Slow sales don’t scare Skoda
Czech carmaker holds it nerve to focus on brand management, writes NEIL McDONALD
THE Czech brand Skoda will not crack 1000 sales this year, but it is far from defeated. Skoda Australia chief Matthew Wiesner says the brand has been laying the groundwork, appointing dealers and developing its marketing message against a ‘‘perfect storm’’ of rising fuel prices, interest-rate shocks and domestic economic uncertainty.
Originally forecasting 2000 to 3000 sales in its first full year, the company has been caught out by the rapidly changing automotive scene and the economy.
But Wiesner is pleased with the brand’s performance and remains upbeat.
‘‘In times like these you need to focus on the brand,’’ he says. ‘‘You need to hold your mettle. The things that worked five years ago don’t work today.’’
The Skoda nameplate is well recognised by Australians, with 60 per cent of intended buyers aware of the brand, he says.
About 60 per cent of sales have been the range-topping RS sedan and wagon and 2.0-litre TDI Octavia models.
‘‘They’re more than $35,000, which is a vote of confidence, but it means we have a bit more work to do on the entry end of the range, mainly Octavia,’’ he says. ‘‘Obviously that’s where there’s more opportunity from a volume perspective, but that’s also where there is some stiff Japanese competition.’’
First, is streamlining the Octavia range to reduce complexity.
The 110kW/200Nm 2.0-litre FSI petrol engine is being dropped, replaced by the 118kW/250Nm 1.8-litre TFSI with six-speed manual and, from next year, a seven-speed DSG gearbox.
Weisner says the company is toying with a ‘‘different entry engine strategy’’ for the brand. ‘‘But it has to be a streamlined process to make it work,’’ he says.
So far Skoda has launched the quirky Roomster wagon and Octavia sedan and wagon and, last week, the Octavia Scout allwheel-drive wagon.
The luxury $40,000 Superb sedan arrives next year and Weisner says the Fabia hatch light car is a contender, if the price is right.
But Weisner says the Fabia would need to be priced right yet well equipped to survive in the local sub-$20,000 light-car class.
Wiesner says the Scout will help accelerate the Czech name among compact off-roader buyers, particularly as it is one of the few compact off-roaders with a turbodiesel.
Skoda has sold only 527 vehicles this year, through 20 dealers, half of which sell VWs too. With the arrival of the Scout, Skoda expects to reach 850 sales this year.
Czech it out: the luxury $40,000 Skoda Superb arrives in Australia next year.