Skoda NZ general manager Greg Leet says the aim of his “robust growth strategy” is to secure by 2020 around 2% of this country’s new passenger car market, or sales of upwards of 2000 units.
To do so he has to more than double current sales over the next five years. Big ask? Not out of the question, god willing and the creeks don’t rise. After all, Skoda has done that and more over the past five years.
Motor Industry Association records show Skoda sales:
- 2009 – 237
- 2010 – 254
- 2011 – 512
- 2012 – 581
- 2013 – 690
- 2014 – 735, that’s at the end of October.
In five years and 10 months Skoda has gone from selling 20 cars a month in NZ to more than 70. The big sales jump was in 2011. This year Leet expects to sell around 800 units. Next year he wants to crack 1000, helped by the arrival of the new small Fabia and larger Superb. In 2017, Skoda’s seven-seat SUV joins the line-up.
Leet, 46, is the new general manager of Skoda NZ, just two months into the job after 20 years in the industry, including four as sales chief of Audi NZ. He knows that in order to reach his 2020 target, he has to somehow convince NZ buyers that Skoda isn’t just another spoke in the Volkswagen Group wheel of fortune.
Leet admits that sharing the same showroom with VW can “inhibit” Skoda sales. “People will walk straight past Skoda and go to VW,” he says. “We have to move Skoda away from the VW brand.” In short, Leet wants to give Skoda an identity all its own.
He could perhaps look to the Swiss watch industry. For decades Tudor lived in the shadow of its illustrious parent Rolex. Tudor was a brand you might look at if you couldn’t stump up for a Rolex. Tudor watches had Rolex build quality but used bought-in movements. Then some design and branding whizzkids arrived at Tudor and made what had been a complicated link with Rolex uncomplicated. The result: watches that people bought because they were Tudors.
That’s pretty much the scenario Leet is faced with … where people will buy Skodas because they are Skodas. Skoda has VW build quality and shares its architecture and internals with pretty much everything VW. But, roughly side by side in the showroom, like Tudor was with Rolex, Skoda is a distant cousin.
Not out on the road, however. Okay, model-for-model VW has the edge in ride/handling dynamics and refinement. But there is much about Skoda to like, especially its latest entry, the Octavia Scout. It’s a higher-riding all-wheel-drive station wagon whose main rival is likely to be the Subaru Outback.
There are three such models in the Octavia range of sedans and wagons, the most popular nameplate in the Skoda range. The standard Octavia wagon has ground clearance of 120mm; add the optional Rough Road suspension package and clearance rises to 154mm. The Scout rides higher again, at 171mm. It does, as its name suggests, come well prepared as a town and country provider and its styled bumpers and skid plates emphasise the higher ride height.
Scout has an appealing simplicity, inside and out. The extra ride height affects dynamics pushing on, but that’s not what the wagon is about. It is what it is: an uncomplicated carry-all with straight-forward controls around a big centre screen in the dash, and plenty of room front and rear. Fold down the second row of seats and Scout can swallow a maximum 1740 litres of luggage.
There are two models: one available now ($49,990) with a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine making 135kW/380Nm and driving all four wheels via a six-speed double-clutch automatic gearbox. The other arrives next April, priced at $48,200 and using a 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine generating 132kW/280Nm via the same DSG gearbox and Haldex four-paw system.
- The diesel Scout averaged 6.4 litres/100km (44mpg) over a 106km route that took in motorway, sealed country roads, and 16km of metal surfaces north of Auckland.