Skoda UK is hoping to sell “83,000-ish” cars this year, according to product affairs manager Rory Lumsdon.
That will follow the 76,027 “to be precise” sales in 2014, a year in which the Fabia hatchback and Estate were on run-out.
This year’s big launch is the Superb – hatchback to start in September and estate a few weeks later. Order books for the former open in mid-June with the estate available to book late in the month.
It says something for the current, second generation Superb in the UK that last year was its best for sales here – 5,900. Since the first generation model was launched in 2002, over 47,000 have found UK homes.
Of the new one, Lumsdon, speaking on the sidelines of the international media launch in Italy, said: “We think it has the potential to sell more – it’s now a much stronger product.”
He thinks the latest looks give the car greater appeal as it’s the product of Skoda’s new era of styling.
“We’ve reinvented Skoda. It was always good value and a sensible purchase. But now it’s a car you’d want with your heart rather than your head.”
Skoda sees key rivals as the Peugeot 508, Hyundai i40, BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-class, Ford Mondeo and the Vauxhall Insignia. I’d add the Mazda 6, too.
Lumsdon does not include parent Volkswagen’s Passat, though.
“Customers for both brands are very loyal to their brands and they don’t cross shop. The Superb starts at a lower price and offers different stuff so there’s not as much crossover as you might expect.”
The Superb has a longer wheelbase and the Passat is probably perceived as high quality. But Lumsdon points out the “little Skoda touches” like the Superb’s one-handed cup holder, two umbrellas in the front doors (from SE up), the ice scraper built into the fuel filler door (also a Fabia and Octavia item), the boot lamp that unclips to become a long battery life magnetic torch and even the Volvo-like ticket holder on the driver’s side of the windscreen.
Shift brands and you miss such little details you got used to in a Skoda, Lumsdon said.
In the middle of this year, 2016 model year cars start appearing and the whole range will be Euro 6-compliant with lots of detail changes. In a couple of years, the Big News product comes – a big, seven seat SUV to take Skoda into new territory above its current multi-use cars like the Roomster and very popular Yeti.
Skoda UK has 134 dealers and Lumsdon expects little change in the size of the network which is in the middle of a major corporate ID change. The emphasis is on more showroom space and better customer amenities as the brand expands.
Lumsdon said Skoda wants to continue expanding and, as it becomes a mainstream brand, customers experience something different and their expectations rise.
“Meeting expectations is harder and our challenge is to maintain what made us Skoda – quality and personality – and also appeal to new customers.”
Lumsdon sees Skoda’s biggest growth coming from expanded fleet business and that explains the addition of a special SE Business trim pack in the latest Superb line. Lumsdon hopes buyers will choose the car not just for its lower benefit in kind (BIK) rating but also for its design, looks and general appeal.
The SE and SE Business models, with two-litre, 150PS diesel engine and manual transmission, are expected to be the most popular variants in the UK. The Business variant will be available to business users and contract hire and cash purchasers but will be excluded from the PCP deals through which most retail customers purchase cars in this market these days.
“We will continue to emphasise the design message, we’re trying to be a unique, stand-alone brand,” Lumsdon said.
One question arises – Superb generation one was a saloon, generation two had the Twin Door rear gate which opened either as a conventional boot (trunk) lid or as a full hatchback. Generation three is a hatchback, now with electric operation and wave-your-foot-under-rear bumper (with key fob in your pocket) ‘remote’ control. Why the change?
Lumsdon acknowledged the Twin Door added weight and complexity now shed but claimed most customers used the ‘boot’ option once or twice and then switched to the ‘hatch’ which proved most useful. So, hatch it is now.
As to model range popularity, in the UK the Yeti led the pack last year with 13,081 sales. Next was the (old) Fabia hatchback (12,191), Octavia estate (11,179), Octavia hatch (10,141) [parent VW’s Passat wagon also outsells the saloon] and Citigo (9,871). The Fabia and Superb estates were next in line.