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Skoda safety snag

Rally rocket: The "Super 2000" racing version of SKoda's new Fabia, which made its first public appearance earlier this month.

Year-old Skoda Fabia won't come unless HQ agrees to ESC versions at the right price

22 Sep 2008

SKODA is still to confirm whether its Fabia small car will be sold in Australia, despite its launch in Europe early last year.

Local management of the Volkswagen-owned Czech brand is pressing on with plans to introduce the large Superb sedan, which arrived in Europe a year after the Fabia, but is yet to reach an agreement over the small car with Skoda’s top brass in Mlada Boleslav, near Prague.

Central to the negotiations is Skoda Australia’s insistence that the car come with a full suite of safety gear (including stability control) for a competitive price.

“The package needs to have ESC and six airbags – that’s what the brand is about here,” said Skoda Australia head Matthew Wiesner. “It is something we are passionate about and we must be consistent with our safety message.”

Even though negotiations regarding the Fabia have been going since before the brand launched here last October, Mr Wiesner believes they will soon bear fruit. “We are getting close,” he said.

Mr Wiesner would not comment on the price he is gunning for, but the Fabia competes against the Peugeot 207 and Fiat Punto in Europe. Both of those cars start off at $19,990 in Australia and it is not expected the Skoda would be any cheaper.

29 center imageLeft: Skoda Superb and Yeti.



“Fabia was always going to be a challenge because, as you have seen with other European brands, that end of the market it is very difficult and more difficult if you are sourcing out of Europe – especially for us, the way the Czech currency is strengthening against the Euro, so we have got to overcome those little challenges as well,” said Mr Wiesner.

“But for any brand to go grow and attract a different demographic, you want to be active in the small and light-car areas. If you look at that segment it is huge and it is growing.”

Skoda launched the Octavia Scout crossover wagon in Australia last week and will add a sporty diesel RS Octavia by the end of the year.

The latter will slot in next to the turbocharged petrol Octavia RS and uses a new-generation 2.0-litre common-rail diesel producing 125kW, fed through a six-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic.

These two new models will help bolster the Skoda range, but are not expected to boost numbers significantly.

The next car expected to make a big impact is the Superb, which is due to arrive around March next year. Mr Wiesner said the Superb would be a flagship for the brand, taking on premium models such as the top-spec Nissan Maxima as well as some of the large Europeans.

The Superb sits on a stretched Passat platform and will be powered by the latest 1.8-litre TSI turbocharged petrol engine linked to an all-new seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic. It will also be available with a 125kW common-rail diesel engine, mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic.

While Skoda often receives hand-me-down technology from Volkswagen, the Superb is aimed at showing the Czech brand is not simply a poor cousin of the German giant.

“That will show the market that Skoda gets the latest VW Group technology,” said Mr Wiesner.

Skoda Australia is also working on plans to bring the Yeti compact SUV to Australia. Revealed as a concept at the 2005 Geneva motor show, the Yeti is a boldly styled all-wheel drive crossover wagon, which is expected to go on sale in Europe next year.

“It is in our discussions,” said Mr Wiesner. “Do we want a compact SUV like that? Of course we do. It’s a very Skoda car, it’s very cool.”

It is not yet clear whether the new Skoda will be sold using the Yeti name.

Mr Wiesner said Skoda Australia looked likely to sell around 850 cars for its first year of operation, adding that most customers were purchasing higher-spec models rather than base cars.

“It’s the RS and 2.0-litre TDIs that are dominating the sales. Most sales are $35,000 plus so that is really encouraging,” he said.

Skoda currently has 20 dealers in Australia, but is looking to build up to 24 by the end of this year and to around 30 at some stage next year.

What's coming from Skoda:
Octavia RS TDI Late 2008
Superb March 2009
Fabia 2009
Yeti 2009/10

Read more:

First drive: Skoda crosses over with Octavia Scout


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