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Skoda CEO talks Kodiaq, new markers and the future of Skoda

Skoda boss Bernhard Maier explains how the Kodiaq is set to lead the Czech company into an exciting new era

Since taking control of Skoda in November 2015, CEO Bernhard Maier has quietly stamped his authority on the Czech brand, putting together a long-term plan that will significantly increase its presence on the global stage.

Maier certainly has the pedigree to deliver, with extensive experience at BMW, and within the Volkswagen Group, at Porsche, where he was sales and marketing director. In an exclusive interview, we quizzed him on his plans for Skoda, and where the Kodiaq fits in. 

Q: What is the significance of the Kodiaq for the brand? 

A: “This car has all the abilities to be a game-changer for the company. With this car we are going to start our big SUV offensive, which is part of our great product offensive in general. But looking at the overall development of the SUV segment, which is by far the fastest growing sector, with this car our intention is to make a huge contribution to the success of the brand in the future.” 

Q: Are you pleased with how it has been received so far? 

A: “Let me put it this way; it is more than motivating. We already have such a lot of orders on hand, and by the middle of the year we will have sold out our production capacity for 2017. It is a big success.” 

Q: Doesn’t this present a problem for Skoda? 

“It is a luxury problem to have, but yes it is a problem. We decided to extend our production capacity after we received the reaction of the experts and the prospects when we presented the car last year. We’ll spend a huge amount of money to extend our capacity in years to come.” 

Q: Why did Skoda need the Kodiaq? 

A: “There’s a number of reasons, but the most important one is with regard to our Strategy 2025. At the heart of everything, we have planned for sustainable growth. We want to grow on three pillars – entering new markets, offering new products and gaining new customers.

‘We have to accept that the SUV segment is the fastest growing segment and if you do not have a car in this segment it is very difficult to fulfil your objectives. With the broadening of our product range, we are now able to enter new markets and gain a decisive percentage of sales that makes it feasible to enter that market. This is why this car is really important from a profitability point of view, but also a brand position point of view. Now we are a fully fledged car manufacturer and it is important for the image of the brand and the entire development of the company.” 

Q: What new markets are you looking at? 

A: “Currently we are in 102 markets. We will enter Singapore during the course of this year for sure, so that will make it 103. Our target for 2025 is to serve 120 markets. The next markets we are looking at are Iran and South Korea. The preparation phase is more or less finalised; now we have to decide when is the right time [to launch].”

Q: Launching in new markets with a product like the Kodiaq will mean you are not saddled with the baggage that has sometimes been attached to you in Western Europe. That must be an advantage? 

 A: “Yes! We will carefully provide ourselves and our dealers in the markets that we want to conquer with the best preparation. Skoda is one of the oldest car manufacturers in the world, with a heritage of more than 122 years. The huge advantage we have now is the brand image has developed in the past couple of years to be quite positive, and on this basis we have what we need – a good brand image, the best, most attractive model line-up ever in the history of the company and we are in good shape; last year we closed the books with the best financial year in our history. Now we are ready to take advantage of that.”

Q: Will you enter the American market?

A: “If you are looking 10 years into the future, you can’t escape one of the most important markets in the world. But it is understandable that we have to look at how sustainable the regulations are that we will face there.

“As we have our hands full with our product offensive in the markets we want to enter in the months or years to come, we have to carefully prepare every single market entry and this is especially true of the United States. So we decided to come up with a solution by the end of the year, but I have already told my people that if it takes three months longer, then in this case I am not under so much pressure to come back with a decision by the end of the year. We are not in a hurry.” 

Q: And what is your long-term plan for Skoda?

A: “We have built our own vision with Strategy 2025 and we have a target picture of what Skoda will look like in 2025, although we know this will change over the course of the years as the dynamics in the markets are so huge and so fast, and we may have to revise our strategy once or twice a year if you look at developments. However there is a clear battlecry that we want to double our business. Skoda has the ability to double sales from 2015 to 2025. This is something that we have already managed in the past 25 years so why shouldn’t this be possible again with the models we have in our plans?”

Are you excited about the future of Skoda? Let us know in the comments section below...

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