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Skoda heads down to go up

Bouncing Czechs: Cars like Skoda's Fabia light car (pictured) and Yeti compact SUV will occupy two of Australia's fastest-growing segments.

VW’s Czech brand focuses on younger and female buyers as it builds its brand in Oz

4 Jul 2011

SKODA has revealed that its value-pricing proposition is now in full swing as it strives to steal sales from the established Japanese and South Korean brands at the lower end of the new-car market.

The fresh (to Australia) Fabia light car is just the first salvo fired against the likes of Mazda and Kia, with the long-awaited Yeti compact SUV and the return of the Roomster wagon set to expose the Czech brand to new consumers in two of the more popular segments in this country over the next 12 months.

Skoda Group Australia last week unveiled a revised corporate logo and livery at the Australian International Motor Show in Melbourne.

Company head Matthew Wiesner also revealed to GoAuto plans to increase Skoda’s current 55 per cent representation of the new passenger and SUV market to about 80 per cent by 2014, on the back of a completely revamped model range.

 center imageFrom top: Head of Skoda Matthew Wiesner, Skoda Fabia, Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo interior, Skoda Yeti.

As well as doubling sales from about 1650 annually to over 3000 by the end of 2012, Skoda expects its newcomers to attract a far greater proportion of younger and female buyers.

Currently the ageing Octavia and offbeat Superb have managed to carve a small niche for themselves in the premium end of their respective medium and large markets, predominantly with an older demographic.

Besides the long-awaited Yeti due in September, which Mr Wiesner expects will easily become the top-selling Skoda in this country, the Roomster will return in the new year with revised styling, a 1.2 TSI four-cylinder turbo petrol engine and DSG dual-clutch transmission as standard, for about $25,000.

DSG, wagon and RS 132 TSI performance versions of the upcoming Fabia should also help the VW Polo-based baby fulfil its potential as a versatile and interesting light-car contender.

Even bigger news will be the release of what may be Skoda’s most important model to date for Australia – a four-door sedan and elongated five-door liftback in the mould of the Mazda3.

Due to be unveiled in concept car form at this year’s Frankfurt motor show in September, with Australian sales slated from about mid-2013 at the latest, the production version of the still-secret Skoda small car will probably leverage platform technology from the next-generation Volkswagen Golf.

The company’s Vision D concept car displayed at this year’s Geneva motor show is thought to be a close approximation of what the styling will be like – although the overall proportions are expected to change.

Like the Octavia and Superb, the as-yet unnamed C-segment player is designed to provide class-leading passenger space, practicality, standout styling and a high value quotient within its segment structure to help differentiate it from competition from outside as well as within the Volkswagen group of brands.

By the middle of this decade, the next-generation – and well-overdue – Octavia will arrive, growing in size to reflect its newfound positioning against rivals such as the Ford Mondeo while providing enough breathing space for the C-segment small car.

Intriguingly, the smallest VW Group vehicle to date – the VW Up – is also expected to spawn a Skoda version and will be under serious consideration for Australia.

Head of international sales Christian Wiegel – who was also in Melbourne to present the company’s new-look branding and line-up – told us the so-called Skoda “City Car” will present a unique opportunity for the company to seize young car buyers.

“If it becomes available, we would like to do it for sure,” he said.

“We think Australia is very urbanised and so it would be good to get in early with a car like that, to help us build and lead that market.

“It will help keep Skoda relevant – and to stay relevant you have to provide a broader range of models like that.”

Nevertheless, Mr Wiegel agreed with Mr Wiesner that the mainstream sedan and hatchback to compete head-on in the Corolla class will be the making of Skoda in Australia.

“In relevant terms we need a Mazda3 basically,” he said. “We need to be represented in the biggest market in the world.”

Finally, while Mr Wiegel admitted that Skoda’s 2007 relaunch was hampered by a lack of sufficient product choices, Australia’s emergence as a million-plus market means that all models from now on will be engineered with Australia in mind.

“From now on Australia will feature in the development of all future models,” he said.

“To be honest, Australia was a bit of a sideshow. Now that has changed. And I will deliver to the (VW/Skoda) board myself. I have met all the dealers. And you will see the changes already within in a couple of months.”
What's coming fromSkoda:
Fabia TSI hatch August
Fabia Monte CarloAugust
Fabia DSGQ1 2012
Fabia RS 132 TSIQ1 2012
Fabia wagonQ1 2012
Roomster TSI DSGQ1 2012
C-segment hatch2013
City car2013
Octavia III2014

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