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'Dynamic' Skoda looks to bright future


Large-scale offensive aims to take 4 percent of the market

Dynamic and emotional, that's what Winfried Vahland, chairman of Skoda Auto, wants to deliver to Chinese consumers of the brand.

"It's our future track. Skoda is one of the only four existed automobile brands born before 1900. I believe the brand will be more emotional, confident and dynamic," said Vahland.

"We will have a stronger voice to make our target clear."

The Czech brand - also a part of the Volkswagen Group - changed its brand positioning from low profile to aggressive through a series moves in product design, technology and customer communications.

The launch of the new concept car VisionC - developed by a team led by Skoda's chief designer Jozef Kaban -is a demonstration of such a change.

Vahland said that the VisionC concept solution developed at Skoda's headquarters also "fits for the Chinese market".

"The five-door coupe features expressive styling and dynamic elegance and Chinese consumers will see the similar design elements in locally produced Fabia and Superb models in the future," said Vahland.

In 2013 China was Skoda's largest market with 227,000 vehicles snapped up across the country.

This was a slight decline from 235,700 units in 2012 - the best year in history due to product updates.

However, "we are still on the move to our target of selling 500,000 units in China in 2015, with aggressive new product offensive", said Vahland.

Product offerings

The former president and CEO of Volkswagen Group China, Vahland hoped to accelerate the brand's development in China, "first in product offerings".

After localization of Rapid and Yeti in 2013, the new Octavia will start production in Shanghai in the first half of the year and is set for launch in mid-2014.

"In the second half, we will also launch Rapid Spaceback to China, another model with high expectation," said Vahland.

"And in the future, the speed of product offering in China will further catch up with the timeline in Europe."


He told China Daily that Skoda's current performance has already beat his expectation.

"This year we will have six products in China. And we plan to develop a new SUV, larger than Yeti, in 2016 and bring it to China in early 2017. With this product portfolio, we target to occupy 3 to 4 percent of the passenger vehicle market," said Vahland.

Besides new product offerings, Vahland said that promising dealers' profitability is also key to Skoda's development in China.

"Thus, I strongly believe that Skoda will have a long-termbright future in China," he added.

Plug-in hybrid

"Hybrid is one of the major directions for Skoda's new-energy vehicle development," said Vahland.

"We will first equip the system with the Octavias, Superbs, and also our SUVs."

Vahland said he thinks it is not yet time for pure-electric vehicles.

"Development of electrics in China has not achieved what the industry expected several years before."

"In my opinion, plug-in hybrid is a feasible solution at present," he said.

Currently, pure electrics usually travel about 150 km at a full charge.

"In 10 years, the battery capacity will increase 2.5 to 3 times to extend a one-charge travel distance to 300 to 400 km. At that time, the battery cost will also be reduced by 50 percent. That's the time for wide use of pure electrics," said Vahland.

He said Skoda is making efforts to further consider Chinese consumer behavior and requirements throughout new energy vehicle development.

The new Octavia

Skoda is launching the company's largest-scale car offensive of all time

As its most important model, the new Octavia has achieved great success in the international market since it was globally unveiled in 2013.

Since 1996, when the first Skoda Octavia was released, more than 4.14 million models have been delivered to customers around the globe, making Octavia the best-selling model under the Skoda brand.

"The Octavia is the heart of our brand, which embodies the outstanding achievements of Skoda and has made Skoda the successful company it is today," said Vahland.

Restyled by chief designer Kaban and his team, the third-generation Octavia has the largest space, lightest weight, best safety performance, greatest practicality, greatest comfort and most eco-friendly performance of any Octavia ever produced, according to the company.

The Octavia is also the best-selling model of Skoda in China. Since entering the Chinese market in 2007, more than 680,000 Skoda Octavia models have been sold.

"The local production of new Octavia as well as Rapid Spaceback, demonstrates that Skoda attaches great importance to China, the company's largest single market.

"We will continue to bring Chinese consumers products with globally leading technologies and excellent Skoda quality," said Andreas Hafemann, president of Skoda China.



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