PRAGUE -- Skoda will unveil an SUV concept in February that will preview the first model underpinned by a new low-cost platform developed in India by the automaker.
The concept will be shown at the Delhi auto show from Feb. 7-12. The production version will go on sale by the end of next year and will be joined by a notchback on the same platform at the beginning of 2021, Skoda CEO Bernhard Maier said.
Both cars will be built in India.
Skoda is leading the development of the low-cost platform, called MQB A0, for its parent, Volkswagen Group. The program includes two cars for the VW brand, including a small SUV.
The platform is part of VW Group's bid to accelerate sales in a market that is price sensitive.
Cars using the platform are not expected to be adapted for sale in Europe.
"We said if we want to be competitive, we have to meet exactly the demands of our customers in India. They are different from what we see in the rest of the world," Maier told Automotive News Europe at a press event in Prague.
Skoda is spending 1 billion euros on the project to localize VW Group's A0 platform. The investment includes setting up a r&d center near Delhi.
Maier said Skoda had achieved its target to source 90 percent of parts locally.
India's car sales are dominated by Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai, which have taken advantage of local economies of scale to deliver cars at a price attractive to local buyers.
European automakers have struggled to gain a serious foothold in India.
Renault has been most successful European brand in India in recent years after developing the Kwid small SUV locally
However Renault was only India's ninth best-selling brand through September, according to figures from forecasters LMC Automotive. Skoda was the 13th best-selling brand, while VW was at No. 10.
India's passenger car market is currently suffering a "severe and prolonged" downturn with sales down 16 percent in the first nine months to just over 2 million, LMC said in a recent report.
It blamed a lack of credit availability, higher vehicle prices, weak buyer sentiment and a slowing economy.
Skoda will launch its new cars for India only after the country switches to the tougher Bharat Stage 6 emissions standard in April. The change is predicted to create a further sales lull following an expected rush earlier in the year to buy cheaper cars rated to pass the current BS-4 regulations.
LMC expects the India's light vehicle market to stabilize at 3.4 million units by 2021.