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Superb estate set for Frankfurt launch

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Skoda looks set to launch an estate version of the Superb, which will go head-to-head with the Volvo V70. In contrast to press reports claiming parent company VW Group intended to axe the model, the Superb estate is likely to debut at next year's Frankfurt motor show with an on-sale date in spring 2004, priced around £16,000.

Robin Woolcock, VW Group UK managing director, says the group has no plans to axe any cars, although he expects several models not to be replaced once they reach the end of their current lifecycle.

“Bernd Pischetsreider wants a model range that is better defined – there's no need for each brand to be represented in every market sector,” says Woolcock, referring to the controversial comments made by the VW Group chief executive to a German magazine two months ago.

Skoda has been identified as a small car specialist, probably up to Octavia size, but this does not mean the Superb will be scrapped early. Most cars tend to have a seven-year lifecycle, which suggests the Superb will be on sale at least until the end of the decade.

Sister company Seat, meanwhile, has been cultivating an image as a maker of sporty cars for the past couple of years. VW sees it as “an affordable BMW”, but under this vision, it's doubtful whether the Alhambra has a future much past 2005.

Audi will specialise in premium cars, although question marks hang over the A2, while Volkswagen intends to cover everything. “The VW brand is strong enough for us to have a car in every sector,” says Woolcock. “VW doesn't specialise – it's the peoples' car.”

In the UK, VW is shuffling its Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda and Seat dealer networks following the revised block exemption regulations, although it stresses that most will be retained. It is also developing an aftersales contract for independent repairers.

“We are short of repair capacity so we would welcome some independents joining the approved network,” says Woolcock. “But I don't think many will want to join because of the investment needed in training and equipment to meet different sets of standards from a range of manufacturers.”

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