The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Skoda gears up to roll out Laurent-Klement

New Delhi, Oct. 14: Skoda Auto India Pvt Ltd has decided to make the Laurent-Klement—its premium D-segment offering—at its Aurangabad plant.

Initially, the Volkswagen subsidiary planned to import the cars as completely-built-up units.

However, several brainstorming sessions later, company officials felt they could offer more competitive prices if the car was made here. Auto makers have to pay a customs duty of only 30 per cent on CKD kits compared with a whopping 60 per cent on CBU imports.

The Laurent-Klement is expected to roll out from the Aurangabad plant in January next year with a price tag of Rs 14-15 lakh. It will compete with the Ford Mondeo and the yet-to-be launched Toyota Camry. The Hyundai Sonata—which is the other D segment vehicle—will continue to enjoy a slight price advantage over its better-known rivals.

Skoda officials, who are now in Germany to work out the modalities for the next phase of model launches, said they have put on hold their plans to launch the luxury sedan Superb.

Skoda officials said the launch of the Superb will be brought back on the fast track after the manufacturing equipment is installed and the company finalises tieups with the suppliers of automotive parts for the model.

Skoda’s sales and marketing manager Bipin Datar told The Telegraph over the line from Germany, “We have come here to conclude talks on importing machinery for our plant in India. This is also a tour to educate the dealers on how to handle top-of-the-line products like the Laurent-Klement and Superb.”

“We will import completely knocked down (CKD) kits for the Laurent-Klement which will then be assembled at the Aurangabad plant. We have already lined up the automotive parts suppliers. Machinery worth Rs 10 crore will be installed by the year-end in order to launch a ‘Made-in-India’ Laurent-Klement,” Datar added.

Laurent-Klement is the luxury variant of the Octavia, the notchback that has been selling around 700 cars a month on an average. The automotive parts suppliers will be providing India-made parts for the car like tyres, tubes, mirrors and grills. The luxury sedan will have standard leather upholstery and sport mobile chargers and a sun roof. Skoda expects a boom in sales in the second half of the year and intends to increase the number of dealerships in the country.

“We are already operating two shifts which implies a production of 40 vehicles a day. Currently, we are producing around 30 cars a day. With newer dealerships planned, the demand for the Octavia will increase. Once we introduce the Laurent-Klement, which will have 40 per cent local content, we could add a third shift,” Datar said.

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