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On the Skoda Trail

Light: Fabia will come to Oz - if Skoda can make it cheap enough.

Volkswagen budget brand Skoda is planning a full model line-up for Australia

19 Oct 2007

VOLKSWAGEN’S Czech Republic-based value brand Skoda Auto has confirmed details of its full Australian model range and given a number to its sales targets for its start-up year.

Skoda Auto’s Mr Fred Kappler, Board Member, sales and marketing, was in Australia for the Skoda launch and spoke to GoAuto during his visit.

Although Mr Kappler would not discuss local long-term sales prospects, he did lay down the short-term strategy.

“We will test the market with our cars: volume is not that important in the beginning, we want to establish the brand.” While Skoda Auto may not be concerned about start-up volumes, Mr Kappler says that the dealers’ cash registers will have to tick over at a minimum rate.

“Of course, we need to sell some thousands of cars to feed the dealer network. With 10 dealers, extending to 15, they need a viable business. We will have to go to a range of 2000 to 3000 cars in the first year.” Skoda is still some way off launching its newest model in Europe, the second-generation Fabia light car, into Australia.

Nevertheless, Mr Kappler stated, “I am absolutely sure that we will bring the Fabia to Australia”.

Skoda is not making an ill-considered rush to get the car to market.

“We must have reasonable prices or it makes no sense. So we are working on Fabia. We don’t have a final decision, and it is a very new car the life cycle for the Fabia is the next seven to eight years.” These sentiments are reflected by Volkswagen Group Australia (VGA) managing director Jutta Dierks, as well as the Matthew Wiesner, whose position is Head of Skoda.

Mr Kappler made it clear, however, that there would be certain model variants on offer to Australians. “The Fabia will have 1.6-litre with auto (and manual), and TDI engines, of course.” In the meantime, the next-generation Superb, a Passat based sedan, is still 12 months away from a new product. Locally, it probably won’t arrive until the first half of 2009 at the earliest.

29 center imageFrom top: Fabia, Superb and Yeti concept (bottom).

The Fabia may also be preceded by a compact SUV called the Yeti.

Shown at this months Australian International Motor Show in Sydney as the Yeti Concept, a production version has been confirmed from the beginning in 2009, with an Australian release set for early 2010.

“Don’t count on the name, just yet,” as Mr Kappler says, “Its name has not been decided - our working title is for the time being is Yeti.” The production Yeti will be smaller than the recently unveiled Volkswagen Tiguan compact SUV that is due in Australia next year.

Other model variants taking advantage of the SUV market are planned: “We will also extend our range within a model line. Octavia Scout four-wheel drive, for example.” Mr Wiesner has already told GoAuto that the Octavia Scout – a raised and four-wheel drive version of the Octavia wagon, that is in much the same vein as the successful Subaru Outback – is under serious consideration.

“That is something for us to maybe focus on next.

“It would make a very nice addition to the range next year.” Mr Wiesner said that Skoda wanted to concentrate on establishing the core Octavia and Roomster models first, before turning its attention to other variants.

“Too much too soon isn’t what we want to do (right now),” Mr Wiesner explained.

If the Octavia Scout proves to be a hit, a Scout version of the Roomster may follow, although its chances to be here any time soon seem “unlikely for now”, according to Mr Wiesner.

While the new products will help Skoda improve on its target of 3000 Roomster and Octavias in the first year, there is a glass ceiling for the brand.

Mr Kappler says he does not see Skoda becoming the volume player of VGA.

“Volkswagen is established, we won’t ever outsell them here. I think Australia will be like the European Union, where we are very important for the Volkswagen Group, but we are not the main brand - that is Volkswagen, of course.” Globally, the Volkswagen Group will also be monitoring Skoda’s Australian sales performance very closely, as it aims to gain first-hand data about launching in a new market with a (relatively) unknown brand.

This will be extremely useful for Skoda as it continues to expand its Czech value brand into new territories.

It is believed that North America is one of the next conquests, possibly as Volkswagen’s ‘youth’ brand against Toyota’s established Scion brand.

What's coming from Skoda:
Octavia Oct 2007
Roomster Oct 2007
Octavia Scout Late 2008
Superb 2009
Roomster Scout 2009
'Yeti' SUV 2010
Fabia 2010

Read more:

First drive: Skoda lands with value-packed Octavia

First drive: Roomster a compelling Skoda entree

Skoda Czechs in to Australia


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