The entire board of German car manufacturer Volkswagen AG, headed by its chairman Martin Winterkorn, experienced the Indian summer this week when it hit the road, literally, travelling from coast to coast in a convoy of cars.
This was no joyride. The high-powered delegation is on a serious fact-finding mission in India. It wants to identify the right car from the Volkswagen stable that should be launched in India, a year and a half from now.
The team, which is still in India, has been on the roads for the better part of its stay, driving a range of cars from Volkswagen and group companies, Audi and Skoda. The convoy, which set off from Mumbai on Sunday, also included cars made by a clutch of other global car manufacturers that are sold in India, and a few Indian cars. The convoy travelled through the Western Ghats, parts of central India and southern India, and visited Bangalore and Chennai.
“India is a strategic new market. The entire board wanted to take a close look at the ground realities here and make sure what this market needs,” said a Volkswagen spokesperson. The board also met with several dealers for feedback on the Indian car market.
“As a company, we do this regularly in markets such as the US, China and Japan, but not all members of the team go for this initiative. For India, the entire board, along with the CEO, wanted to see the country closely before taking a decision on the launch of the project,” the spokesperson added.
Volkswagen is close to a ground-breaking ceremony for its first-ever plant in India at Chakan, an emerging auto hub in Pune. It plans to invest €400 million in a plant that can make 1.1 lakh cars.
The firm’s ageless Golf model and the Passat were initially touted as front-runners for an India launch. However, Winterkorn, who took over as CEO in January, recently told German media that there could be a rethink on the company’s India strategy and that it might prefer some other model.
Sources close to the development, who did not wish to be identified, said the delegation met officials of the Maharashtra government, which wooed the German company successfully to Pune. However, the agenda of the meeting could not be ascertained.