Tough Indian testing: mission accomplished

Tough Indian testing: mission accomplished

MODELS KUSHAQ

Deserts, high mountains and roads muddied by monsoon rains. This is what the new ŠKODA KUSHAQ had to endure before it could be offered to Indian customers. And do you know why it has a different horn than other ŠKODA models?

25. 5. 2021

The ŠKODA KUSHAQ test cars in India will have logged almost 1.7 million kilometres. Driving tests and laboratory tests are important not only in the development but also for the subsequent homologation of a new model. The developers had Indian customers in mind from the very beginning.

Rishiraj Arora, an engineer who worked in the carmaker’s headquarters on the KUSHAQ project from its inception right up to the driving tests, confirms this. “I worked at the company's head office in Mladá Boleslav, so I was able to contribute an Indian perspective and explain the little nuances that Indian customers consider essential or, conversely, don't care about.”

Rishiraj-Arora Rishiraj Arora
Engineer, Pune Technology Centre

“Testing in India also focuses on national specifics,” adds Petr Filip, Head of Complete Vehicle Development, who oversaw the development of the entire car, including homologation in India. The KUSHAQ has driven thousands of kilometres in high temperatures in the deserts of Rajasthan, tackled high-mountain conditions with thinner air in the Himalayas or in the Nilgiri mountains, and sampled urban traffic in India's most populous cities.

A camouflaged KUSHAQ being tested on rough roads

Kicking up a dust storm

To make sure that the car developed for the needs of Indian customers can genuinely cope with everything it has to face, the engineers also thought about driving on dirt roads. “The procedure is usually that the test car follows another car that kicks up dust,” says Filip. Other specific test conditions include roads flooded by monsoon rains. Because of seasonal flooding, for example, the KUSHAQ's horn is not in the standard place down behind the front bumper, but much higher up behind the radiator grille.

Filip_PetrPetr Filip
Head of Complete Vehicle Development

The new car for India also has to be ready for the traffic jams that are a feature of the country’s crowded cities. This is combined with the driving habits of many Indian drivers, who don't like to change gear, for example, and so often start moving in second gear. Traffic jams are therefore often tough on the clutch, which has to perform well in long-term stress testing.

ŠKODA KUSHAQ

The interior of the KUSHAQ is also tailor-made for Indian customers, and this was something else that had to be kept in mind during development and testing. “Indians like big mobile phones, so there has to be space in the interior to hold them. There are containers in the doors for the one-litre water bottles that the crew takes in the car. And on the dashboard they need a place to put a talisman,” explains Filip.

A workshop for the entire concern

Indian drivers like to sit high up and very close to the steering wheel, so the developers and test engineers have to make sure that all the controls are with easy reach even with the seat set up like this.

Testing on steep mountain roads

The newly built central development workshop at the technical centre in Pune also helped with the development and demanding testing of the new SUV. This is a multifunctional facility for various tests - for example, electronics or acoustic properties are tested here - and complete preparation for testing in the field. In the vast majority of cases, the car has to be fitted with various gauges and sensors or cameras for these tests. And once the car gets back from a test drive, all the data must be evaluated.

The new central development workshop at the Pune Technology Centre

The engine or other parts can also be replaced in the workshop, and the workshop technicians can also make use of what is known as a “breadboard”. This allows the complete electrics to be connected and tested, but outside the car itself. Under the INDIA 2.0 project, ŠKODA was put in charge of the activities of the entire Volkswagen Group, so vehicles from other brands also pass through the central workshop. The workshop gets them ready for homologation tests in India, for example.

“The central development workshop brings together technicians with experience from Volkswagen Group and a number of other automotive companies. I describe this place as unity in diversity, where together we create great products for ŠKODA,” says Sourabh Gupte, head of the EGV prototype construction at Pune

Sourabh-Gupte Sourabh Gupte
Head of EGV prototype construction, Pune 

We were the Voice of India

How do they like KUSHAQ and what was it like to work on the project? We get answers from Sourabh Gupte, the head of EGV prototype construction at Pune, and engineer and team coordinator Rishiraj Arora from Pune Technology Centre.

What is your take on the final design of the car? What do you like most about it?

R.A.: The KUSHAQ’s appearance is dominant, but at the same time it's not huge or over-dimensioned, making it an ideal urban SUV. Overall, I love the way it looks.

S.G.: I like it a lot. The look of the front, the chrome elements and the infotainment system make the car stand out from the crowd.

How were you specifically involved in its development and testing?

R.A.: As I worked at the company’s HQ in Mladá Boleslav, I was able to offer an Indian perspective or explain the little nuances that Indian customers may or may not consider essential. This resulted in a concept called Voice of India, in which we pushed various modifications into development. We have also held seminars to present modification or enlargement requests to take into account geographical specifics such as heat or high altitude.

S.G.: I was involved in setting up the virtual reality centre and was part of the team that gathered design feedback from customers throughout the development process. But my job was really to support all the activities in India and also in Europe, such as working with the suppliers of prototype parts or transporting the cars. Last but not least, it was an honour for me to be involved in creating the new central development workshop.

What was the hardest thing about working on the new car?

R.A.: Convincing others what is essential for Indians and what isn’t important, and providing examples to demonstrate that.

S.G.: For me it was definitely ensuring the required quality of prototype parts and sticking to the timetable in line with the company’s standards. And also coordinating the development process between the Mladá Boleslav team and engineers at the Indian central development workshop.

What do you enjoy about your work?

R.A.: The flexibility and freedom. The constant innovative vision keeps us on our toes, makes us think outside the box and perform at the top of our game. And the fact that the company values my contribution.

S.G.: My job is a constant source of motivation for me: I am always learning new things and meeting lots of different people from many different cultures. I like to see ideas turn into concepts and eventually take shape as a real car. I am proud to be part of this journey.

Did anything change when ŠKODA took over responsibility for the Indian market in the INDIA 2.0 project?

R.A.: Yes, you could see that the brand was focused on the “Indianisation” of the project as a whole. From a business perspective, the emphasis is definitely on “made in India”, but I think that even more important is that it is “made for India”.

Your technical development unit in India employs about 200 people and is taking on other projects. What do you appreciate about working at the Pune technology centre?

R.A.: We are motivated by the excitement of developing four products from the very beginning and simultaneously by having to manage such a large-scale project. We are developing our abilities to take on new projects and we’re focused on success. Another thing is that our company vision can keep our heads above water even in times as difficult as these.