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Skoda goes from strength to strength

By raccars Published

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After a record breaking 2015 despite major challenges, is Skoda becoming an unstoppable force?

Skoda sold 1,055,500 cars last year, breaking the one million barrier for the second time and achieving a new brand record. This is despite a number of challenges facing the company, including the VW Group emissions scandal. Difficulties in the Eastern European market, a key area for the Czech brand, a 35 per cent drop in sales in Russia and a slow-down in China didn't manage to dent Skoda's progress.

Still facing international currency fluctuations and increasing competition, Skoda plans to continue pursuing growth in 2016 but also has a number of plans under development for future products as part of its Strategy 2025 scheme.

As sales volumes grew last year, so did profits, with revenue up 6 per cent year on year to €12.5 billion and operating profit up 12 per cent to €915 million. After tax profit reached €708 million compared to €665 million in 2014. New model releases are key to sustaining growth and Skoda has a number of interesting new developments under way.

The X4-rivalling SUV coupe

One of the first and most important is a new entry to the booming SUV market, introduced at the Geneva Motor Show as part of a major VW Group SUV offensive. Predicted to be named the Kodiak, Skoda already has plans to expand the SUV's reach in the form of a fiver seater coupe variant of the seven seater Kodiak. The coupe SUV is aimed so far at the Chinese market but is expected to reach Europe soon after.

In a departure from its usual method, the SUV offshoot will be design-led and focus on creating an emotional connection with the customer. That's not to say it won't be practical too, but it is something of an indulgence from the unwaveringly sensible Skoda.

This is an entry into a relatively new market segment, so far mainly occupied by the Range Rover Evoque and the BMW X4 and soon to be joined by the Mercedes GLC Coupe, but Skoda will be offering a more affordable option along those lines.

While it will be pretty radical and athletic looking on the outside, expect Skoda's usual brand of refined elegance inside. It's reasonable to assume that Skoda will throw all its most modern technology at its most forward-thinking model, especially safety equipment and infotainment systems. Two and four wheel drive versions will be available and a certain amount of off-roading ability is to be assumed, but this vehicle will prioritise on road performance.

The SUV family

The SUV coupe is part of a plan to introduce a larger SUV family at Skoda, which has been surprisingly slow to jump on this very profitable bandwagon. There will be four SUVs or crossovers, including the existing Yeti which will be updated not long after the Kodiak is launched. A practical small SUV to take on the Nissan Juke and the Citroen C4 Cactus will be next.

Company execs have suggested that the new models are a chance for Skoda to showcase the quality of which it becoming clear the firm is capable - as witnessed by the latest Superb. The brand is determined to offer premium style build quality and class-leading space in a value for money package. The aim is to achieve sales of 1.5 million units annually by 2020, some 45 per cent more than at present.

With its new SUV family, the recently renewed Superb and Fabia models and an update for the Octavia scheduled for 2017, plus an electric vehicle by 2020, Skoda is on its way to a comprehensive and very impressive product line up.

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