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Old 21st October 2021, 22:16   #1
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Default Is Volkswagen making a similar mistake as Ford in India?

Note: Please note all the things mentioned below are a combination of personal, numerous experts, and individual car owners' views that have been formed and collected from various sources such as youtube, news websites and team-bhp. My sole purpose in writing this article is to express my views and have a healthy discussion about the topic.

If there is one brand that comes to my mind when we talk about fun to drive cars in our country, it's Volkswagen, and that includes all the brands from the Volkswagen group like Skoda, Audi, Porsche, and Lamborghini. Here, I am just going to talk about the mass-market brands of the Volkswagen group of cars i.e Skoda and Volkswagen. Skoda entered the Indian market in 2001 followed by Volkswagen in 2007. These brands introduced the Indian public to German car engineering in the mass market.

Ask anyone who has ever owned or driven any of these German cars, they'll only have positive things to say about the driving dynamics and performance of these cars. They generally don't excel much in reliability quotient, the DSG gearbox being one of the main culprits, and are said to be high maintenance. Despite all these negatives, people loved their cars for the performance and fun they offered.

The Volkswagen group is trying to make a comeback and gain some market share with their India 2.0 project. With this strategy, they aim to design and manufacture a product for India in India. The Skoda Kushaq and the Volkswagen Taigun are the first products launched by the group in India. We all had high expectations from this strategy because frankly speaking, with Ford exiting our market, there aren't many fun to drive cars left in the mass market.

The final product/products turned out to be quite a disappointment. Though the cars retain the fun to drive elements of the earlier Germans, there have been numerous cost-cutting attempts that are clearly visible. Be it the flimsy roofline, the exposed sunroof mechanism or the not so good quality AC vents. To make matter worse, the new Kushaqs that had hardly been driven for 1k km started to stall in the middle of the road due to the EPC error, the cause of which is said to be faulty fuel pumps. Skoda offered a solution by replacing the faulty fuel pumps with new robust fuel pumps and adulterated fuel in the country was blamed for the premature failure of the pumps. The cars didn't match their competitors in the size but they matched them at the price while offering fewer features and engine options. I feel that up to a certain extent even they were aware that they won't be doing as much volume as the Koreans, which is why they priced the car at a certain premium.

This reminds me of something similar to what Ford had done with the duo of Figo and Figo Aspire. In the desire of grabbing the market share from the Swift dzire, they compromised on the true USPs of the earlier Ford models, that was safety, build quality and fun to drive character. The people who had owned Fords earlier weren't a fan of this even though the final product was still on par with the competition or even better than them in some areas. The final product seemed like neither here nor there. It didn't meet the needs of the segment buyer who demanded space and a fuel-efficient petrol engine though the diesel offered great efficiency and performance. On the other hand, it didn't impress the enthusiast community as much as the earlier Fords, due to the compromises in the build and the fun to drive factor. Hell, even the Aston Martin like front face couldn't sway customers to the Ford showrooms.

The Volkswagen group is trying to do something similar here and they seem to be making a similar mistake by compromising on some of their USPs. I know it's just the start and unlike Ford, the Volkswagen group is not being very lethargic with their approach towards the Indian market. They are making efforts to gain new buyers and working to improve their earlier image of being high maintenance and also improving their service quality. What I would love them to do is not lose their identity of producing robust cars which had a certain extent of premiumness associated with them. Even new customers of the brand are aware of the quality of the product that was offered in the earlier Volkswagens and hence they would be having certain expectations. India needs or rather demands a localised product at a good price and not a cheapened product with compromised quality. The head of Skoda, which now controls the India division of Volkswagen group, Zac Hollis has been very active in listening and replying to the customer concerns of Skoda cars, but what's important is that they sort the initial niggles of the car as soon as possible. As an enthusiast, I really want them to succeed because we need more fun to drive cars in our market especially when we are heading towards the end of the ICE era.

'There are no mistakes, just learnings' - The monk who sold his Ferrari. I hope Skoda and Volkswagen learn from their experiences and make quick amendments to their current and future products. The country needs more enthusiast-focused products and I believe in them to provide us with that. I would love to know what other Bhpians think about this.
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Old 22nd October 2021, 08:06   #2
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Default Re: Is Volkswagen making a similar mistake as Ford in India?

The Taigun & Kushaq are priced higher than expected for sure, while the topmost variants are outright overpriced. Now, bring in their smaller size & newer competition (XUV700, Astor) and they've lost a bit of sheen already. It's a tough market & the two VAG products should definitely have been better priced. I expect discounts to start across the variants soon, else they won't meet their sales targets. The group is launching lots of products (Slavia next), but is getting the pricing wrong. Even the response to the 2021 Octavia has been lower than expected, all thanks to its pricing. L&K variant is overpriced by 4-lakh rupees IMHO.

The VAG twins are awesome to drive though and have the best engine + gearbox + suspension combination (Seltos-Creta are close). I trust the VAG group in the area of safety and am pretty sure they'll do well in tests (have heard murmurs of a 4-star safety rating being targeted). Sure, some of the interior bits could've been better quality, but that doesn't bother me as much. Give me a solidly built car that is fun to drive any day over a car with amazing interiors and an average driving experience.

The EPC issues are unforgiveable & their response has been even worse ("robust" fuel pumps what on earth is that!!!). God knows how their long-term reliability will be (I'm looking at you, Mr. DQ200).

Last edited by GTO : 22nd October 2021 at 08:10.
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Old 22nd October 2021, 08:58   #3
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Default Re: Is Volkswagen making a similar mistake as Ford in India?

There is no doubt that VAGs are great to drive. But they need to address their one nemesis ASAP - and that’s RELIABILITY!

I’m not saying I’m swayed by gizmos and razzmatazz per se at the expense of core driving dynamics etc but the reality is the competition has taken several steps forward in bridging the fun to drive factor without necessarily compromising on reliability “to the same extent” as VAG.

The new ICE Astor, the Korean twins, the new XUV are all getting increasingly more competent as an overall package - and that includes driving dynamics. Yes - they may have some reliability issues as well but relatively its not as bad.

Take the 40 - 45L segment. I would in a heartbeat have bought a Tiguan or Kodiaq over anything else (accepting the measly petrol efficiency and even accepting higher routine cost of maintenance). But I would want a hardy, reliable, ‘normal abuse’ friendly vehicle in exchange and I am simply not confident enough that either of those VAGs would provide that. If I must live with relatively less lack of reliability or less abuse friendly product, I would rather pay 15L more and get a sparingly used Discovery Sport or XC60 or even an X3 (which have either one or the other issue) instead of the VAG.

I am FORCED to consider a Tucson far more seriously than I’d like to over the Kodiaq which in a perfect world I’d much prefer. My front runner options in that segment today are the Commander and Tucson and secondary options are VAG twins on the one hand and a BOF Fortuner on the other (each of the latter coming with significant compromises over my ideal wish list - reliability for VAG and the BOF / ride quality / relatively less plush interior of the Fortuner).

I really do wish for VAG to be able to sort these issues out sooner rather than later. I would love to own one if they can turn a corner on this front.
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Old 22nd October 2021, 09:43   #4
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Default Re: Is Volkswagen making a similar mistake as Ford in India?

Originally Posted by GTO View Post
(have heard murmurs of a 4-star safety rating being targeted).
Would you happen to have any idea whether a 4-star rating is being targeted under current Global NCAP assessment protocol or 2022 protocol?

In 2022 side head protection (in the case of the Kushaq/Taigun, curtain airbags) must be fit to at least 30% of cars sold for a 5-star rating while for 4 stars they may simply be optional on at least one variant (which the Kushaq will meet, assuming it scores well in the impact tests). Considering the small number of variants fit with curtain airbags they will not likely meet the minimum fitment rate for 5 stars though Škoda or Volkswagen or both should try pushing for the sale of these variants in 2022 to meet the fitment rate and score 5 stars. Even despite change in protocol 4 stars is not exactly a bragging point anymore (since the masses will probably not understand the difference in protocol). The high pricing of the variants fitted with these does not help.

Under current assessment protocol anything less than 5 stars will be a shame. For reference, the Latin market T-Cross scored 14.62 for frontal impact with more stringent chest compression limits so scoring less than 14.00 under our current protocol might mean that there has been some sort of downgrade in either structure or restraints due to localisation (for those wondering, the T-Cross' side and curtain airbags did not deploy during frontal impact and hence the model being fitted with these should definitely not influence the ODB test score).

I think the Aspire's 3-star rating, though not terrible, could have been one of Ford's biggest mistakes because it eliminated a major reason people bought Fords for (or thought they bought Fords for) and I hope Volkswagen has learnt from that. Volkswagen is super-aggressive when it comes to NCAP testing worldwide. They sponsor tests with Euro NCAP and Latin NCAP for nearly every model, and nearly always score the full 5 stars, although some of their older models like the up! and recently discontinued Fox suffered (and I have a feeling the Gol/Voyage might be retested soon which may end up badly). So it is very surprising that they haven't sponsored a test on the Kushaq or Taigun yet. Maybe they're waiting for newer protocol which will give them far greater credit for offering standard ESC, three-point belts and side impact performance, but I can't help feeling that this is just optimistic thinking on my part.

This is what VW's Latin NCAP ratings look like and I hope their #SaferCarsForIndia ratings are no different.
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Old 22nd October 2021, 10:25   #5
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Default Re: Is Volkswagen making a similar mistake as Ford in India?

Couple of mistakes the VAG group made with the India 2.0 program till date -

1. Getting the basics wrong - Size matters in this market. And both these products are sized at the wrong end of the segment. Good part is that Slavia looks set to become the biggest sedan for it's segment.

Diesels are dying, no doubt, but it could have been a solid advantage for VW against rivals - given their TDI reputation.

2. Localisation= Reduction in quality. This has been the mantra for everyone else too, but VW could have stuck to their quality levels since they weren't planning to compete on price anyways. The interior (of both Taigun and Kushaq) doesn't make you feel special in any way and is just par for the price at best. Some in-your-face cheap stuff like the roof liner too!

3. We do not have a base variant! Zac Hollis mentioned this and Ashish Gupta went one step further to say that they are starting from Comfortline only for the Indian market, and inventing a new variant called Topline - to accommodate the feature overload in these cars. However, the feature list is below par by segment standards. In fact, Astor base variant seems to have more features than the mid variant (Taigun Highline/ Kushaq Ambition) of these cars, forget base!

4. Build quality - I see a lot of complaints in the owner's groups regarding rattles, falling parts etc. Not at all expected from VW known best for their vault-like interiors.

5. EPC issues! Sometimes things just go wrong - and it did for Skoda. A lot has been said on this, but net effect - Flatbed trucks got their post-Covid business boost from Skoda.

Is Volkswagen making a similar mistake as Ford in India?-screenshot_20211022101355_gallery.jpg

It's all not negative - A few things they did well too:

1. Engine and transmission combinations - Localising the 1.0 TSI and the 6 speed AT was a good move. Is a brilliant entry level petrol engine, no doubt. It feels capable in the Kushaq just as it does on the Polo and Rapid.

And 1.5 TSI is certainly the benchmark enthusiast motor for the price. Looking forward to driving the Slavia/Virtus 1.5.

2. The suspension tuning is spot-on. Make no mistake, I absolutely loved driving the Taigun GT and would have bought it, if not for the EPC issues. Will wait and watch till early next year.

3. Fuel efficiency. May be early to say - but I get a feeling the TSi motors are very fuel efficient, especially the 1.5 TSi against its rivals. That could be a big advantage for VW - since diesels are becoming a tougher choice by the day. I see a lot of owners being happy about this, and this might become a solid advantage for the group in the future.

All said and done - not even the VAG fans can blindly recommend these their new A0-IN products anymore, but they still retain some of the main advantages of a VW. For driving enthusiasts - SAVIPL products might still be the best bet in the market. There is time to improve, so hope both the brands act fast and sort out the issues.

Last edited by CrAzY dRiVeR : 22nd October 2021 at 10:27.
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Old 22nd October 2021, 10:41   #6
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Default Re: Is Volkswagen making a similar mistake as Ford in India?

Originally Posted by CrAzY dRiVeR View Post
1. Good part is that Slavia looks set to become the biggest sedan for it's segment.
What segment is it? Zak says it will be placed above the current Rapid price wise meaning it'll also overcut the City 5th gen mostly. With the sales numbers in the sedan segment shrinking, Skoda will obviously go for high profit low sales target.
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Old 22nd October 2021, 10:52   #7
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Default Re: Is Volkswagen making a similar mistake as Ford in India?

I think VAG also missed a H.U.G.E opportunity by giving us underwhelming interiors in their latest twins.

To me, the three core strengths of VAG are:
1. Great drive
2. Solid build quality
3. Quality interiors (fit/finish, touch, materials etc)

Today the market is ripe to pay 50k extra for high quality product that gives you a WoW experience, including best in class interiors (something VAG could have managed easily). Missing out on one of their core strengths rather inexplicably shows their lack of reading of the market. Disappointing indeed!
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Old 22nd October 2021, 11:29   #8
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Default Re: Is Volkswagen making a similar mistake as Ford in India?

What are you people saying!

VW Group has the best Level 10 Autonomous driving features in India. they recently updated my 2011 Polo 1.6 with complete autonomous features. And guess what, I didnt even have to go to the workshop for the update.

Check the link shared by CrazyDriver below (Hint: its abbreviated as FBT)

Originally Posted by CrAzY dRiVeR View Post
On a serious note, I am not wanting to touch a VW car ever again, but then, I travelled to Goa in my friend's Gen 2 Swift and the difference in the product is night and day. The Polo is a far superior product in all aspects. The car has put me in a very very strong dilemma now.
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Old 22nd October 2021, 11:50   #9
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Default Re: Is Volkswagen making a similar mistake as Ford in India?

1. Higher Prices vs Evident Cost Cutting
Everybody would have accepted the new VW-Skoda twins at current prices happily if they did not cut so many corners.
Very people buy VW-Skoda for their 'low pricing' so pricing the twins higher would have gone un-noticed if they have worked a bit more on quality of materials used in cabin.

2. EPC issue.
On top of this, the EPC issue. Which gets further escalated because of company's in-ability to fix it quickly. Yesterday only, VW Taigun review thread also is updated with first engine malfunction issue. Could be the same as Kushaq.

3. Positioning
To be honest, looking at the dimensions and speculated engines on offer, I expected these twins to be competing with sub 4 meter SUVs with 1 L TSI engine. At the same time, could have targeted Creta - Seltos 1.4 L T-GDi prospective customers with 1.5 L engines.

Hope VW-Skoda doesn't end up the Ford way.

These cases show how all departments, right from R&D to Marketing to After Sales service is important for any company to survive
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Old 22nd October 2021, 18:57   #10
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Default Re: Is Volkswagen making a similar mistake as Ford in India?

Simple fact is that our market is still very nascent and people mostly want to buy proven and popular products. To become such a product, the company has to offer a lot of value that is visible on a display car. There was a time when Maruti was the most popular choice because in the early stages of the market, everyone was worried about costs more than anything else. We have now reached the next stage where finances have improved but we want all-you-can-eat buffet style products. Next stage of evolution is where our market can buy products that go beyond what's on display and popularity.

It's true Ford and VW are not very agile and responsive but at the same time our market is not ready for their USPs. Ford currently has a very impatient and ruthless top management, so is of no suprise they existed India. VW I believe has a very long term outlook when it comes to India that goes beyond ICE products. India is a huge market for small cars, market intelligence and data.

To be honest, Toyota also has not done anything better than VW/Ford in catering to our market. It's just so happens that their USP is a thing that gets worshipped by the affluent in India.

If VW decides to give India another 5 years and our country has decent macro economic growth, I am sure our market will have sizeable segment that appreciates what VW offers - high risk high excitement portfolio :-)
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Old 24th October 2021, 10:17   #11
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Default Re: Is Volkswagen making a similar mistake as Ford in India?

Simply put. VWs entire made-for-India portfolio smells fishy and I ain’t eating it.

I’ve been a fanboy. Spent like a maniac to maintain my Vento (2012 TDi HL). Upgraded it with parts imported from literally around the globe (Sachs suspension, RCD-340, upgraded steering…cause VW India just refused to do it for anything less than my kidney in exchange). Love my car to bits. Am completely clueless on how to upgrade (maybe an A4 if those sweet discounts continue)

And I. Will. Not. Buy. The. Taigun.

Such are the times that I’m considering Tatas and even MG before a VW. ‘nuf said.

Last edited by Annibaddh : 24th October 2021 at 10:19.
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Old 24th October 2021, 10:23   #12
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Default Re: Is Volkswagen making a similar mistake as Ford in India?

They're definitely going down that road.

Diesel: First, the end of diesel is a big turn off for me. I trust them to make reliable diesels. The 1.5D in the Ameo-spec tune in the Polo would've made it a good GT car. Then, the same engine can do duty in their SUVs and maybe even in Octi to keep the price in check.

Small Car - Big Price Tag: Then, the small, hatchback-size SUVs to compete against Creta and Seltos with premium pricing is another blunder.

7DCT: No alternative for the 7-speed DCT. If you want the 1.5 turbo, be prepared to marry the infamous DCT.

Service Package: MG are selling truly affordable service packages with their cars. VW Group should also offer something similar and take the risk out of their customer's court. It's Rs. 1.38/km for the 1.5 turbo. Rs. 0.83 for the 1.0 turbo Rapid. Still on the higher side. Also, they don't have 4-yr comprehensive packages for Octi, Karoq, Superb. Shows how much confidence they have in their vehicle.

The service packages should be so cheap that people buy them in a blink and the cars should be so reliable that the customers never end up utilizing the full price they paid up front.
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Old 24th October 2021, 10:38   #13
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Default Re: Is Volkswagen making a similar mistake as Ford in India?

Launching new models is one thing but I don't understand the reason behind not getting the newer version of Polo! VW came to India with the 5th generation Polo and has stuck to it, whereas the 6th gen Polo was released in other markets in 2017:
Is Volkswagen making a similar mistake as Ford in India?-screenshot_20211024102158.png

Even that 6th gen Polo is getting a refresh in 2022:

Is Volkswagen making a similar mistake as Ford in India?-screenshot_20211024102105.png

This is the biggest mistake of VW. If VW can come up with Taigun with a competitive price, why didn't it launch the 6th gen Polo with lesser features just like the latest gen Indian i20?
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Old 24th October 2021, 10:48   #14
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Default Re: Is Volkswagen making a similar mistake as Ford in India?

A very rightly timed thread indeed!

I personally have been a diehard VW India loyalist ever since their launch and have owned quite a few of their models over the course of the past decade or so. I even attended the Taigun launch with a lot of enthusiasm and hope. The VW Mumbai team did a great job with the coordination and overall event they had.

However, upon viewing the Taigun in person it was evident that the VW badge that this car flashes doesn't uphold the same values of the brand as we know of it. Signs of cost-cutting were evident throughout the car be it the sunroof mechanism or the ugly frame-type rear wash-wipe system. Personally, for me, I have been a fan of VWs strategy of offering a limited feature list (as compared to the Koreans) but uncompromised fit, finish and quality. Sadly this was not something that the Taigun offers.

The issue of break-downs wasn't really a big turn off for me as all new vehicles have their set of problems. I remember my first-generation Polo had its own set of problems but that car still was a delight to own. However, to the point that GTO made, explanations such as fitting a "Robust" fuel pump is something that sounds like a joke. With all the investments and facilities made available to VAG in India, they couldn't figure out how to get a fuel pump right the first time?

The Taigun for me will be a car that I will take a pass on even though there are many owners perfectly happy with their Kushaqs/Taiguns. That being said, I look forward to booking VW's iteration of the Slavia soon!
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Old 24th October 2021, 10:57   #15
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Default Re: Is Volkswagen making a similar mistake as Ford in India?

Well, there are certainly many similarities, I believe a lot of it holds true more for Honda than VW mainly because of the inherent difference in cultures.

Ford being an American company always wanted quick profits which they did get initially with the EcoSport but then lost appetite after the Figo flopped.

VW group on the other hand kept trying with varying degrees of success. After the Taigun-Kushaq twins, we will see the Vento-Rapid duo being replaced with another global model meant for developing markets. But unfortunately, we won't be seeing euro-designed VW models like we used to, just because no one will want to buy a 20 lakh 3 cylinder Polo (made worse with the 4 m rule). IMHO, Taigun - Kushaq duo are still better than the localised models VW sells in the US which are mediocre as compared to its rivals there at best.

Where VW really failed in India was with Audi. They were market leaders in the luxury segment with the Q3 & Q7 almost becoming house-hold models before Audi pulled the plug for no apparent reason.
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