Slow sales don’t scare Skoda

Czech car­maker holds it nerve to fo­cus on brand man­age­ment, writes NEIL McDON­ALD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

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.

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