Skoda to reposition brand, change baseline in India

Skoda to reposition brand, change baseline in India

Mumbai: The Indian unit of Skoda Auto, a part of Germany’s Volkswagen Group, will give up its India-specific tag line this year in favour of its global slogan under a rebranding campaign.

The auto maker, which sells models such as Octavia, Superb, Laura, Fabia and Yeti, will drop “Obsessed with quality since 1895" and turn to “Simply Clever" in the last quarter of the calendar year.

“We will take over the worldwide positioning with the launch of a new car in the sedan segment," said Thomas Kuehl, member of the board, sales and marketing, at Skoda Auto India Pvt. Ltd.

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Kuehl said the company, which entered India in 2001, coined its current tag line because Indians attach importance to heritage.

“Quality is what you expect with every brand, especially for the price you are paying," said Kamal Basu, chief executive, Saatchi and Saatchi India, which will launch Skoda’s new campaign in India. “We thought the line had lived its life and it was not a brand differentiator any more."

Analysts said car brands have deep associations with the countries they belong to.

For instance, Japanese cars evoke associations of planned obsolescence, bland design but acceptable quality for the masses, while Italian brands are linked with hand-crafted design and raw power, said Kiran Khalap, co-founder, Chlorophyll Brand and Communications Consultancy Pvt. Ltd.

German cars evoke associations of sophisticated engineering, and even through Skoda is a Czech brand, its inclusion in the Volkswagen Group gives it a strong association with Germany, he said.

“German brands have been trying to create distance between themselves. For instance, the latest advertising from Audi refers to Mercedes as antiquated luxury for old fogeys. It has also changed its brand line from ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ (Progress through Technology) to ‘Truth in Engineering’. BMW has committed itself to the ‘Joy of Driving’," Khalap added.

Skoda’s new tagline is an example of “one more German brand migrating from historical, rigid, inflexible engineering and quality—reflecting the product—to more accessible, fuzzy, human values like joy, truth, cleverness—reflecting the driver", he said.

Saatchi’s Basu said Skoda is also looking to target customers planning their first car purchase in the 6-7 lakh bracket, instead of those who worked their way up, and spend more time in their car.

The new sedan, the Rapid, will be company’s first offer in the sub-Rs 10 lakh sedan market in India. It will have 60-70% local content and compete with Hyundai Verna Fluidic, Volkswagen Vento, and Maruti Suzuki SX4, among others.

The sedan segment is the second largest in India after the compact car segment, and accounts for 18-20% of total car sales, said Puneet Gupta, analyst at market research and sales forecasting firm IHS Automotive.

Auto makers in India sold 1.9 million cars in the year ended 31 March.

Gupta said the Rapid will help Skoda garner more volume in a segment where competition is set to intensify.

Skoda sold 20,000 cars in India in 2010 and plans to end the current year with 32,000, said Kuehl.