Badge-engineered Suzuki Alto and Wagon R hatches are poised to become the first solid signs of co-operation under the Volkswagen and Suzuki industrial tie-up signed last year.
According to sources close to our sister magazine, Autocar India, VW and Suzuki are discussing rebadging the latest Alto as a Volkswagen and the Wagon R as a Skoda as entry-level models in the European brands’ line-ups in India, starting in 2012.
They will fill slots in the range originally earmarked for the Up family of city cars that VW, Seat and Skoda are currently developing in Europe.
The Up won’t now be sold in India since the technology in the cars, together with the cost to set up production locally to avoid high import duties on European-sourced production, will price them out of the market.
Because of the tight deadline and costs, the rebadging is likely to be limited to revised bumpers and headlights and minor new trim, but no metalwork or interior changes. VW is even understood to be prepared to put its badge on a car powered by the Fiat 1.3 Multijet diesel, which Suzuki builds under licence in India for the Alto and Wagon R.
Production, however, is likely to be handed over to VW’s Chakan facility, since Suzuki’s plant, which operates under the Maruti brand in India, is flat out meeting demand. Last year Suzuki/Maruti built 1.1 million units for a 54 per cent share of the 2.2m-strong market and will have to add a further 500,000 to satisfy the growth to three million units a year expected in the next two years.
Exports to Europe of the rebadged VW and Skoda seem unlikely, at least in the early years, unless the European market — particularly in the east — demands more low-cost cars. Nissan, for example, is importing the new Micra from India, while the Pixo is a rebadged Alto built in India and Suzuki itself satisfies European demand for the Alto from the Maruti Delhi plant.