Skoda plans SUV offensive to build stronger presence in hottest sector

Updated 2016-11-21 14:52:44 China Daily
Skoda shows its SUV Kodiaq at the Paris auto show on Sept 29, 2016. (Photo by Li Fusheng/chinadaily.com.cn)

Skoda shows its SUV Kodiaq at the Paris auto show on Sept 29, 2016. (Photo by Li Fusheng/chinadaily.com.cn)

Czech carmaker Skoda Auto has set a goal of doubling its China sales within four years as it introduces a number of sport utility vehicles into the country's fastest-growing automotive segment.

Werner Eichhorn, Skoda's board member of sales and marketing, said on Nov 17 its sales this year in China will exceed 300,000 units, and will reach 600,000 units by the end of 2020.

The automaker had sold 257,000 units in the country by the end of October, already exceeding its total sales in 2015. The first salvo of the SUV offensive is the Kodiaq, which made its Chinese premiere on Nov 18 at the ongoing Auto Guangzhou 2016.

Eichhorn said the automaker is taking a top-down approach in China by first introducing Kodiaq, the best of the Skoda models, to the country.

The all-functional model, unveiled in Berlin, Germany, in September, is named after the world's largest subspecies of brown bear, implying its powerful engine performance and bold, muscular design.

The car, which has five-seat and seven-seat variants, sports a 1.8T or 2.0T engine. It has the segment's longest wheelbase at 2,791 millimeters and widest body at 1,883 mm.

Skoda said the Kodiaq will be localized at SAIC Volkswagen and will hit the Chinese market in the second quarter of 2017.

Michael Arndt, executive director of Skoda's sales business at the joint venture, said the model would be followed by the all-new Yeti, a Kodiaq-based coupe, and a crossover utility vehicle, making China the first market to offer four Skoda SUV models.

Skoda started localization in China at SAIC Volkswagen in 2007 and became a shareholder of the joint venture earlier this year.

Starting in July, the words that Skoda cars bear on their rear changed from "Shanghai Volkswagen" to "SAIC Skoda".

The brand has suffered from an obscure image in past years, with many believing incorrectly that Skoda was merely the name of a model from SAIC Volkswagen.

Andreas Hafemann, president of Skoda China, said the joint venture's three shareholders -- SAIC Motor, Volkswagen AG and Skoda -- will invest 15 billion yuan (.2 billion) in five years to introduce more models, including SUVs and new energy vehicles.

Skoda is also planning to expand its current China sales network of 400 dealerships, with a special focus on smaller cities where there is greater potential than in eastern and coastal markets.

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