By on December 9, 2016

2017 Skoda Kodiaq rear

Volkswagen AG’s Škoda subsidiary claims it’s interested in bringing the value-packed Czech brand to the U.S., even going as far as copyrighting model names, but the powers that be in Wolfsburg couldn’t hate the idea more.

According to comments published by Automobile Magazine, Volkswagen execs want nothing to do with the idea of a stateside Škoda. It looks like the surging brand’s parent company is prepared to kill the dream for good.

Earlier this year, amid rampant speculation on the brand’s U.S. return, CEO Bernhard Maier claimed the automaker would make a decision sometime in 2017. The recently introduced Kodiaq SUV, which takes its name from an Alaskan island, was a sure-fire “home run” for the American market, he claimed.

After posting record sales in 2015, the brand’s low-priced cars were even seen as a possible replacement for certain Volkswagen models. Others claimed the two companies could never exist alongside each other. Those “others” now include top VW brass.

Speaking to Automobile, one senior VW board member stated, “We may be crazy, but we’re not mad.”

“Entering this huge market with an unknown brand, a model range focused on Europe, and a non-existent dealer network is pure suicide,” the board member said. “Furthermore, the last thing Volkswagen of America needs now is in-house cannibalization.”

In the U.S., the three-row Kodiaq SUV would compete directly with VW’s 2017 Atlas. After weathering a perfect financial storm with its diesel emissions scandal, VW’s U.S. turnaround hinges on the success of that model, as well as other crossover and SUV models targeted at American buyers. The frustration of Škoda’s parent isn’t hard to understand.

While the deliberation continues in the Czech Republic, it seems the verdict is already in.

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36 Comments on “Škoda in the U.S. Would Be ‘Pure Suicide,’ Says Volkswagen Brass...”


  • avatar
    OldManPants

    “amid rampant speculation on the brand’s U.S. return”

    There’s more rampant speculation about whether I’ll wear my Drew Carey or East German Scientist® glasses in to work.

    Some days I bring both!

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Of course it would be. People would realize that you could get the same as VW with a different badge for less money. It’s like a GM fanboy waking up and realizing “Why did I buy a Pontiac when I could have had the same thing in a Chevy for a little less money?”

  • avatar
    redliner

    I think this is a missed opportunity. Look how great Subaru is doing. They don’t have impressive interiors or engines that are way better than the competition. They don’t even look very special. But they are inexpensive, reasonably reliable and rugged in a Boulder Colorado kind of way.

    That’s what Skoda should be. The German Subaru.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      Just what brand is a Subaru the price-leader, unpolished relative of? Nobody, that’s who. Subaru worked hard since coming to the States about 1969 to go from a go-kart with a body(the 360 model) to product like Outback and WRX that compete in the hearts and pocketbook of Honda, Toyota, and yes-VW customers. It’s no ones stepbrother.

      That being said, there’s no sensible reason for VW even thinking about bringing Skoda to the States. None. Doesn’t VW already have plenty on its plate, one, regaining the respect and sales consideration of the American public, and two, attempting to lose the perception among many Americans if not the rest of the world, that its quality today is nowhere near as good as Honda or Toyota. VW has its work cut out for itself if it does nothing else but address those two issues here. When and if it successfully does, they still must produce product that Americans want and can afford. I, for one, couldn’t care less that I can’t currently buy a Skoda or even Seat, when the continued viability of Volkswagen in the US is threatened.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Volkswagen is full of totally incompetent execs when it comes to the U.S.

    This is why, in large part, they’ve never been able to crack the U.S. market despite doing well in most of the rest of the world, including Mexico and Canada (our immediate neighbors).

    They’ve never understood the importance of reliability, the importance of lengthy warranties and consistently honored and stress-free warranty claims, and they’ve sawed back and forth as to whether they want to be a semi-premium brand ala pre-2009 or volume brand ala post-2009.

    Now, they’ve been hobbled by diesel-gate to the tune of 15 billion (just in the U.S.), and they have more issues pending with Audi, and potential new ones over emissions violations and efficiency misclaims in Europe and elsewhere.

    Their fear of tarring their reputation by fielding lower-cost Skoda is essentially laughable, since they are already swimming in a riptide of bad publicity and burned customer loyalty.

    Besides, as Kia/Hyundai, and even Toyota and Honda have shown (fielding lower priced Camries & Accords in inflation-adjusted dollars than at any other time in their histories), the American market has changed dramatically since approx 2003, and there’s a much larger segment of the population that shops price above all else.

    Given that VW has never succeeded chasing semi-premium customers and prices, has a well-deserved reputation for poor reliability, and is fresh in dog $hit in terms of public perception of its brand due to diesel-gate, they should pull a Hyundai/Kia and bring Skoda here, offering a 10 year/100,000 mile no questions asked warranty, along with highly competitive prices – IF THEY WANT TO GROW & GRAB MARKETSHARE.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      They could save a ton of money by just offering said warranty on existing VWs and rolling out the bigger Tiguan and Atlas Americans have been begging for for a decade. Launching Skoda would be an epic waste of time and money.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      That would all make too much sense. They should have started offering the Hyundai style warranty years ago, but the VW bratwurst counters probably calculated that the warranty cost wouldn’t be worthwhile even with the increase in sales volume that it would generate.

      Speaking of VW Canada, my mother has a 2013 Jetta TDI with a rust spot behind the passenger side rear wheel. No idea how it started, but VWoC refuses to cover it. She’s dumping the car whenever VWoC tells people what’s happening. Says she’s probably going to get another Honda.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        VW had a 10-year powertrain warranty in place for the 1994 model year. Obviously, that didn’t stay around very long.

        Remember a few years ago when that little black Beetle was talking up VW’s 3 years of free standard maintenance? Then it was quietly dropped to 2 years, and then 1 year. I don’t know if they still do that anymore.

        VW knows it would go broke keeping VWs running.

        • 0 avatar

          Yup. I liked my VW TDi, scandal notwithstanding. What I didn’t like was how cheaply they built it. Things like having to buy a special tool to do rear brakes. Likewise, sway bar bushings were “permanent”. All of this was to make it easy or cheap to build, but was a bitch in the field to fix. Oh, and VW stiffed me when a DPF died 3k out of warranty.

          I’d lease one, but not buy. If I did buy, it would be the base model. VW is a combination of great engineering combined with to the penny parts shaving. Yes, a warranty for 5/60k would be a sales point.

    • 0 avatar
      2manycars

      “..they’ve never been able to crack the U.S. market…”

      Utter bilge. I can remember when VW was the best-selling import in the U.S., bar none.

    • 0 avatar
      mmreeses

      average German only drives 9,000 miles a year. Dunno why VW execs can’t understand that Americans drive a lot more AND often have zero public transit alternatives if their cars are out of commission for a few days for work.

      http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/a-day-in-the-life-what-makes-the-average-german-tick-a-550107-6.html

    • 0 avatar
      993cc

      If VW Brass is adamant that Skoda shouldn’t come stateside, that’s probably the best evidence that they should.

  • avatar
    Speed3

    Its really expensive to establish a brand, dealer network, etc. Thats a lot of capital – just ask Fiat.

    Not only does VW not have the cash to spare, their investments would be much more wisely spent investing in the VW brand and rebuilding its reputation.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    I think the more interesting question is why VW offers the Skoda (and SEAT) brands at all. Skoda had a terrible reputation when VW bought them after the wall came down, and through mostly platform sharing with VW and Audi they have spent billions to create a credible Euro only brand that cannibalizes sales from VW and Audi (same with SEAT). It would have been far smarter to simply use the cheaper east Europe production sites from Skoda to make low-end VWs, while dropping the brand, which would make brand sense since VW is supposed to be the “people’s car” itself.

  • avatar
    la834

    > “Entering this huge market with an unknown brand, a model range focused on Europe, and a non-existent dealer network is pure suicide,”

    Isn’t that exactly how Volkswagen itself entered the U.S.?

  • avatar
    Tumbling-Dice

    Good. All the money needed to establish dealers and start advertising, as well as all the administrative costs, would be better spent redesigning VWs more than once every eight years.

  • avatar
    Boxerman

    I really liked my 03 acura MDX, the Atlas looks less compellign than that, I know VW reliability sucks and I would have to put up with a bunch or electronic nanny stuff.

    Skoda is a good idea, the VW brand is tarnished and VW/Audi dealers suck.

    Skoda is probably more nimble than VW and more hungry in terms of designing for American tastes.

    How VW missed the boat is evident in the passat. A car that was a mid priced Audi BMW in terms of feel and dynamics, and had a usp as a result. But then turned to crap by vw with deconteting of its dynamics and build, its USP for “the american market”.

    German cars fetch a premium because of the way they feel and drive. VW neutered that out of their product for the Us market.

    Frankly I wouldnt trust the opnion of a auto exec expert at a large company. Years ago they all said Honda and BMW couldnt survive because they didnt have the Volume, and subaru was condsidered DOA for the same reason.

    A big part of the problem with the auto industry is that the type of coprate flunky Harvard MBA bean counter who can worm their way up the ladder is probably the most ill equipped person to understand the auto buisness, which is all about product, its emotional practical enginering and styling appeal.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    The first question that came to my mind is: Suicide for whom? VW, or Skoda?

    Interestingly, Skoda seems to have developed quite a name for itself and could very well be far enough outside of the traditional VW brands that it could out-sell VW itself in the short term. Unlike Fiat, which carries a 40-year-old negative reputation (which I believe is undeserved today) Skoda’s reputation in the US is nonexistent and globally is remarkably good–as far as it goes. Considering VW’s current reputation, introducing the Skoda could mean the death of VW in the US at a time when VW needs all the help it can get.

    Outside of that, Skoda offers cars that look notably different from most cars we now see in the US. I personally like the look of the Yeti though the wagon versions of the Octavia and the Rapide don’t look bad either. Now if they only built a small pickup truck…

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    Now I get to say “Told ya so.”

    And the person to whom I get to say this is Ford Taurus Wagon enthusiast John. I’ll be waiting for your apology! K thx.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I agree with the ‘suicide’ sentiment, but what’s more troubling is that Skoda and VW aren’t on the same page. Their internal communications reek.

    This would be like Holden saying it is considering entering the US market, while GM says ‘not so fast’; I can’t imagine that discussion ever occurring in public.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      I suspect the local domos at Skoda are dreaming big…thinking of luxury trips to the states to entertain and romance prospective dealers, commanding a big new corps for the sales and service channel in N. America, etc.
      Sounds like the Kommanders at financially pressed HQ are not so excited about the plan.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Cannibalize? Cannibalize what? A name change would be the smartest thing VW could do in this market.

    • 0 avatar
      993cc

      I was thinking VW could sell rebadged Skodas in the U.S. Say, replace the Passat with a Superbe with the VW corporate grille.

      But that would risk ruining Skoda’s reputation.

  • avatar
    kmoney

    Bring it to Canada. We had Lada here and they managed to sell some units…

    • 0 avatar
      993cc

      Of course Skoda WAS in Canada, briefly, in the eighties, so it wouldn’t be the first time the company used us as a test market. Hopefully no one will remember because it was a bit of a fiasco.

      I think Skoda could make a go of it here with an abbreviated line up. Say, Fabia hatch (plus hot version), Rapid sedan, Octavia sedan and wagon, Yeti. All with the 1.4 litre Tsi in various tunes, but mostly tuned for efficiency.

      Maybe sneak in a few non-cheating 1.4 litre Tdi’s. Just don’t call them Tdi, or “clean diesel”. True diesel fans won’t care.

      It would be a good fit here. Canadians like cheap cars, like sedans and wagons more than the U.S. does, and buy proportionally more diesels and manual shifts.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      so did Yugo. that doesn’t mean they were worth buying.

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