Skoda rejects ‘budget’ label
Skoda Australia director Michael Irmer has rejected persistent suggestions the Czech carmaker is the ‘budget brand’ of the Volkswagen Group, pointing to figures that reveal high take-up of flagship variants and research that shows most buyers earn a higherthan-average income.
Mr Irmer admitted that a trend towards buying the top variant was rare globally, but insisted Australians had a different perception of the Skoda brand compared with other markets.
“Being called a budget brand is kind of not true for Australia at this point in time,” he said.
“That might evolve over the years, but at the moment the buyer profile is probably people who want to be different – people who want the same as you get in a Volkswagen or in some of the lower versions of luxury brands, or other German brands. But it’s sensible. Then you quite quickly figure it’s actually phenomenal value that you really struggle to find elsewhere in the market.”
Value as a distinction from low price has driven Skoda growth, according to Mr Irmer, who said a typical buyer was university educated, had a skilled career and could afford premium vehicles.
“The buying decision budget reasons,” he said.
“We see a very high level of people with university degrees. The level of university degrees is the secondhighest of any brand in Australia.
“That hasn’t to do with Skoda having a luxury buyer. It has to do with the early adopters having options for this area.
“You see this in the extreme highmodel is not for mixes. We have the same in Superb. We have the same in Kodiaq. All those cars are basically literally selling only the top of the range. This is not like this in other markets.”
According to Skoda, the RS makes up more than 50 percent of Octavia volume, and the single most popular variant is the more expensive RS wagon with optional automatic DSG and at least one further option package.
Similarly, the flagship 206TSI has snared 40 percent of Superb sales, 60 percent of which are wagons, and ‘almost all’ of which are fully optioned.
Even 80 percent of single specification – until the arrival of the diesel 140TDI this month – Kodiaq 132TSI sales have been fully optioned examples.
“And why is that?,” Mr Irmer said. “These are people who are conscious of decision makers. He could well afford a BMW. He could well afford a Mercedes-benz. He chooses to not do that, and he might have his own reasons.
“He doesn’t want to be seen as a certain demographic. He just likes to fly a little bit under the radar.
“He still wants to have all the perks of a car and all these goodies and all that. I think it’s safe to say, and buyers also like to be a bit different.”
Mr Irmer said that while it was important for Skoda to distinguish itself from Volkswagen in terms of price, equipment and character, a 90 percent conquest rate from other brands showed it did not have to be a sole focus.
“Ninety percent of our buyers are switching from other brands to Skoda, 90 percent every single month we conquest other brands,” he said.
“That is not normal, because normally you have 60 percent conquest and about 40 percent repeat. We only have 10 percent.
“It shows what a great achievement 5000 annual sales in 2017 is.
“It might, from a distance, not look that much, but consider that out of 500 sales we do in a month, 450 would come from other brands, from a whole heap of different brands.”
TOP SPEC: According to Skoda, more than 50 percent of Octavia volume is for the range-topping RS, with a skew towards the wagon variant.