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Taigun very well received, strong order bank going into 2022: Volkswagen

S. Muralidhar | | Updated on: Dec 08, 2021
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Global semiconductor shortage resulted in production cut of several models; Vento to continue being made in Q1 next year

German car maker Volkswagen has had a busy year despite several pandemic-induced disruptions. Four SUVs launched on a trot, and a complete revamping and rebranding of its dealership network has made the VW brand more visible and accessible. Earlier this week, the company launched the 2021 model year Tiguan — its premium, flagship SUV that’s now made in India. BusinessLine caught up with Ashish Gupta, Brand Director, Volkswagen Passenger Cars India, who spoke about the new model’s positioning and the impact of rebranding. Excerpts:

How have the Taigun and its performance been catalysts for a change within VW?

The product has been very well received. My first customers are dealers and they loved the car. They love it when a lot of walk-ins happen at showrooms. It has been phenomenal; in fact, if I look at October and November data, walk-ins have increased almost 15 times of what it used to be. That’s the kind of interest and response from customers. We have a solid order bank going into 2022 as well. The waiting period on some of our Taigun variants is as long as three to four months. It has given a very positive momentum to the brand in India. Customers now see the VW brand as truly premium and aspirational. The way we have positioned the product, the way we have positioned the brand, the way we have transformed our dealership with the new brand design, the way our digital transformation has taken place, all of these have come together to give that kind of a premium aspirational feeling to our brand.

How has customer perception to the brand changed compared to pre-Taigun days?

If I look at the first adopters for Taigun, it is very encouraging that almost 15 to 18 per cent of the buyers are existing customers, which by the way, is one of the highest loyalty rates for any brand. So there is something right that we have been doing for the last 10 years. We are not a new brand in India. The kind of DNA that we offer in our products such as safety, build-quality, and fun to drive; customers see that lineage is continuing into the Taigun as well. They are coming in with the concept of what the brand will offer and they can find that in our new products as well. That’s the continuation of trust and belief, or expectation they have with the brand. So, from a brand perception, we have only reinforced the belief that customers had in VW.

How is the Tiguan going to be positioned? Who are the new customers going to be like?

Tiguan is definitely the flagship for VW in the country. This also fulfils our promise of launching four SUVs in India — starting with T-ROC, Tiguan All-space, Taigun, the volume driver, and now Tiguan. So, it is again a reinforcement of the SUVness of this brand. The Tiguan, being a volume seller across the globe and with the kind of package and features it offers, it naturally fits into the kind of SUV feeling that we have generated with our strategy. So it’s a natural progression for customers into the VW brand. I spoke earlier about footfalls increasing in our showrooms when Taigun came. Now when customers walk in, there is a Taigun and a Tiguan, and they will find it a natural progression, in terms of the design language, the package it offers, and the kind of lineage it offers as part of the VW SUV range.

Expected sales trends for 2022?

Customers come from both ends of the price spectrum — ones who are upgrading and those looking at a luxury SUV but enamoured by the features and experience they can get from the Tiguan. The kind of package it offers in terms of trim, powertrain etc, makes it very attractive.

We made a conscious decision to move away from a diesel powertrain and I think that the two-litre TSI engine is strong and offers good driving dynamics. Even when one looks at the entire market, the share of diesel engines has dropped from about 40 to 50 per cent to less than 30 per cent.

The Tiguan AllSpace and the T-Roc were brought in as CBU imports under the GSR quota which restricts the number to 2,500 units per annum for the entire VW group in India. We have run out of quota for 2021 and what could be imported have all sold out. For next year, we are in discussion to bring either one or both back. But the situation on semiconductors is not encouraging. Globally, there has been a cut in production of a lot of our models due to chip shortage. In this situation, it will be a challenge to bring in these models and though we are in discussion with VW HQ, no decision has been taken yet.

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In the VW group, we have a very clear rule that any model we make, will be supported for 15 years after production. To quell rumours let me add, the Vento is not going out of production soon. It will be in production even during Q1 of 2022.

As for the Taigun, it’s positioning strategy was heavily based on the GT Plus. The initial demand has been high for this trim variant. Almost 30 to 35 per cent of the orders in the sales mix has come for GT Plus. But we do see that once the one-litre TSI’s TopLine came into the market, customers are increasingly shifting to this. We anticipated this shift in preference. I see the mix stabilising at about 15 to 18 per cent for GT Plus, and at least 80 per cent for the one-litre engine.

Published on December 08, 2021

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