Volkswagen UP! and Skoda Citigo: Wait, VW needs to increase production for Indian auto market
While the Volkswagen UP! made its entry at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, 6 concepts based on the UP! were also showcased with the notion that some of them would see the face of production, and consequently be available at dealerships in this decade. The first to make its grand entrance will be an electric version of UP! which is rightfully being hailed as the e-UP!. To be launched next year the e-UP! is slated to compete with the smart fortwo electric drive from Daimler.
CEO, Skoda, Dr. Winfried Vahland did confirm that the Citigo electric version launch would take place the following year. There’s also talk of an electric SEAT Mii but no confirmation has been made public yet. UP! and Citigo will get power from the same 85 kw electric motor, and going by tech specs from the Frankfurt Auto Show, you’re looking at 155 lb/ft torque and top speed of 84 miles per hour with an 80 mile range on a single recharge.
Besides electric vehicles, Skoda, SEAT and Volkswagen have started work on electric technology tests through Europe. Pilot programs as they are now, the future will find cues right here. The VW Group, aside from working on pure electric vehicles is also looking at plug-in hybrid versions of cars such as the Skoda Yeti SUV, and the SEAT Leon hatchback.
While Europe is gung ho about electric vehicles, the same enthusiasm isn’t shared in all other auto markets. The Indian auto market sees the VW Group garner sales from the Skoda, Audi and Volkswagen brands. 2011 saw the VW group register sales growth of 109.3% in a YOY comparison. Having introduced 10 new models in 2011, buyers can now choose from 21 models. With more vehicle launches lined up, it comes as no surprise that the Volkswagen Group in India would soon be looking to increase production capacity. With the VW Chakan plant production capacity at 110,000 vehicles a year, the Chakan plant is almost at peak production volume with 1,05,535 cars being rolled out in 2011, marking a 180% increase. The plant which was built in 17 months, may not be the VW Group’s only quick construction considering the need for increase production is fast approaching.
The plant at Aurangabad, which is responsible for production of Audi luxury cars and other high end VW Group vehicles did see a production increase call last year when numbers were doubled from 4,500 units to 9,000. Considering SKODA, Audi, and Volkswagen collectively accounted for sales of 1,11,623 vehicles in the Indian auto market in 2011, what’s next. If the math adds up, and the VW Group is hoping for record sales growth this year too, there is a need for a plant or production capacity increase. No plant or production capacity increase, then no new cars is the logic as of now. That takes us back to will the Indian auto market be graced with the Up! Or Citigo in the near future. But obviously not. What about the electric UP! and Citigo. That too sees red as of now, but there’s also the question of zero infrastructure to support electric vehicle projects in the country as of now.