Skoda India has had a busy year, staying ahead of rivals in growth percentages, compared to the same period last year. The company managed to buck the overall downward trend in the market by riding on the back of a new product launch, one that performing surprisingly well, despite having a sister car in the same group. We’re talking about the brisk-selling Skoda Rapid, the Indian division’s current bestseller, that neither the VW Vento nor the competition anticipated to be such a success.
Skoda India will have learnt that the proven way of growing in the Indian market is to launch new products. Skoda has many gaps in its portfolio, which need plugging, as well as existing models that need to move to the next generation. These have to be addressed if chapters have to be added further to this growth story. In this edition of autoX, we’re discussing five products that could land in India to help Skoda realize its ambitions. We’re going to take some educated guesses today as to what their future plans are.
Facelifts for the Superb and Yeti
Camouflaged test mules of the face lifted version of the Skoda Superb were caught testing by spy photographers recently at the foothills of the Alps. From the spy shots, we can make out that Skoda has made changes to the car’s nose and rear-end endowing it with a new bumper, infusing LED daytime running lights into the headlights, modified the grille’s design orientation, switched the foglights, redesigned the tail lights and embellished it with an extra dash of chrome. We guess the Superb facelift will inherit cosmetic changes to make it resemble the MissionL concept design language, showcased last year at the Frankfurt Auto Show, which is the design precursor to future Skoda models.
Much like the Superb, the Skoda Yeti, launched in early 2009, looks a bit dated and is due for a mid-life cosmetic makeover. The Czech carmaker has started testing a face lifted model, that will employ a new grille like the one seen on the Citigo, a new headlight assembly, different bumpers, redesigned foglights and a mildly modified rear hatch. Skoda is said to have made changes to the car’s interior, perhaps upgrading the quality of plastics and other trim. Alongside, the Superb, the Yeti facelift is likely to be presented, either at the 2012 Paris Auto Show in September or at the 2013 Geneva Auto Show. But the question is can the cosmetic changes stimulate the sagging sales of the Yeti in India?
European Skoda Rapid
The European version of the Skoda Rapid, revealed a few months ago, sits between the Fabia and Laura in Europe. Skoda decided to customize the Rapid thoroughly, and the customization was done keeping in mind that the European needs are different to the Indian market. Retaining the same platform, they did a partial reskinning operation, infusing design elements from the Mission L concept to its front and rear fascias. These included the rectangular headlights, a masculine front grille and bumper, and a uniquely-detailed C-Shaped tail light, that serves as a signature touch in modern Skoda designs.
Skoda also modified the rear of the car with the European Rapid being a notchback (the boot door and rear windshield are a single entity and open together), the wheelbase was stretched and the boot was enlarged to significantly improve luggage volume. Skoda then moved to the aesthetics, redesigned the dashboard for better quality and lending more individuality as the Indian car borrows the Polo’s interior. The car is offered in a wider range of powertrain choices, including TSI engines and a DSG gearbox, options the Indian subsidiary left out for cost reasons.
A higher official at Skoda India recently told the online media that Skoda might introduce the European version in India as an extension to the Rapid brand. The European Rapid, with higher performance, better features, quality and an updated design, could be positioned between the current model and the Octavia. Though there is no time frame or concrete plan we can share today, we can confirm that the European Rapid is lingering in the mind of the Skoda India management.
Next generation Skoda Fabia
Skoda has also started working on the next generation Fabia, according to reports, the foundation of which is the VW MQB Platform that will underpin not only the new Fabia and Octavia, but also nearly 40 other future models of the VW Group. The new Fabia will not grow in size, but the packaging efficiency of will be better, allowing Skoda to improve the wheelbase, without increasing the overall length of the car. The boot space of the new Fabia is likely to improve and the platform could allow the car to shed between 35-50kg of weight.
In the initial stages of its lifecycle, the Fabia could use the same 1.2-liter three-cylinder TDI engine. However, sources have told autoX that a 1.5-liter four-cylinder diesel mill with lower NVH characteristics and smoother driving performance, based off the Rapid’s 1.6-liter engine, is under development for next generation Skoda cars. Skoda could also offer a smaller TSI unit on the new Fabia, making it the first B-Segment hatchback to be offered in India with a turbo-petrol.
Skoda India will pin its hopes of making a comeback in perhaps what’s the heart of the Indian auto market with the new Fabia as the current model performance is not up to expectations. Skoda India is likely to introduce the next generation Fabia early to mid 2014.
Next generation Skoda Octavia
The next generation Skoda Octavia, codenamed A7 (replacement for what is the Laura in India), is undergoing development in Europe. Based on the new MQB platform (Modular Transverse Matrix Platform), and being the first Skoda product to use the advanced underpinning, the next gen Octavia will be a much bigger car (rumored to measure 4.8m long) than it is today, as the generously-proportioned Rapid, positioned below it, is dimensionally too close for comfort, and threatens to cannibalize into its sales.
Skoda officials have apparently decided to lend a whiff of extra premium feel to the incoming Octavia. Likely to break cover at the Geneva Motor Show next March, the global launch should take place immediately afterwards. We expect Skoda India to waste no time in bringing to India. Under the hood, Skoda could make use of the currently running 2-liter TDI engine and 1.8-liter TSI engine paired to a 6-speed manual or DSG transmission, that is shared by most premium models in the VW group stable.
The new Octavia’s specifications will rise significantly as Skoda attempts to offer it at the price of a D-Segment model. The price positioning will also change, but the sources tell autoX that the value factor will be unbeatable. The transformation will be along the lines of the current Superb, which went from being an also-ran, to a segment leader in India, in one clean sweep.
Skoda India has stressed in the past that the Octavia brand is very important to India and they would certainly want to use it in the future. There are strong signs then that this new generation car could revive the Octavia nameplate. But it remains to be seen how Skoda positions the car so as not to cannibalise sales of the Superb or its cousin, the Jetta.
Shrawan Raja is the Managing Editor of the daily updated https://indianautosblog.com/