ŠKODA’s sales continue to rise. That’s the message that was provided in July 2018, as the manufacturer delivered nearly 100,000 vehicles to customers across the world that month. It represented a 14.6% increase on sales in the same month compared to the previous year, with growth in Russia sitting at nearly 25%. That followed an 11.6% global growth between January and June. The ŠKODA Octavia still proves the most popular by a long way too, with 30,700 sold in July.
But, for a car brand that has previously been held in low esteem, how has the company managed to improve their reputation and continue their growth?
The beginning of ŠKODA
ŠKODA was created in 1925 in the Czech Republic following the merging of Laurin & Klement Co and Pizen Skodovka Co. The early 1930s proved to be a difficult period for the brand, but their fortunes changed following the introduction of the Type A ŠKODA Popular. This lightweight design was available for a great price and served as a reliable utility vehicle, including being used as a delivery van and ambulance.
Following the end of the Second World War, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic and Slovakia) fell 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.
They fell so far behind in fact that, at times, the manufacturer was a source of ridicule in the UK. So much so that comedian Jasper Carrott targeted the company on a large number of 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!”
While they struggled, the brand continued selling a mid-60s saloon into 1990. Another model that came into criticism for being mediocre was the ‘all-new’ Favorit in 1987. However, despite its obvious constraints, many believe that this was the model to bring about interest from Volkswagen.
The era of new driving
New market economy conditions were brought into play following 1989’s political changes and the bringing down of the Berlin Wall. 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.
Volkswagen realised that ŠKODA was a great way to sell in the emerging Eastern European and Russian markets, with many locals at the time 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.
Top Gear Magazine and Auto Express has previously named cars from ŠKODA as Britain’s favourite. 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.
They continued to win awards in the years that followed and in 2018, the Octavia was voted by What Car? as being the best family car. 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.
Currently, the brand covers most popular segments of the market, starting with the small Citigo city car and leading up to the larger Kodiaq. 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 Volkswagen’s car brand has struggled in the US market, it’s even been suggested that the ŠKODA badge and brand could be used as a way to bolster the group’s offerings stateside.
It’s clear to see that the Volkswagen Group have worked well to ensure that the ŠKODA brand didn’t cease to exist like so many others have 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.