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Skoda plans Rapid model expansion

Rapid evolution: The current Rapid will be replaced soon by an all-new model that will likely be underpinned by the ubiquitous Volkswagen Group MGB platform.

Rapid in but Kodiaq RS out of Skoda Australia’s new product strategy

13 Dec 2017

SKODA Australia has detailed its new-model roadmap extending beyond 2020, with at least 10 new or updated additions expected to join the local line-up including the debut of a small SUV and a cohort of electric vehicles (EVs).

The Volkswagen Group-owned car-maker will follow up the introduction of a styling-pack-only Kodiaq Sportline SUV in April next year with its critical Karoq medium SUV in June, all before an updated Fabia light car in August.

Skoda Australia has tentatively pencilled in the yet-to-be-revealed Kodiaq RS sports flagship for a November arrival, with a new Rapid small hatch, facelifted Superb large car and Karoq Sportline confirmed for a 2019 launch.

In 2020 a sub-Karoq small SUV, new Octavia and unnamed “electric vehicles” will come on stream.

Skoda Australia director Michael Irmer highlighted the 2019 Rapid as the next critical expansion point following the Karoq, and promised that the next-generation small hatch would be worth the wait.

“We have way more potential with Rapid,” Mr Irmer told GoAuto at the national media launch of the Octavia RS245 on the New South Wales Central Coast last week.

“But we’ll wait for the next generation (because) the one thing I can say is it’ll be a big step ahead. We can expect that to give the car a decent lift up. It will be way more suitable for building the brand image as more premium.

“We will take the Rapid to the next level with the next generation which is not that far away.”

Where the existing Rapid five-door hatch (and four-door sedan overseas) has been built on a stretched and adapted PQ25 platform, shared with the outgoing Volkswagen Polo, the new model will switch to the flexible MQB platform beneath the next Polo, the Golf, and Skoda’s Octavia and Kodiaq, among others.

Mr Irmer refused to be drawn into further details about the Rapid, however he promised the new car “will be like chalk and cheese” compared to the current model.

 center imageLeft: Skoda Australia director Michael Irmer

With the Octavia medium liftback starting in Australia at $23,490 plus on-road costs, however, Mr Irmer admitted that the next Rapid must still be competitively priced just above Fabia, despite the push upmarket.

“The Fabia hatch and the Rapid hatch are two very, very big segments,” he said.

“We’re trying to be distinct in the way we present the vehicles. I mean you need to make sure it (Rapid) works nicely with Fabia here, and then Octavia there, (but) I cannot give too much away.”

The small car segment remains the largest in the country with an 18.5 per cent share of the new-vehicle market eclipsing the second-placed medium SUV class by two percentage points.

However the current Rapid has, according to VFACTS November figures, captured just 0.2 per cent of its segment year-to-date, well off the Octavia’s 4.5 per cent share of the medium car class.

Although Mr Irmer did not announce details of other future models, it was expected the small SUV would twin with the Volkswagen T-Roc to give Skoda a third entrant below the Karoq and Kodiaq in the expanding SUV market.

A next Octavia was also too far away to discuss, however as previously reported the chance of a Kodiaq RS arriving locally has been slim. Now, however, the Skoda Australia director revealed that the chances have become even slimmer.

“It (Kodiaq RS) is globally confirmed, but it’s unconfirmed for any country which falls under hot climate zone, which is included of Australia,” he said.

“We are fighting for it but there is a slim chance that we get it.”

The Kodiaq RS is tipped to utilise a 500Nm 2.0-litre twin-turbocharged diesel four-cylinder as used in overseas versions of the Volkswagen Passat and others.

However GoAuto understands the engine has not been approved to work at maximum loads in hot climates, which is why it has not been offered here.

“It has to do with the cooling system, it is designed to work on the steepest hills, the heaviest trailer with a full load in the car and the maximum temperature you can think of and not overheat under those conditions,” Mr Irmer revealed.

“This is the engineering requirement for any of the cars. For that reason I think it (Kodiaq RS) to be unlikely.”

The Octavia RS has secured a cult following in Australia, and it accounts for the highest percentage of total Octavia sales globally, which is why Skoda Australia is pleading for the Kodiaq RS.

“It’s something you passionately fight about, I can assure you every time we can be having arguments about that,” he added.

“It (discussions) is not yet over (but) I personally would put that chance as slim.”

In a further blow for local fans of an RS-badged performance medium SUV, Australia has been all but ruled out of contention for the Kodiaq RS but New Zealand has not, “because it’s cooler”.

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