VW India may not be willing to confirm a compact sedan on the Up! platform yet, but VW has announced that the Up! is more than a car - its a platform - its a family of cars that are designed to take over cities that are suffering from parking problems, traffic congestion and for a world where people want energy-efficient commuters.
VW has shown special editions and variants on the Up! hatchback at recent motor expositions, and in previous years it has brought concepts that hint at the future direction of this sub-Polo compact car.
Adding to these, concepts cars of a compact MPV and an electric variant based on the Up! platform are testimony to the claim of it being a car family, and not just one car.
VW India has to work on expanding its product offerings. There are no two ways about it. It may have representation in the premium end of the B and C segment, but there are only two products to choose from in what is already a crowded marketplace where launches get forgotten in weeks.
MPV and SUV segments have grown by over 50% this year, and in the next few years, these segments will certainly see Volkswagen entering with solidly built cars.
Before leaving to venture into higher segments, Volkswagen will have to introduce cars in the heart of the Indian market, say under and around the Polo.
Calling in the Up! and Up! sedan.
The VW Up! sedan will be along the lines of the VW Vento. Don't expect to see the company designing a new skin as that would make it very expensive. A small boot can be integrated to the rear, and the rules of the assignment will be dictated by the sub-4-meter tax benefit. Cars measuring under 4 meters (with compact engines) can avail an excise cut of 12% in India.
The interior is expected to be a photocopy of the Up's, while there can be subtle aesthetic enhancements to hint at the sedan's premium positioning, such as chrome lines and chrome inserts on the door handles. If VW keeps adding equipment and length, it can cannibalize into the Vento's sales, which is already a cannibalized victim of the Skoda Rapid's 'more value' image.
There can't be a better choice than the Polo's three-cylinder diesel engine displacing 1.2-liters to motor the twins. The same 5-speed gearbox can be carried over to save cost. There are talks of VW India testing a new four-cylinder 1.5-liter engine with better NVH for its bigger cars. Perhaps the Polo and Vento can graduate to use the four pot and leave the three pot engines for smaller cars.
The Up-based sedan heads into the segment of compact sedans comprising of the Dzire, Etios and Indigo. In the next two years, Honda would have launched a small sedan based on the Brio and the Manza CS has been churning the rumourmill for a couple of years now.
The profitability of the Up! project can be improved by launching variants higher in the value chain. A sedan and an SUV command a higher price than a hatchback, and if the volumes on this platform build up, it can let VW India position the Up! hatch at a lower price. Maruti and Hyundai have benefited by pricing their cars from rock-bottom levels.
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