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Skoda: One million units by 2010?

Date: 21 February 2007

Skoda is displaying a swagger unfathomable ten years ago. With UK fleet sales trumping Volvo and Land Rover, and more than half a million sales worldwide last year, its goal of one million units by 2010 looks possible. Guy Bird reports

In early 1999 Skoda had just two models - one of which was the fleet-unfriendly Felicia. By 2009 it should have half a dozen before you even count estate and 4x4 variants.

The new Fabia is the big news for Skoda this year. The five-door only hatchback launches on 17 May and the UK outfit aims to sell 9500 of the new model in 2007 with 17,500 in 2008 (including the estate version due in spring). Rugged-looking Roomsters and Octavias badged 'Scout' will follow with the Octavia offering a '4x4 on demand' system used by the Volvo XC70. It should sell 1000 units per annum (5% of Octavia's total).

Meanwhile, UK managing director Chris Craft is excited by the all-new big saloon Superb due in summer 2008. Craft says: "This model will be very clearly defined as a Skoda. The old one showed its [Passat] roots."

A supermini 4x4 Yeti will arrive in 2009 and there could be a sub-Fabia sector city car based on the recent Joyster concept by 2010.

"A decision will be taken on the Joyster later this year," says Craft, "but our product will stay practical and family-oriented. You won't see us doing any roadsters."

Sales expectations

Fleet sales took 46% of Skoda's 17,929 total in 2006, meaning the company was 15th in the fleet sales chart, one place up on last year. Craft wants Skoda's fleet share to reflect the total market in time, so is looking for a 50/50 fleet/retail ratio.

"The mix of business will change with more contract hire-driven sales although we'll still do some daily rental," says Craft.

"Our total sales were 39,000 in 2006 and will be 40,000-plus in 2007," adds Craft. "It's a transition year for us, running out old product and bringing in new."

Trim and price changes

Classic, Ambiente, Elegance and Sport trims all get the boot on the new Fabia to be replaced by 1, 2, and 3 plus vRS for go-faster. Prices will face a small increase on the new Fabia to reflect the extra spec and technology on the car, says Skoda.

Craft explained the trim mix would also change: "Three years ago 50% of our product mix was the base model. Now it's only 20%. One in eight of all cars we sell now are vRS versions - for Fabia it's even higher. Clearly we've attracted a lot of new people to the brand."

Dealer back-up

While the product has been playing catch-up, its service - especially in retail - has been strong. Craft explains: "We've been in the top five in the JD Power customer satisfaction survey for 11 years. No other brand has achieved that record, for that long.

"We are in the process of an opt-in programme for dealers to become business centres. There are 40 right now out of a 135 strong total and we'd like that network to expand to 150 in two years, but there will still be that same local dealer focus. The face of Skoda has changed but the heart is the same."