Skoda re­jects ‘bud­get’ la­bel

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Motoring -

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.

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