NEW DELHI - The Indian unit of Czech carmaker Skoda Auto said on Monday it expected its sales in 2003 to nearly double from a year ago helped by three model launches and a 4 percent to 6 percent growth of the premium car segment.
Skoda, a unit of Volkswagen AG, has been in India since November 2001 when it began assembling and selling the Octavia sedan in two versions.
The Octavia, which has a showroom price of about 1.2 million rupees ($25,149), is positioned in the low-volume, premium end of India's new car market of more than 500,000 units a year.
"We plan to sell 8,500 cars this year after doing about 4,400 cars in 2002," Imran Hassen, managing director of Skoda Auto India Pvt. Ltd., told Reuters on the phone from the company's car plant in Aurangabad in the western state of Maharashtra.
Hassen said Skoda would introduce the Laurin & Klement sedan in the next two months, an automatic version of the Octavia in June and the Superb, a larger luxury car with a 2.8 litre gasoline engine, later in the year.
The Superb is expected to be priced at about 2.5 million rupees and will compete with other cars such as the Mercedes Benz C-class. The Octavia competes with sedans such as Hyundai's Sonata, Ford's new Mondeo and the Honda Accord.
Hassen estimated the premium car segment at 30,000 units a year and forecast it to grow at about 4 percent to 6 percent this year. The segment grew by 4 percent in 2002.
Nearly 83 percent of India's new car market is made up of small hatchbacks priced up to 500,000 rupees.
Hassen said Skoda was increasingly starting to use locally made parts in the Octavia and would aim to boost Indian content in the car to 62 percent from 41 percent. Hassen said Skoda also would look to exporting cars to Southeast Asia in 2004 from India after the local operations had stabilized and it had achieved domestic sales of 8,500 units a year.
The company, which has invested $27 million in India, expects to break even by mid-2004.