Mumbai: Skoda Auto India Pvt. Ltd plans to focus on the sports utility vehicle (SUV) segment as part of a strategy to boost sales in a country where it has marginal presence.

As part of the plan, it will introduce new SUV models including variants every year for the next five years. This may also include SUVs based on the low-cost Eco Car platform based on parent Volkswagen group’s MQB platform, for which the Czech car maker is set to take a lead, said Skoda officials.

The Eco platform will be a re-engineered version of the MQB platform, a modular architecture that underpins almost all current compact and mid-size models from VW Group.

Skoda is yet to finalize plans for the volume segment of the market, said Klaus Dieter Schurmann, chief financial officer (finance and IT) at Skoda Auto at the launch of the Kodiaq, a seven-seater premium SUV.

Priced at Rs34.49 lakh, Skoda has pitted the seven-seater offering against the Ford Endeavour and Toyota Fortuner. It is almost Rs5 lakh costlier than the top-end variants of the rival models. Skoda will start delivery of the model from 1 November. “India is a promising and evolving market and we are launching the Kodiaq here to further sustainable growth and gain a larger share in volumes as part of our Strategy 2025," said Schurmann.

Skoda also plans to introduce the Karoq model, a seven-seater SUV that is set to replace the Yeti globally, later this year. It will be positioned below the Kodiaq, Ashutosh Dixit, director, sales and marketing, Skoda Auto India, said in an interview. Skoda will bring the lower trim (cheaper) version of the Kodiaq including a model with a petrol engine, said Dixit.

With the Kodiaq, the company expects 20% growth in its monthly sales volume. With a market share of less than 1% in India’s passenger vehicle market, Skoda sells 1,700 units a month, according to Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturer (Siam) data.

India’s utility vehicles segment that now accounts for a fourth of the overall market, expanded 16% in the five months to August from a year ago.

Given the premium price positioning and stiff competition, the new model may not help Skoda in increasing overall volumes but may help in profitability, said Puneet Gupta, associate director at I.H.S Markit, a sales forecasting and market research firm. Skoda has always been considered a premium brand and a presence in the SUV “will reinforce the positioning and help brand-building," he added.

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