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Skoda Australia eyes future electric SUV

Vision quest: The Skoda Vision E concept will spawn a production electric SUV in 2021.

Czech brand Skoda to bypass PHEVs in favour of EVs in Australia

20 Nov 2018

SKODA will bypass plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) in Australia and instead wait for full battery electric models, with the Czech brand expected to offer an electric SUV in the coming years.
Next year Skoda will launch a facelifted version of its Superb large car and it will be offered with a new plug-in hybrid variant – the first of its kind for the brand.
However, despite the fact that it will be built in right-hand-drive configuration, Skoda Australia director Michael Irmer said there were no plans to offer it Down Under.
“At the moment we don’t think … that the market is 100 per cent ready for this, as other manufacturers have tried this out,” he told journalists at a media event in Sydney this week. 
“The number of cars sold in Australia (there’s) not much potential. If potential was there, I have no doubt we would bring the car to Australia.”
Skoda Australia planning and product manager Kieran Merrigan added that Skoda was too small a brand to offer a PHEV in its line-up, while Skoda board member for sales and marketing Alain Favey said that it was available if the Australian arm was keen.
“It will be available in right-hand drive. If the guys want to introduce it. If you think there is a market for it, we can look at it.”
Electric vehicle sales (which include plug-in hybrid models under VFACTS categorisation) have hit 1149 to the end of October this year, which equates to 0.11 per cent of the overall market.
When asked if Skoda would skip PHEVs and go straight into EVs, Mr Irmer said: “Perhaps yes.”
Kia Motors Australia has adopted a similar policy and will bypass hybrids and plug-in hybrids and wait for full EVs instead.
When asked if skipping PHEVs was a good move given its ‘Simply Clever’ brand tagline, Mr Irmer highlighted the increasing uptake of full EVs by some demographics. 
“We will have a powerful SUV fully electric car – there is appeal. Drive through the eastern suburbs (of Sydney) and look at the amount of Teslas there. But it is a certain profile. It is not going to be … large volume and not all dealers will have it. At least not in the beginning.”
Skoda will launch its first full EV – to be an SUV based on the Vision E concept from last year – globally in 2021.
While it is not completely locked in for Australia, Mr Irmer said it was likely to be offered here. 
“I think we would love to have it. The final decision has not been taken but we think it will.”
Mr Irmer added that Australia’s love of SUVs and performance models meant that an all-electric SUV would be a good fit, while acknowledging the slow take-up of EVs.
“Australians love SUVs and Australians love performance, so when an electric car will come with an appearance of an SUV, as a performance four-wheel drive, I think it will be a great fit for the market. 
“We do know that in Australia the electric car movement is not as far as other markets. But I am totally confident that with the love for technology and with the love for the design … that Australians will love it and adopt it as well. This technology will become mainstream.”
Mr Favey reiterated what Skoda global chief executive Bernhard Maier told GoAuto at this year’s Paris motor show – that future RS performance models would likely be electrified, while adding that future EVs will gain the RS treatment.
“Yeah that’s a possibility. I think electric vehicles will have an RS model as well. There is no reason why if you buy an electric vehicle you don’t want some sporty feeling or sporty seats or sporty driving experience. An electric vehicle can be extremely sporty in terms of the response level of the engine and so forth.”
Skoda’s sister brand Volkswagen will launch at least three models under its ID all-electric sub brand in the coming years, but Mr Favey said he did not think Skoda needed a dedicated EV sub brand.
“Actually we are more of the view that there will come a point in future – at least that’s the discussion we have in Europe at the moment – all cars will become electric. Some countries in Europe have said by 2040 they will not allow new cars to be sold which are not fully electric. 
“So it will be strange to develop a sub brand when you actually believe in 20 years time your brand will be electric. So we have not made a final decision to that because we are launching our first fully electric car on MEB platform at end of 2020 in Europe.”
The MEB platform will underpin all of the VW ID models, the future electric Skoda SUV and a number of other all-electric models from the wider Volkswagen Group.

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