So, are sedans back?
I think sedans never went out of fashion. They just needed a bit of rejuvenation, a bit of a bang, which the Virtus has provided. I think it has provided the spark that the segment needed, with its vibrant colour options and the engine & gearbox combinations. So, I think it’s brought just the right kind of energy that needed to be infused into the segment.
Of all the various variants, colours, and options, which are the ones that have proven the most popular?
I think the wild cherry red is all the rage at the moment – but something that I’m not very proud of is that there’s a six-to-eight month waiting period for it, but I’m fighting tooth and nail to bring that down to about one to two months. Hopefully, in the next couple of months, we’ll start making more customers happy. The second colour in most demand is quintessentially white, which is no surprise. But the good thing is that even the yellow and blue are really catching the customers’ fancy, which is really refreshing – especially from an Indian market perspective. From an engine point of view, it’s the 1.5 TSI with the DSG. Again, it’s not something I’m proud of but there’s a long waiting period at the moment. Hopefully, by next month, we’ll be able to bring this down to one or two months.
The Virtus is not your only product that’s making waves. The Taigun recently secured a five-star rating in the Global NCAP crash tests. So, will the Virtus and your other products also follow suit?
We believe so. I think the one thing that customers are sure of with Volkswagen is that safety is never compromised. We have built all our cars from the ground up with safety being the centrepiece. Since both these models are based on the same platform, customers can look forward to a similar result for the Virtus as well.
VW has always been known for performance – the GT Line and GTI cars have always been very popular. The Virtus, of course, being a sedan, already drives well, so it lends itself very much towards an even more performance-oriented version. Can we expect to see something like that in the future?
I don’t want to spill all the beans today! But we do have something in the works. We want to keep our products fresh and keep that excitement around the brand alive. We have repositioned the brand very heavily over the past two years, with the vibrant colour options on offer and the powertrain options that we’ve brought in, and we will continue down this path – with performance versions, different colour combinations, and maybe a matte version coming soon. So, these are the kind of things we’re working on.
'Electrification is our chance to level the playing field in India and take the lead'
When does Volkswagen join the EV party in India?
Globally, yes, we are already in the EV party. In fact, we are the party organisers. But, for India, I think we see EV plans coming up much sooner than anticipated. In fact, when we interacted around the same time last year, I said that we were still quite far off, but, in the last year, surprisingly, the development of electrification plans has really accelerated – pushed by the regulations, pushed by the government, and pushed by the initiative shown by all OEMs. So, definitely, there’s plenty of realisation within India, and our global board as well, that electrification in India is the way forward – and we’re working heavily on it. I’m looking at the electrification of the Volkswagen brand in India as a three-step approach – first maybe bringing in some products from our global portfolio as FBUs, then working towards local assembly, and then mass electrification, which anyway can only be through localisation. That will only happen by, let’s say 2026-27, not before that. But, before that, we will definitely establish an electric footprint.
In the EU they plan to ban the sales of ICE-powered cars by 2035. How does that affect global product development, especially for a market like India?
See, if the global direction is changing, definitely we will also move in that direction. That is where the brand is heading. Our Global CEO Mr Thomas Schäfer has already said that he aims to make Volkswagen a loved brand again, and electrification is something that the brand and the Group are heavily investing in. So, if the global direction is towards electrification, we also see India progressing really fast on this front. In fact, the latest forecast says that, by 2030, almost 25% of the automotive market in India will be electric, which is almost 1.2 million cars per year. So, if you want a future in this market, you have to make sure that you are in the EV game. We will definitely adopt those global guidelines and trends in the Indian market, and this is our chance to level the playing field in India and take the lead.