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Dec 27 2009

New Beetle ‘hype’ in India

Posted by volkszone

The Beetle has a bigger role to play for Volkswagen India than just the numbers writes business-standard.com.

At Rs 20.45 lakh ex-showroom Delhi, the Beetle – unlike its illustrious predecessor – is not exactly a people’s car. Though you’d never realise that going by people’s reactions when they see it.

Volkswagen India has been steadily drumming up the hype around the Beetle, leading to the eventual climax of its launch earlier this month. Though VW launched the impressive battletank-like Touareg SUV along with the Beetle at the same event, it’s the little Bug that’s still being talked about. And the blitzkrieg continues. Just last Thursday, VW had an innovative promotion of the Beetle where they flew a huge banner in the skies above Mumbai – it certainly would not have come cheap.

For a car that fits in an extremely niche segment in the country and contributing to very small numbers, the hype surrounding it seems completely disproportionate. Neeraj Garg, member of the board/director, Volkswagen Passenger Cars, Volkswagen Group Sales India however justifies the activity surrounding the car. “The Beetle is our brand foundation. To lay the VW foundation here, it is but very natural to introduce it in India and therefore the huge communication activity,” he says.

Indeed, Volkswagen owes its very existence to the Beetle. The original one, introduced to the world just after WWII, turned out to have an incredibly long production run, with over 21 million units produced before it stopped trundling out of VW Mexico’s plant in 2003. Amazingly, it was VW’s mainstay well until the 1970s. Considered one of the greatest cars of the twentieth century, the Beetle was an essential part of popular culture, let alone a mere car. It is the cult of the original Beetle that still powers the new iteration today.

Designed in California by an American designer, the new Beetle was built on the front-engine, front-wheel drive underpinnings of the mass-market, fourth-generation VW Golf. It was designed to evoke the classic looks of the old one, but had all the contemporary features seen in a modern car. Introduced in 1998, the “new” Beetle can be considered old today – most modern cars go through a generational shift every seven years or so. But VW can safely claim that the Beetle is a retro car and is designed to evoke nostalgia. That was the thinking behind its creation anyway – to capture the hearts of US baby boomers who owned the older one in their younger days.

Which is why its welcome by Indians is all the more surprising, because our association with the original Beetle is nowhere close to the craze it was in other parts of the world. Far from nostalgic middle-aged Indians, it’s the well-heeled youngsters who are getting themselves the new Beetle for its sheer novelty value.

“The new Beetle is about an expression of personality, a state of mind, a lifestyle,” says Garg. “Our study of the intended customer showed that the pull-factor for this car was in its style statement and its head-turning uniqueness,” he adds.

That seems motivation enough for wealthy scions to make a beeline for the car. Even before the official launch, VW India received 150 bookings. And that forbidding price tag notwithstanding, there is a waiting list behind the car going all the way up to May 2010 with a total of over 200 bookings. That’s better than what can be called its nearest competitor – the Fiat 500 – managed, with 62 units sold since its launch in July 2008 at a price of around Rs 15 lakh.

Beyond the numbers, the Beetle has an important role to play for VW India. The manufacturer is aware of the Beetle’s universal appeal and the positive reaction it evokes wherever it goes. In a country that’s unfettered by the powerful nostalgia of the old Bug, the new Beetle is a cute and rather different looking car that attracts eyeballs. The Beetle also plays the role of a magnet to get attention to the marque, while also getting gawkers into the showroom.

The manufacturer needs to keep the excitement about the Volkswagen brand at a high pitch before they start selling their first mass-market product in India.

The Polo, which will be unveiled at the Auto Expo in Delhi next month, is expected to go on sale by March 2010. Till then, the hype surrounding the Beetle plus the recognition of VW in India as makers of this loveable, huggable car seems to make the communication activity surrounding the car worth it for VW. What is left unstated however is that the new Beetle is a moving – and extremely effective – billboard for Volkswagen in India.


Sep 3 2009

The Volkswagen brand is an icon

Posted by volkszone

Neeraj Garg, director, Volkswagen Passenger cars talks about playing catch-up in the Indian market using the Polo and the Beetle. And tells us a bit about the German car maker’s very Deutsch ways writes The Economic Times.

The Indian car market has transformed drastically over the years with more and more global car-makers hitting Indian streets aggressively. Volkswagen is a late entrant, why?

While entering a new market it is extremely crucial for a company to understand the business viability, to understand the environment it plans to conduct business in and most importantly to understand its customers. For Volkswagen this is the right time since the automobile market here is now growing at a fast pace and it is expected to touch 2 million by 2014. We have the right products to satiate the Indian consumers and to take advantage of this growth in the country.

  Read the rest of this story…


Aug 19 2009

VW TO START SELLING THE BEETLE IN INDIA

Posted by volkszone

Because of high import duties, the Bug will have a hefty price tag when Volkswagen begins importing them from Mexico

On sale—A slice of history for Rs 20 lakh apiece. The Volkswagen Beetle, the world’s longest running and most-produced car of a single design, will be available in India in three months, offering a Nano-sized ride with the frills of a top-notch SUV writes businessweek.com.

The car that has meant various things to various people—once the quasiofficial vehicle of Germany’s hated Third Reich in the 1940s, the Beetle went on to become the darling of California beatniks in the Swinging 60s—is being imported as a completely built unit from its Mexico plant, and is currently undergoing technical testing ahead of its India launch.

Its hefty price tag, which pitches it in the luxury car segment alongside Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Skoda Superb and the MercedesBenz C Class, is due to the 110% import duty and high safety specifications.

The Indian unit of Volkswagen said pricing the Beetle competitively was a big challenge for the company and blamed taxes and logistics for the high price. “But we are working very aggressively on Beetle’s debut in India,” said Neeraj Garg, Volkswagen India’s director for passenger cars.

The German carmaker, now owned by Porsche Automobile, which already sells the Passat and Jetta models in India, expects the Beetle to have a product segmentation of its own and instead of competing with other imported smaller hatchbacks, most notably the Fiat 500, which costs Rs 15 lakh exshowroom price in Delhi.

Also known as Bug, the Beetle will sport a 1.9-litre TDI diesel engine and a 5-speed manual transmission. Its other features will include rain sensors and cruise control, along with acoustic rear parking sensors to fit into small parking spaces. Its safety features will include ABS, traction control, anti-skid system and standard front and side airbags.

Mr. Garg said Volkswagen was not looking at high volumes but hoped to leverage its brand value before launching its mass-market Polo hatchback, expected to debut sometime later this year. Fiat’s model 500, (also called the Cinquecento) launched last year, has managed to sell just 58 units to date.

“We are expecting a much better response for the Beetle, which carries a very high iconic value,” Mr. Garg said.

Volkswagen’s decision to launch the Beetle comes at a time when rival BMW has put on hold its plan to launch the equally iconic small car Mini in India. BMW, which does not see it as a viable proposition yet, has pushed back the India rollout of Mini beyond 2010 and will continue to focus on bigger sedans and sports utility vehicles for now.

ROAD RUNNER

• Hefty price tag due to 110% import duty & high safety specifications.
• To have 1.9-litre TDI diesel engine and 5-speed manual transmission.
• Features include rain sensors, cruise control, acoustic rear parking sensors.

Copyright © 2008 Times Internet Limited. All rights reserved. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service


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