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Skoda’s slow sellers pick up the pace

Small hauler: The Fabia wagon has been more popular than Skoda Australia executives thought and it now commands between 40 and 50 per cent of all Fabia sales.

Fabia, Superb and even Rapid gain ground for Skoda in Australia

Skoda logo6 Jun 2017

By TIM NICHOLSON

SOME of Skoda’s slowest selling models have started to gain traction in Australia, with the Czech car-maker benefiting from better supply from the factory and shifting market conditions Down Under.

Its Fabia light hatch and wagon range, the Superb large liftback and wagon and even the virtually invisible Rapid have all reversed their fortunes in recent months, with the Fabia getting a boost from improved supply from its Czech factory following stock shortages that hampered its growth when it was launched in mid 2015.

In the first five months of this year, Skoda has sold 502 Fabias, representing a 28.1 per cent increase over the same period last year.

In May, its 126-unit haul was 50 per cent ahead of the same month in 2016. Year to date, the Fabia is the only light car in Australia in positive territory, up 28 per cent to the end of May, with all other offerings, including the top selling Hyundai Accent and Mazda2, going backwards.

Last year’s haul of 857 units was the best result for Fabia since it launched in Australia in second-generation guise in September 2011, but the little city car is on track to beat that convincingly this year.

Skoda Australia director Michael Irmer said the recent sales boost for the Fabia was largely down to supply, but said there was more opportunity for growth for its Mazda2 rival.

“We got better supply now and could emphasise it a bit more,” he told GoAuto at the launch of the Kodiaq SUV last week. “Don’t forget we haven’t been advertising in the last two years mainly because we just haven’t had enough supply. Now we have got a bit more and it is good. It is enjoying a healthy level of sales.

“I think, of course we can grow further. It is all about the focus. You can’t try to do everything and expect everything is going to be perfect. If you try too many things, something is going to give. What we focus our activities on this year is all about Kodiaq, last year was all about Superb.”

Despite the lift, the Fabia is still at the back of the light-car pack, only edging out the likes of the Honda City sedan (380), the Toyota Prius C (318), and the slow-selling MG3 hatch (26) so far this year.

Mr Irmer said the real surprise with the Fabia has been the popularity of the wagon.

“In the previous generation it was 10 per cent. We planned for 20 per cent (with current generation), we are selling between 40-50 per cent wagons. We have had times when less than half the dealers had the vehicle on showroom floors. They were all sold before landing. The wagon is really popular.” While sales of the Rapid hatchback are still low compared with its rivals in the massive small-car segment, it has lifted by 4.5 per cent to 140 units so far this year.

Mr Irmer said poor supply in the first quarter has now freed up and said the incoming facelift should also give it a boost.

“It is about focus. We have to focus on other models this year. The numbers are exactly as planned. As you know in this segment, the numbers are very low, but it is a matter of focus and priorities and we have set other models on priority.

“It is in a good spot, we have the facelift coming soon.”

Despite the low sales numbers for Rapid, Mr Irmer said it was important to have an offering in Australia’s small-car segment.

“In the long run, 100 per cent it is important. Because there will be a next generation of it and I think there is opportunity there, let’s put it that way.”

The updated version is likely to be offered in Australia with the company’s 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine when it arrives in the third quarter of the year.

Mr Irmer said that the mid-size Octavia had a successful run out campaign ahead of the launch of the facelifted version, with the company running out of stock.

“Octavia was very strong in run out. We ran dry on Octavia stock. Now with new car, dealers were screaming ‘we want Octavia stock’ but we literally have none available.

“We have emotional discussions about can we have more, but if you realise now that you need more cars, it will take about four or five months until we have them in the country. So obviously not all customers are willing to wait so you lose a bit of business.” The Superb appears to be picking up at least some business in the large segment on the back of the demise of the locally built Ford Falcon and the imminent loss of the Aussie Holden Commodore.

In a segment that is down by 21.8 per cent in the first five months of this year, Superb sales have increased by 78 per cent to 386 units, outpacing other lower volume offerings including the Hyundai Genesis (64) and Peugeot 508 (53).

The all-new Superb arrived in March last year and was given a further boost this year with the arrival of the sporty Sportline that Mr Irmer says has the potential to be the best-selling variant in the Superb range.

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