“We want to attract some younger buyers in their 20s and models like the Fabia VRS are helping us do that,” says Chris Craft, Skoda UK director.
Skoda sales hit a plateau in 2003 (36,548 units, 1.42% market share) after a decade of strong growth which saw sales quadruple, but Craft is confident that with the next generation Octavia – hatchback due in October, the estate next year – the brand can expect renewed interest, especially from the user-chooser market.
“We expect a lot of loyalty from existing Octavia drivers and we also see a big opportunity in the user-chooser market. We offer a car with upper-medium space in a lower-medium sector,” he says.
Second-generation cars like the Octavia are Skoda’s chance to leave behind the old prejudices and move sales towards 2% market share in the UK.
“Perception has moved on,” says Craft. “People understand we make good cars and fewer people reject us out of hand. We aim to deliver a combination of quality, functionality, value for money, customer service and integrity, that sets us apart from our rivals. We have not yet fully exploited the potential of the brand.”
He has no plans to make changes to the 150-strong retail network and says investment requirements are well under way, or completed, at most dealers.
“It’s sensible investment for long-term payback. Our partners, mostly small, family-run operations, are now able to handle the volumes that we want.”