years. The watchwords here are e-mobility, connectivity, autonomous driving, infotainment and ‘attainment of the greenest possible values’. Consequently, the car will remain an important way to get around because it will still be second to none in ‘satisfying our longing for safe, environmentally friendly, comfortable and independent mobility’.

It is here that Strategy 2025 will play a critical role in helping Skoda shape this car-centric future and respond to road transport challenges of the future. This will involve expanding its product range to ‘embrace further SUV models’ and the introduction of intelligent connectivity systems.

Skoda will also focus on simplifying vehicle operations. Guided by its ‘Simply Clever’ philosophy, vehicle controls – human/machine interface – will be intuitively arranged to make driving easier.

The brand’s market positioning will be another pillar of Strategy 2025 where the plan is for ‘emotional design to shine through’ in the brand’s perception to reach out to new customer groups.

In Skoda’s view, the Asia region, and China in particular, will play a pivotal role in the coming years. Turkey and Israel also did well in 2015.

Published on August 25, 2016

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