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Skoda Citigo no go

Bouncing Czechs: The tiny Citigo could bookend a drip-feed of new products next year ahead of exciting new releases from Skoda in 2013.

Current Skoda Citigo baby runabout won’t make it to Australia after all

Skoda logo29 Nov 2013

SKODA Australia has performed an about-face on the Citigo mini-car, meaning it will not make it Down Under in its current generation after all.

The Czech brand cites the tiny size of the nascent sub-light market in this country, combined with the fact that its parent Volkswagen already offers the identical (slow-selling) Up in the same space.

The decision factors in the conventional three and five-door hatch versions of the Citigo, as well as any of the upcoming crossover variations that may spin off from its Up twin.

Speaking at the launch of the 5E-series Octavia in Melbourne this week, Skoda Australia director Michael Irmer, finally put the existing sub-B segment city car’s future to rest, after more than a year of speculation and indecision.

“The segment is very small in Australia, and there are literally very few offerings – the Volkswagen Up being one of the few,” he told GoAuto.

“Skoda’s volume pillars are the Octavia and Yeti right now, and that is what we are concentrating on,” he said.

As recently as June 2012, Skoda Australia chiefs spoke of the arrival of the Citigo in Australia as a formality (see separate story linked below).

However, this week’s update does not mean that the series won’t be considered in the future, especially when the second-generation Citigo is expected to gain a fully automatic transmission (unlike the current ‘robotised’ manual).

“I wouldn’t say that the Citigo is dead for Australia. We never say never.

After all, peoples’ tastes are always changing so maybe the segment will pick up,” said Mr Irmer.

While Mr Irmer declined to comment over the Up’s lacklustre sales performance in this country – to date this year just 1361 units have been sold, compared to 1540 Holden Barina Sparks, 1585 Fiat 500s, 2490 Suzuki Altos and 7884 Mitsubishi Mirages – he did say that Volkswagen is in a far stronger position in the market to establish a presence in the sub-B segment.

“Volkswagen is a far more established player in Australia,” he said. “Skoda is still growing.”

It is widely believed that the Up is held back in Australia due to its lack of automatic transmission availability.

However GoAuto recently learned that the company is investigating several transmission options for models below the Golf, including an Aisin-supplied eight-speed and a ZF-developed nine-speed automatic transmission.

The next Up, along with the corresponding Citigo and Seat Mii models, will most likely pick up one of these after 2017.

It had been mooted earlier last year that Skoda Australia would position the Citigo slightly under the Up – which launched in October 2012 from $13,990 (plus on-road costs) – as a $13,000 plus-on roads proposition.

But a slower-than-anticipated take-up has forced Volkswagen to match the Fiat 500 Pop 1.2’s headline-grabbing $14,000 driveaway pricing, effectively squeezing the Citigo out of contention in Australia.

Volkswagen, by the way, has also ruled out any direct current-generation Up derivatives such as the SUV-lite Cross Up from heading Down Under any time soon.

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