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‘We warrant 2% share’

Skoda is on the growth trail again, says director Chris Craft. And with the network performing well, a strong model line-up and healthy market share, the UK boss is looking forward to a good 2006.

The manufacturer’s year-to- date UK market share is up from 1.3% to 1.52% and, with the upcoming Octavia VRS and Roomster launches and a larger percentage of incremental sales within the network, Skoda’s fortunes look much rosier than they did a decade ago.

Craft says: “In a market that’s been very difficult, this year has clearly put the pressure on a lot of people. But in terms of return on turnover, we would not be embarrassed compared with our competitors and I believe the strength of our model line-up warrants a 2% market share.”

The dark days of Eastern Block austerity now seem a distant memory. Since Volkswagen first acquired a 30% stake in Skoda in 1991 it has invested heavily in plant, research and development. And since the 2001 total buyout, the face of Skoda has changed beyond recognition.

Craft says VW investment allowed Skoda to release its potential, but it still does things in a “uniquely Skoda way”. And this investment has had a positive impact on the UK market. “The face of the network is totally different than it was even five years ago, and confidence in it has grown massively in the last 12 months,” says Craft.

“Yet at the same time we have kept strong traditions going. For example the vast majority of our retailers still have their names above the door – something of which they are proud and want to protect.”

Fabia is still a strong seller for Skoda, and it is expecting good things for the performance Octavia VRS, to be launched next month. In the second half of 2006 the range will be further boosted with the introduction of the Roomster family compact car, first shown as a concept at the 2003 Frankfurt show.

The future of the Yeti city car concept seen in April at the Geneva show, and then reworked as a convertible for September’s Frankfurt show, has still to be decided.

With the emphasis on fresh and funky, the Yeti could be an interesting move. Craft says: “No formal decision has been made, but the Yeti could represent another string to our bow.

“Public reaction has been great – Yeti has the potential to become a standalone brand.”

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