ŠKODA: A Story of Growth
Sales at ŠKODA are on the up. That was the message in July this year, as the Czech car manufacturer delivered almost 100,000 new cars to global customers that month.The figure represented a rise of 14.6% in sales in the same month compared to July the year before, with the Russian market seeing almost 25% growth,following an 11.6% worldwide growth between January and June. In terms of vehicles, the ŠKODA Octavia is on top for popularity by quite a considerable margin, 30,700 models sold in July alone.
But, for a brand that was once been held in low esteem in the past, how has the company gone about managing their improving reputation and continued growth as a result?
Back in 1925, ŠKODA was born, following the merging of Laurin & Klement Co and Pizen Skodovka Co. in the Czech Republic. The early 1930’s proved to be a difficult period for the brand, but their fortunes changed following the introduction of the Type A ŠKODA Popular. This light weight design was available for a great price and served as a reliable utility vehicle, including being used as a delivery van and ambulance.
Post-WW2, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic and Slovakia) had fallen under Communist rule. This led to the car manufacturing side of the ŠKODA Works group becoming a separate entity.Unfortunately, this meant that money became sparse and it was impossible to arrange deals with non-Communist countries. By the 1960s, ŠKODA vehicles fell behind their foreign rivals.
This fall was so great that, at times, the car maker was a common source for ridicule in the UK. So much so that comedian Jasper Carrott targeted the company on many occasions to be the butt of his jokes. An example quip that gained attention was: “what do you call a ŠKODA with a sunroof? A skip!”
During their struggle, Skoda continued to sell a mid-1960s saloon as late as 1990. Another model that came into criticism for being mediocre was the ‘all-new’ Favorite in 1987. However, despite its obvious constraints, many believe that this was the model to bring about interest from Volkswagen.
A new driving era
Following significant political changes in the late 1980s, including the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, new market economy conditions were brought into play. In a bid to secure ŠKODA’s long-term international competitiveness, the Czech Republic government, alongside the car manufacturer’s management, began searching for a strong foreign partner. In 1990, ŠKODA became the fourth brand in the Volkswagen Group, alongside Volkswagen, SEAT and Audi in a move that has taken the brand from strength to strength.
VW quickly cottoned on that using the ŠKODA brand was the perfect way to sell vehicles in Eastern Europe and Russia as these were not only emerging markets, they were also full of locals who at the time were staunchly against buying German models. This meant that billions were poured into the Mlada Boleslav ŠKODA factory in a bid to turn it into the finest car plant in Europe.
Both Auto Express and Top Gear magazines have previously certain ŠKODA models as the UK’s favourite car. In 2010, Which? also announced ŠKODA as the world’s best car manufacturer. The survey monitored customer satisfaction, build quality and after-sales service, with the brand outscoring everyone else.
The years that followed saw the firm continue winning awards and in 2018, the Octavia was voted best family car by What Car? magazine. The SUPERB 2.0 TDI 150 SE Technology won the accolade for best estate car and best executive car for less than £25,000 too.
The brand currently covers most popular segments of the car market, ranging from the tiny Citigo city car up to the larger Kodiaq SUV. All vehicles stick to the concept of being ‘affordable luxury’ and are closely related to other Volkswagen Group products, just normally at a cheaper price.
While the Volkswagen car brand has struggled to gain a strong foot hold among the American market, it’s even been suggested that the ŠKODA badge and brand could be used as a means of bolstering the group’s offerings across the pond. Clearly, one can see that the Volkswagen Group have worked hard in ensuring that the ŠKODA brand didn’t cease to exist like a larger number others over the years. Instead, they have turned the company’s fortunes around and helped continue the growth of the brand — establishing its reputation as building solid, reliable and cost-effective cars.