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Skoda emphasises commitment to home country

By Graeme Roberts | 11 October 2017

Skoda Auto has underscored its commitment to its home country, reportedly saying it was planning to add jobs in the Czech Republic amid worries the business could lose some production to parent Volkswagen Group's Germany.

Reuters noted Skoda has become VW's second most profitable brand in terms of operating margin and is on target for record sales in 2017. But capacity is hitting a limit and its success is causing tensions inside the German car group.

Reuters had reported last week VW managers and unions were seeking to curb competition from lower cost Skoda and move some of its production to Germany, raising worries among Czech workers.

Skoda chief executive Bernhard Maier told Reuters on Wednesday the Czech Republic would remain Skoda's home and that it was adding jobs locally to meet capacity demands.

"Skoda is running at the edge of its capacity, which is evidence that our strategy is working," he said.

"At the moment, concerning global demand, we are not able to cover it from the Czech Republic, (and) for this reason we are looking around at other production capacities."

Maier added Skoda had taken on 3,000 workers in recent months and was planning to hire more "to be able to cover rising demand." He said Skoda was in talks with unions about this.

Skoda sold a record 1.13m vehicles last year.

According to Reuters, Skoda and other industry players met on Wednesday with government officials. At a news conference, prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka said Skoda had assured him it would do the maximum not to jeopardise jobs.

Skoda's Czech union has warned any production shift could result in as many as 2,000 lost jobs at Skoda, which employed 28,000 at the end of 2016, excluding temporary staff.

Reuters said tensions between VW's various carmaking brands are expected to rise ahead of a 17 November supervisory board meeting due to approve annual investment budgets across the group.

Maier told staff, in a letter seen by Reuters last week, that the Czech unit would only make use of VW's wider manufacturing network to cope with peaks in demand.

"As a matter of principle, our Czech factories are and will remain first choice," Maier said in the letter.

The Reuters report also cited sources as saying VW wanted the Czech brand to pay more for shared technology. Asked about this on Wednesday, Maier said he saw no reason for any change.