Zac Hollis, the brand director of Skoda Auto India, talks to FE’s Vikram Chaudhary on how Skoda has been strengthening its dealership network and why sedans still have a long way to go on India. Excerpts:
How many dealers have you added to the Skoda India family in CY21?
We started this year with about 100 dealer partners, and currently have 131 of them; our total sales & service outlets number 165.
Thirty-one dealers in a year! That’s some speed…
There is quality as well. Our focus has been to get the ‘right’ long-term partners, not only those who can help us meet our sales targets but also those who deliver great customer satisfaction. We did have some ‘concerns’ with dealers and we put them in a process of improvement.
Ultimately, dealers are our ‘face’ to customers; if we don’t get the right partners, we won’t be able to deliver on customer satisfaction, and if we fail to deliver on customer satisfaction, we cannot deliver on our sales targets.
I must say we have added some great long-term new dealer partners this year.
‘Skoda cars are expensive to maintain.’ Is this a perception or reality?
Earlier it was part perception, part reality, but we have worked towards fixing both. For instance, about two years ago, we reduced prices of Skoda car parts by 18%, and about nine months ago we reduced servicing costs by 21%. Now, under Volkswagen Group’s India 2.0 project, 95% of our cars are localised, and this further adds to affordability. Skoda cars now are very competitive to buy, own and maintain.
Sales of sedans are falling; from 2015 to 2020, these have dropped by almost half, according to data by SIAM. Why is Skoda launching a new sedan?
In India, we have a history of manufacturing and selling stylish sedans—from the Octavia to the Laura to second-generation Octavia and the Superb and the Rapid, we have succeeded with each sedan. The Rapid has a 10% segment share, the Superb has 30% and the Octavia has 50%.
The Slavia is a natural extension. Sedan sales have been falling, but we will bring sexy back to the sedan.
Will the Slavia replace the Rapid?
I cannot discuss this at the moment. The Slavia is bigger than the Rapid and is positioned above the Rapid. We have stock (of the Rapid) at the moment and recently launched the matte black edition that is attracting a lot of interest.
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