Saved by Volkswagen, from the ruins of the iron curtain, this Czech brand is today a flagship company for the Group. With the new Superb all set to break cover, autoX reveals this luxury sedan before its launch.
Skoda and Rolls-Royce have one thing in common – a built-in umbrella holder in the rear door of their cars. The flagship model of this Czech carmaker, the Superb, can be proud of this feature since its launch in 2011. As improbable as it may appear, Skoda can benefit from the similarities between the most aristocratic of British brands – especially as it keeps struggling to shake off the grey patina of socialism, despite a century old tradition. And yet, in the 1930s, Skoda’s were proudly parked in front of aristocrats’ villas.
The new Skoda Superb, which will arrive in 2015, will look more elegant and imposing – it’ll also have a wider track to increase its presence on the road. In 2016, it’ll be the turn of the Snowman (as it’s known for now) – a full-size SUV, capable of seating up to seven passengers
But things are changing now. After going through a consolidation period in the last two decades, and now with the image of a high quality car manufacturer, thanks to the synergies with the Volkswagen Group (which acquired it in 1991), the Czech brand is ready to take another step forward in an effort to reclaim a part of its old glory. Besides its most well known models, such as the Octavia, Skoda is now ready to launch the next generation Superb within the next year to replace the current model. In 2016, a new model will follow – a large sport utility vehicle.
AIMING FOR THE SKY
These two models are part of a bold product strategy that’s been in implementation for the last two years – aimed at selling 1.5 million units (from the 921,000 in 2013) by the end of 2018. This incremental target for Skoda is part of Volkswagen AG’s ambitious plan to become the worlds’ largest car manufacturer.
But it’s not just a matter of volumes. The Czech company is also reinventing itself. As is already evident with the current Octavia, and now with the new Fabia, the carmaker is raising the bar in order to make a visual impact on the customer and convey a sense that Skoda has a distinctive and substantial range of products.
The MQB architecture underpins the new VW Passat, and will also be the platform for the third generation of the Skoda Superb. Size and length will be almost the same, but it’ll be lower and wider. It’ll also have an Estate version in some markets as well (below).
The next-gen models – the new Superb and an all-new sports utility, called the Snowman – will emphasize this transition and reinforce their status. And this status is already reflecting on the balance sheet, with 7% profitability in the world market in the first half of 2014. The brand will obviously attempt to hold onto its traditional functionality, while adding a touch of emotion as well.
Of course, Skoda has benefited greatly due to the flexibility of the MQB platform. And this was on display in the form of the new Volkswagen Passat at the Paris Motor Show – with new and more slender proportions, which the Skoda Superb will take inspiration from. As for the SUV, those who anticipated a medium-sized model, slightly bigger than the Skoda Yeti, should re-evaluate their forecasts. The Snowman is a full-sized SUV, which can optionally accommodate seven passengers (or, more realistically, a five plus two configuration). This would also leave space for a probable future launch of an intermediate model.
The Snowman is the Yeti’s bigger sibling. The Snowman’s length is around 4.8 meters. It’s based on the MQB platform, which will also equip the next generation of the Volkswagen Tiguan – including a 7-seater model.
THE NEW RICHES OF THE EAST
Skoda’s current range is tipped to be expanded. According to a Skoda insider, for the next few years, the Czech carmaker envisages launching a new car every six months – including new and face-lifted models.
Back in 2010, there were five cars in Skoda’s catalogue. Today there are already seven (see the chart on the right), and they might become eight or nine within a couple of years – without counting variants. The growth drivers are the new markets. Skoda continues to have a stronghold on Western Europe, but the share of sales in the old continent is projected to drop from 63% in 2010 to 40% in 2018. By then, Russians, Chinese and Indians are expected to become more than half of Skoda’s total customers.
The Skoda brand was synonymous with something noble in the first decades of the century. Not everybody knows that the name Superb dates back to a time when it defined a family of prestigious vehicles, showcasing different body styles – from the sedan to the limousine, and the cabriolet. The cars came with six and eight-cylinder engines, and were manufactured from 1936 till the German occupation in 1939.
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