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Yeti is Skoda’s new big-foot

Czech this: Skoda's Yeti will have a choice of turbo petrol and diesel engines when it arrives in Australia about mid 2010.

New compact SUV to be Skoda Australia’s fourth and most popular model inside a year

29 Jun 2009

THE new Yeti compact SUV is likely to be Skoda’s biggest selling model in Australia, where it will become the fledgling Czech brand’s fourth model by mid-2010.

Launched in Europe this month and due on sale in Australia within 12 months, the Volkswagen Tiguan-based Yeti will come with the choice of both turbocharged petrol and diesel engines, front and all-wheel drive configurations, and manual and automatic transmissions, priced from about $27,000.

Asked at last week’s launch of the new flagship Superb sedan, which joins the small Roomster wagon and volume-selling mid-size Octavia liftback and wagon on sale here, whether the Yeti would be Skoda’s top-selling model in Australia, Skoda Australia chief Matthew Wiesner said: “Potentially.

“(The) Compact SUV (market segment) is as big as the mid-size segment, so it has the same degree of importance as the Octavia. Yeti could potentially be our number-one (selling) model.

“We are working on significant new additions for 2010, but Yeti is very much on the table and that’s our priority at the moment. Yeti will allow Skoda to talk to compact SUV buyers for the first time, so we’re starting to stretch across key segments,” said Mr Wiesner, who travelled to Europe from the local Superb launch to discuss Yeti pricing.

Skoda sold 818 vehicles in Australia last year, including 111 Roomsters and 40 Octavia Scouts, but expects the release of a number of new or updated models to almost double that figure to around 1500 sales in 2009, in which Skoda sales are so far up about 17 per cent.

29 center image Left: Skoda Yeti, Skoda Fabia Scout, Skoda Fabia RS concept.

They include the facelifted Octavia range launched in March (including a less expensive 1.6-litre version from $26,990), a new entry-level Octavia 1.9-litre diesel to go on sale next month priced from $30,490, the all-new Superb large sedan that is expected to attract anything up to 50 sales a month, and the upgraded Octavia Scout and RS in August and September respectively.

Possibly the most important launch for Skoda in Australia, however, will be that of the Yeti in 2010, when the Superb Combi (to be unveiled at Frankfurt before hitting Europe in November and then being released here simply as the Superb wagon around April), the as-yet-unseen Superb RS, an automatic version of the Octavia Scout TDI and facelifted Roomster and Fabia models should also arrive.

Opening Australia’s Yeti range, which enters production in early 2010 following the release of the first right-hand-drive versions in the UK in September, will be the new turbocharged 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that debuted in VW’s new Polo, driving the front wheels.

The 77kW/175Nm direct-injection turbo-four will be available with manual and twin-clutch DSG automated manual transmissions, and will be a direct rival for 2WD compact crossovers such as the Kia Sportage ($24,990), Hyundai Tucson (from $25,490) and Renault Koleos ($30,990), which will be joined this year by a 2WD version of its sister model, Nissan’s Dualis.

The other Yeti model variant for Australia will be a 125kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel mated, via manual and DSG transmissions, to an all-wheel drivetrain.

While both manual and automatic versions of the 2WD Yeti 1.2 TSI are expected to land at under $30,000, the AWD 2.0 TDI is likely to line-up with prices of traditional compact SUVs like Subaru’s Forester ($30,990), Nissan’s X-Trail ($32,490) and Toyota’s RAV4 (from $33,490). VW’s closely related Tiguan is available only in 2.0 125TSI ($33,990), 2.0 103TDI ($36,690) and 2.0 147TSI auto ($42,990) guises.

A total of seven drivetrain configurations will be available in Europe, including four AWDs and three 2WDs, powered by 1.4-litre petrol, 1.8 TSI turbo-petrol, 1.9 TDI and (103kW) 2.0 TDI turbo-diesel engines, mated mostly to manual transmissions only.

“We’re looking at both 2WD and AWD, because it offers two models in one,” said Mr Wiesner. “The latter brings more traditional SUV buyers and we’ll have diesel power to offer too.

“The 4x2 brings weight reduction, which lends itself to smaller engines and a pricing opportunity that helps us in the next phase of appealing to a younger demographic, which doesn’t need or want AWD and is also less male dominated. It gives us an opportunity to market the car in two different ways,” he said.

While a 2010 facelift for the off-beat Roomster will bring a fresh interior and new engines, the upgraded Fabia hatchback, which will be revealed at the Geneva motor show in March before entering production in May, represents the first realistic opportunity for Skoda Australia to import the Polo-based light-car.

Skoda Australia is investigating a number of options for the Fabia locally, including a “top-down” approach that could see the Fabia Scout crossover and the production version of the Fabia RS concept released here first, before more price-sensitive mainstream models arrive.

“Once we get Yeti we will look at Fabia,” said Mr Wiesner. “Fabia will not leave the list of priorities – it is just behind Yeti. There is a Fabia facelift in Europe next year, so we want to keep plugged in to the latest technology developments because Skoda buyers want the latest technology. It will be at the top of our list once the Yeti is launched.

“The RS concept from Geneva would be a fabulous thing. How better to enter that end of the market than that? We get a good return on the Octavia RS but it also puts the limelight on to other Octavias. Potentially, the Fabia Scout could do the same, but I would hope it’s not the only Fabia we would see here,” said Mr Wiesner.

“It comes down to the project making sense. The GFC (global financial crisis) made (a business case for the) Fabia tough. Small cars are difficult. We’d like to have everything, but it comes down to currency.”

GoAuto understands that volatility of the Australian dollar compared with the Euro and the Czech Koruna, which is tied to the Euro but getting stronger, making exports more expensive, has prevented Skoda Australia committing to importing the Fabia, which would need to be priced competitively against the Polo.

While Scout and RS versions of the facelifted Fabia would provide Skoda Australia with the perfect opportunity to launch a fresh light-car range, it is believed the cost of obtaining Australian Design Rule approval for those variants would be prohibitive without the economy of scale afforded by volume-selling mainstream versions.

“We couldn’t justify having just the (Fabia) RS or Scout,” said one insider. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all or nothing.”

Skoda expects June to be the best month of sales it has ever recorded in Australia, but admits it wouldn’t have relaunched the brand here in October 2007 if it could have predicted to severity of the global automotive downturn.

“Would we have chosen another year to launch Skoda? Probably, but that’s life. Everyone’s battling, but hopefully things will improve as we move into 2010,” said Mr Wiesner, who added that the success of this year’s Octavia facelift has required the company to expand to 40 the number of Skoda Australia service outlets in the mid-term.

Skoda hopes to grow the number of full sales and service outlets in Australia to 25 by the end of 2009 – up from 19 last year. Brisbane Skoda is the newest retailer after its appointment in March, with new outlets to open in Launceston and Hobart this week, and a further two to open in August, in Penrith and Wodonga.

Skoda has targeted a total of 30 sales and service outlets by the end of 2010, with 35 planned for 2012. The first 15 or so servicing outlets are now being appointed in key regional areas, starting in Queensland.

“There is an opportunity to stretch the brand to somewhere around 40 servicing dealers, which is a vote in confidence for the brand. People will travel to buy their cars, but want somewhere local to service them,” said Mr Wiesner.

Next month’s Ashes cricket series will kick off Skoda’s Superb marketing push, with the Tour de France to continue Skoda Australia’s involvement in cycling.

What's coming from Skoda:
Octavia 1.9 TDI July
Superb sedan range July
Octavia Scout facelift August
Octavia RS facelift September
Superb wagon Second quarter 2010
Yeti Mid 2010
Octavia Scout auto 2010
Roomster facelift 2010
Fabia facelift 2010
Superb RS 2010
Octavia redesign 2011

Read more:

First drive: Slicker Octavia RS, Scout up Skoda ante

First drive: Skoda strikes a fresh Octave

Melbourne show off to a Superb start

A load of Skoda looms

Geneva show: Superb new Skoda

First look: Second coming for Skoda’s Superb

The Road to Recovery podcast series

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