Skoda sales show no sign of slowing down

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Skoda Fabia VRS

From laughing stock to serial award winners – Skoda has gone from strength to strength as sales across the world have rocketed.

The Czech brand – once the butt of many poor jokes – has achieved a remarkable transformation since it became part of the powerful VW Group 20 years ago.

Last year the firm sold 762,000 new cars worldwide generating revenues of £7.6bn with profit of £394m. Wind back the clock five years and Skoda delivered 550,000 new cars, and back in 2001 461,000. It's clear sales are going one way.

And the manufacturer won't be stopping there. In the UK it plans to push sales over the 50,000 mark in 2012, up from the 41,000 cars it delivered in 2010.

But how has it managed to turn around its fortunes? Automotive expert Professor Garel Rhys, a director at Automotive PR, believes it was VW's vision as well as promoting the strong links to its parent firm that were key.

"Volkswagen really knew what it wanted to do," he said. "It really wanted to change it from just being seen as a low price brand, but this couldn't happen overnight.

"VW heavily promoted its link to Skoda. Its adverts included the name of the car and associated it with VW engineering, barely mentioning Skoda.

"The next thing was to bring in a small Skoda logo, but focusing on the name of the model. After the models had lifted their reputation, VW was then able to bring the Skoda name forward. Today, the VW link is barely mentioned. Now it can continue to build its reputation based on products – but none of this was easy to achieve and took at least 10 to 15 years."

Skoda Superb
It helps that the cars are really rather good. The four-wheel drive Yeti boasts a lengthy waiting list, while cars like the Fabia, Superb and Octavia all offer excellent value.

"Skoda has earned a reputation for value-for-money products built to the highest standards, while being part of the Volkswagen Group has brought benefits," explained Skoda UK director Robert Hazelwood.

Hazelwood added that the brand will now be unveiling a new model every six months and with recent successes such as hitting 226mph in a modified Octavia vRS at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah to shout about, things are looking very bright indeed.

It helps that customers love the cars too. Readers of Auto Express awarded Skoda the best overall manufacturer title in this year's Driver Power survey and the firm also scooped gongs for its Superb and Yeti. Skoda has certainly got a bulging trophy cabinet – since 2000 it has picked up no less than 64 different awards!

Gongs and happy customers mean its dealers are smiling too. "When we opened our franchise in 1993 we knew we were making a sound investment – and we've been proved right," said Tony Slack of dealer Derek Slack Motors, one of the first to open in the UK. "We've seen a huge increase in demand for Skodas and we've had to keep up – moving to a bigger site in 2003 as business expanded."
And Terence Byrne, of Progress Skoda, added: "I recognised Skoda as one of the few growth brands left in the UK when we developed Progress in 2006. The name has gone from strength to strength and is destined for even more growth in the future."

Heard the one about Skoda outselling Volkswagen? With growth like this, it might not be beyond a joke one day in the future...