2023 Author: Eric Donovan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-27 05:39
The Czech car manufacturer Skoda rushes from one success to another. In an interview with the Netzeitung, CEO Detlef Wittig speaks about the latest models and the future plans of the VW subsidiary.
The Czech car manufacturer Skoda will also set a new sales record this year. "This year we will build 530,000 to 540,000 cars," said Skoda CEO Detlef Wittig in an interview with the Netzeitung. “We are aiming for growth of ten percent for 2006. Compared to industry, that's not bad,”says Wittig.
With a view to Germany, the most important sales market for the VW subsidiary, Wittig still sees growth potential. After Skoda was able to sell more than 100,000 vehicles in Germany in the past year, Wittig assumes that this limit will be “clearly exceeded”. “We currently have a market share of over three percent and the order situation is very positive, so that in 2006 we will expand our market share as well. I expect a market share of around 3.5 percent,”said the Skoda boss.
Skoda has set itself great goals for the future. Wittig expects one million vehicles to be sold around the world by 2015 if business goes well. «We have to have visions of where it could go. But I can't say today that we will sell a million cars worldwide in 2015. But if, based on our previous growth figures, we lay the ruler and draw a line that could be in 2015, then such a number would come out,”says Wittig. “But it is well known that trees do not grow into the sky, and certainly not in a straight line. You can also expect someone to hit the hat every six or seven years, then it goes down again. But we haven't got anything on our hats in the past few years. Therefore, the production of a million Skodas could not be a utopia,”he added.
China plays an important role in the company's growth plans. “We want to be present on the market there at the beginning of next year. We are aiming high in China. We have decided not only to bring the Octavia, but also the Fabia and the Superb to the Chinese market,”says Wittig. “In November we will present the Roomster and the Yeti study at the Beijing Motor Show for testing purposes, to see how people react to it. We estimate that we can sell 60, 80, even 100,000 cars. And that's a lot for us."
Joyster as an entry-level car
Netzeitung: Mr. Wittig, you presented the study of the Joyster at the Paris Motor Show. At first glance, similarities with the VW Iroc study can be seen. Is this to emphasize the closeness to the parent company?
Detlef Wittig: On the contrary, this is a Skoda design study. Our designers hadn't seen the Iroc before. If you see the study, you cannot rule out the possibility that similar things sometimes come out with designers when they think of young people as a target group. But we have a different concept in mind for a different audience: Unlike us, Volkswagen is targeting more affluent customers. In addition, the Iroc is a sporty vehicle, a coupe.
Netzeitung: What is the difference between the Iroc and the Joyster?
Wittig:The Joyster is an entry-level car for the brand and is clearly tailored to young people who have styling as their first reason to buy. That is why we attached great importance to an emotional styling. The Joyster is not a coupe, but rather a station wagon, stylistically very different and, in our opinion, excellently made. You can even sit properly in the back of this vehicle. What we don't show: a three-cylinder Skoda engine sits under the bonnet at the front. That is a difference to the Iroc with 210 hp. The Joyster is a vehicle that we use below the Fabia. That's why the joyster is not an Iroc or mini-Iroc. With the Joyster, we want to inspire young audiences for the brand.
Hit an emotional nerve"
Netzeitung: Are you satisfied with the first reactions to the Joyster?
Wittig: Yes, absolutely. We were pictured with the joyster on the first page of the Figaro. The study attracted attention and our booth was very popular with the public. Obviously we hit the emotional nerve of the time.
Netzeitung: That means that the car will also come onto the market …
Wittig: … we will not decide that after just one automobile exhibition, but rather introduce the Joyster several times to get more feedback. The first feedback was positive. But now you have to analyze exactly: what is positive, what is less positive? This then results in the deduction of whether the concept study will be implemented in the same way. Of course, series production is still something completely different from a concept study.
Lack of capacity
Netzeitung: Do you even have the capacity to build a new model series?
Wittig: No, we haven't today. We are fully booked and drive 100 percent. But you have seen that we have further expanded our capacities over the years. We produced 400,000 cars two years ago, now we have over 500,000 vehicles and are aiming for over 600,000 units. But we are also building capacities outside of the Czech Republic, wherever there is demand.
Netzeitung: For example, towards Russia?
Wittig: Russia and of course China too. Whatever grows there, we will also satisfy on site. The necessary creation of capacities will not only take place in the Czech Republic.
Netzeitung: You mentioned the number 600,000. What are your specific goals for the current year?
Wittig: This year we will build 530,000 to 540,000 cars …
Aiming for 10 percent growth
Netzeitung: … last year there were only 492,000….
Wittig: … for 2006 we are aiming for growth of ten percent. That's not that bad compared to industry.
Netzeitung: What are your goals for Germany, the most important market?
Wittig: We passed the 100,000 mark in Germany in 2005. The important thing is to confirm this limit in the second year - and we will clearly exceed it. We currently have a market share of over three percent and the order situation is very positive, so that in 2006 we will also expand our market share. I expect a market share of around 3.5 percent.
Netzeitung: You have just brought the fourth model series onto the market with the Roomster. In Germany alone there were over 8500 pre-orders. The demand can hardly be satisfied …
Wittig: … we are already at 22,000 in production, although we had only planned 15,000. But we don't get more out for the rest of the period this year. So far we have only been represented in four markets with the Roomster. We still have really big markets ahead of us with England, Italy, Spain and France.
Netzeitung: What quantities do you have planned for the Roomster for the coming year?
Wittig: We have always said that we are planning with 60,000 to 70,000 units and then we will see whether it goes on like this.
Netzeitung: Were you surprised by the great demand?
Wittig:We had made realistic planning. Since we are not a social association, but an economic company, the planning was such that it looks good from an economic point of view. And we are pleased that it is currently going beyond that.
Roomster came at the right time
Netzeitung: Doesn't the high demand also show that this car should have come earlier?
Wittig: The car came at the right time. In the first phase it was discussed controversially. From the controversy, one could deduce that it involves a risk. Now it has turned into a potential opportunity. If we had done it two years in advance, perhaps the styling acceptance would have been too exhausting for one or the other.
Netzeitung: How big were the controversies in the “Inner Circle”?
Wittig: When we brought the concept car, our controversies were already behind us.
Netzeitung: Were they violent?
Wittig:Yes, of course, if you do such an interesting styling - even in industry. Making two cars in one was a conscious decision, but you have to make that decision. This car is distinctive and distinctive …
A million Skodas are not a utopia
Netzeitung: … the unmistakable car should contribute to growth. What is the truth of the statement that Skoda wants to produce a million cars a year by 2015?
Wittig: We have to have visions of where it could go. But I can't say today that we will sell a million cars worldwide in 2015. But if, based on our growth figures so far, we lay the ruler and draw a line of what could be in 2015, then that figure would come out. But it is well known that trees do not grow into the sky and certainly not in a straight line. You can also expect someone to hit the hat every six or seven years, then it goes down again. But we haven't got anything on our hats in the past few years. Therefore, the production of a million Skodas could not be a utopia.
Netzeitung: What are your goals for the Chinese market? Skoda wants to be present there next year.
Wittig: We want to be present on the market there at the beginning of next year. We are aiming high in China. We decided to bring not only the Octavia but also the Fabia and the Superb to the Chinese market. In November we will be presenting the Roomster and the Yeti study at the Beijing Motor Show for testing purposes to see how people react to it. We estimate that we can sell 60, 80, even 100,000 cars. And that's a lot for us.
Netzeitung: Is it an advantage that the Skoda brand comes from the former Eastern Bloc and therefore has good contacts with China?
Wittig: No, we actually have a disadvantage. At the end of the eighties and the beginning of the nineties, Skoda imported older generation vehicles from Skoda to China, which did not correspond to our current quality. These models were introduced without service. That's why the brand doesn't have the best reputation in China. For us it is therefore in the foreground to clean up this bad reputation.
Netzeitung: Expansion also means that there has to be an increase in the number of models. So when is the Yeti coming?
Wittig: That is in preparation. The experts know how long it takes to prepare for series production …
Yeti is coming in 2009
Netzeitung: … so in 2009. The only question is whether in the first or second half of the year.
Wittig: I cannot and will not answer that today. Above all, something can always happen on the way to series production. If I tell you it will come in January 2009 and then it will take until October 2009, I have a problem.
Netzeitung: But can we expect the Yeti in 2009?
Wittig: Yes, it could come in 2009. It is not possible, even with quick production, to bring it in beforehand.
Netzeitung: Should models like the Roomster or the Joyster lead to an image change?
Wittig:It's not an image change. Our main business are Fabia and Octavia. This is our European core business. The other markets are also geared towards these two models. When it comes to studies, we are up-to-date or try to be ahead of the times. So it's not an image correction, but an addition, because the market is developing that way and we want to be part of it. That is why the Roomster is not a van or a station wagon, but a mixture of them all. The Joyster looks sporty, but is an entry-level model. And the Yeti as a compact all-wheel drive is positioned between the segments.
Netzeitung: Do these additions help to distance yourself a little from the parent company or even to disconnect?
Wittig: Not to disconnect. They contribute to a clear profile of the brand. All models are slightly larger. That distances us from Volkswagen or Seat, even if we work together technically. We try to position ourselves and differentiate ourselves. That doesn't mean we cut the cord.
The interview with Detlef Wittig was conducted by Thomas Flehmer
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