VW undecided on the MEB Electric Car platform for India

Ralf Brandstatter, CEO, Volkswagen, has hinted that the VW ID.4 launch in India won’t happen. In a conference call yesterday, Brandstatter said that the Indian market is not mature for electric cars and that a proper EV infrastructure is not in place yet. He also pointed out that EVs are too expensive for India.

Brandstatter said that Volkswagen keeps a close watch on India, but it hasn’t decided whether it will bring the MEB platform (Modularen E-Antriebs-Baukasten) to the country. Until now, the VW ID.4 was expected as one of the biggest electric car launches in India by next year, though a low-volume one.

Volkswagen MEB platform vs. MQB platform
Volkswagen used the MQB platform first in the Mk3 Audi A3 (March 2012) and the MEB platform first in the VW ID.3 (September 2019).

MEB is the Volkswagen Group’s most volume-focused platform developed exclusively for all-electric cars. Currently, it can form the basis for C- and D-segment models as per global classification. The VW ID.3 is a VW Golf alternative, while the VW ID.4 belongs the VW Tiguan class. These segments don’t fetch high volumes in India, and A- and B-segment cars drive the auto industry due to the affordability.

Affordability is a word not synonymous with MEB at this point, as it’s a sophisticated technology. Even the smallest version (A0) of the nearly decade-old ICE platform MQB from 2012 is deemed too expensive for India. The Volkswagen Group has done heavy modifications to derive a low-cost variant (A0 IN) just for our market to generate affordable petrol and diesel cars.

Volkswagen Group is likely to modify the MEB platform in the future to make it compatible for smaller cars. It has confirmed that it will launch a VW ID.1 (VW eup! successor) and a VW ID.2 (VW Polo alternative) in 2025.

VW-ID4 White rear view
The VW ID.4 electric SUV will debut on 23 September and go on sale in Europe at the end of this year. Image: MIIT China.

The MEB platform, be it in the original or the ‘lite’ version, would need extensive cost-cutting for it to make sense in India. If there’s a remote chance that Volkswagen Group would even consider such a capital-intensive move, it would only happen if the local subsidiary can convince Wolfsburg that that there’s enough demand for electric cars.

Volkswagen Group is already investing one billion euros in implementation of the MQB A0 IN platform-backed India 2.0 project. This massive investment won’t start generating cash until next year, which is when the first MQB A0 IN model will go on sale. Amortization of this investment would be the company’s priority before it looks at bringing down new platforms and localizing them. The punitive tariffs and measures by the government to curtail imports put importing MEB cars for mass sales out of the question.