Skoda can grow strongly without taking sales from sister brand Volkswagen, Skoda Auto chairman Detlef Wittig told Automotive News Europe. “We are not cannibalising VW sales.

This is something we check every month,” he said in an interview. “VW loses more sales to other brands than it does to Skoda.”

As chairman, Wittig is steering the Czech division of Volkswagen group closer to the half-million sales level, with brand sales expected to hit 485,000 units this year. “We are in the second phase of our expansion,” Wittig said. “There is the expansion of our geography and there is the expansion of our product lineup.”

Skoda was a central and eastern European brand before VW group acquired it to be a bargain brand in western Europe. Now Skoda is also expanding sales – and increasingly production – in Russia, India, and China. Skoda is leading VW group’s efforts to set up a production site within Russia. “We hope to reach an agreement by year-end,” Wittig said.

In India, Skoda is introducing the second-generation Octavia and starting production of the Superb. Preparing for the 2007 start of production of the Octavia sedan in China, Wittig said Skoda is signing stand-alone dealers there.

In addition, Skoda plans to [re-]enter the Australian market in 2006.

Wittig said the lineup expansion will be to five models from three with a minivan next year and by early 2009 an all-wheel-drive SUV similar to the Yeti concept vehicle introduced at the IAA in Frankfurt.