Reality Czech: If You're Waiting for Skodas in America, Prepare to Wait Even Longer
Nothing stirs up enthusiasts and cynics quite like the potential launch of a new brand in the United States. Over the past several years, we’ve reported on the motions being made by established European players eager for a thin wedge of the country’s huge car-buying pie — players like PSA group, which is now in the early days of a decade-long return to the U.S. marketplace.
Less exciting, especially considering the level of zeal expressed for quirky French cars, is the rumored emergence of the Skoda brand on this side of the Atlantic. Once a lesser player in the Volkswagen Group fold, the Czech automaker is enjoying huge sales increases. There’s a diverse lineup of vehicles, including a seemingly made-for-America SUV, the Kodiaq. The brand even filed trademark applications for model names.
So, should we expect a go-ahead decision in the months ahead, like the brand’s leadership hinted at last year? Nope. Skoda has better things to do.
According to Autocar, Skoda is too tied up with a new vehicle project to worry much about the United States. Because of this, U.S. expansion plans are firmly resting on the back burner.
What has Skoda’s braintrust too busy these days? A recent partnership with India’s Tata Motors to co-develop a low-priced vehicle for emerging markets. The U.S. may have legions of car-hungry buyers, but so too do other countries, some of which — like India — are following in the footsteps of China, which has seen private car ownership skyrocket in recent years.
“We will need more time to work on the US plans now,” said Skoda CEO Bernhard Maier. “The Group has asked us to lead development of a platform with a strong focus on India and to investigate building that business sustainably and in a predictable manner.”
“That is a huge task, and we must always approach projects one step at a time,” he continued. “There is no hurry to rush into the US and no deadline to even decide if we should be looking to go there. There’s no need to make a decision right away.”
If you’ll recall, Skoda said it would deliver a firm “yes” or “no” on the U.S. question by the end of this year. In August of 2016, Maier told a German newspaper, “When we talk about our plans until 2025, then you cannot leave out one of the most important car markets in the world. Therefore, we examine under what conditions and with what cars the entrance to the U.S. market would be possible.”
Some of that groundwork included filing trademark applications, including ones for the hot Octavia VRS sport sedan and Yeti SUV. Still, while several of the brand’s vehicles could find favor with U.S. buyers (Maier calls the three-row Kodiaq a “slam dunk”), naysayers remain. Among them, Volkswagen brass, who feel Skoda’s SUVs would compete with its utility-heavy U.S. comeback plan, potentially cannibalizing sales.
[Image: Volkswagen Group]
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