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Skoda jets in

Plane sailing: Skoda's Octavia sedan and and Fabia hatch landed in Australia last week.

The Volkswagen-owned Skoda is ready to return to Australia

Skoda logo5 Dec 2001

By MALCOLM LIVERMORE

SKODA has touched down in Australia.

The Volkswagen-owned Czech car-maker will return Down Under after an 18-year absence if a technical evaluation proves successful.

Its two most popular models, the Fabia hatch and Octavia sedan, were jetted in last week and will be nursed through the Australian Design Rule process by Volkswagen Group Australia (VGA).

Barring no major hiccups, the budget European brand will be back in Australia within 12 months and sold through a new nationwide retail network. VGA would provide logistical and technical support.

VGA managing director Peter Nochar said all new generation Skoda models would be considered for sale, including the recently released Superb medium-large sedan.

He predicted annual volume could reach 10,000 within five years.

Volkswagen hopes to divide and conquer

MULTI-BRAND auto giant Volkswagen AG will divide its passenger car operations into two divisions in an attempt better differentiate between its core marques.

Ratified by the supervisory board late last month, the new structure will push Lamborghini and Seat into a sports division headed by Audi and leave Volkswagen responsible for a "classic" group with the Bentley, Bugatti and Skoda brands included.

To take effect from January 1, 2002, the restructure will also bring with it new personnel at the top of each brand group.

Volkswagen's current product development chief Martin Winterkorn will replace Franz-Josef Paefgen as Audi chairman (effective March 1), while Volkswagen AG chairman-designate Bernd Pischetsrieder - who succeeds Ferdinand Piech as chief executive next April - will head up the so-called classic division.

Dr Paefgen, who has presided over Audi since 1997 and is a 21-year veteran with the German auto-maker, was named chairman of the board of Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motor Cars Limited. The former position will expire on December 31, 2001, when BMW AG takes control of Rolls-Royce.

Dr Paefgen will also oversee the research and motorsport activities of all the Volkswagen brands.

Each marque within the empire will retain its differentiated brand image and will operate as a separate entity in the marketplace.

Though the restructure should not have much impact on Australia in the short term, it is expected to influence new-model development.

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