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by James Stanford

A sub-$15,000 mini car will spearhead a big sales push by Skoda in Australia next year.

The Volkswagen-owned Czech brand is preparing to introduce three major models including a new budget mini car called the Citigo, a new small car called Rapid (main image) and the latest generation of the Octavia mid-sizer.

Previously Skoda Australia has had to wait extended periods to gain access to new European models, with the Fabia taking four years to make it to these shores, but the trio of new models will arrive soon after being launched globally.

“With all these (existing models) we have just been playing catch up,” says Skoda Australia director Matthew Wiesner.
“It has taken us four years to get into the international product cycle. Now we’re in.”

That means Skoda will have the Citigo (pictured above), Skoda’s version of the Volkswagen Up, and the new Rapid small car will arrive in the first half of next year.

The next generation Octavia will arrive in the second half of next year.

The Rapid, certainly not be confused with the Aston Martin Rapide, has just been previewed with a series of images and will be presented at the Paris Motor Show in September and is the biggest of the three releases of 2013.

“The most important thing next year is to create a hell of a presence in the small car segment with the Rapid,” Wiesner says.

Skoda’s new small car will only be available as a lift-back sedan to start off with, which will limit its appeal, but a hatchback variant is expected to follow early next year.

There will be petrol and diesel engines as well as manual and DSG automatic transmissions, with a high performance RS model expected to follow.

The 1.0-litre Citigo will come after the VW Up, which is expected to go on sale here late this year, and is a semi-premium micro car to sit above models similarly sized models such as the Nissan Micra, Suzuki Alto and Holden Barina Spark.

It won’t match the $12,490 drive-away price of the Suzuki or the $13,990 drive away price point of the Holden, although the Nissan’s current starting point of $13,490 (not including drive away costs) could be closer to the mark.

Car Advice understands the Citigo is likely to come in below the $15,000 price point, but the final pricing is yet to be locked in.

Volkswagen is expected to start the Up at around $15,000 and Skoda models are usually $1000 or more cheaper than their VW counterparts.

All Wiesner will say is that the Citigo must have a sharp price.

“You have to be competitive,” he says. “At some stage in the next 2 or 3 years you are going to have a number of Japanese, a couple of Koreans and a few Europeans playing in that space so we are all going to be in there growing the segment.”

Having a Volkswagen version that is so similar to the Citigo competing for customers is actually a good thing for Skoda, says Wiesner.

“It’s a small segment. Volkswagen is coming in with the Up and is really going to grow it,” he says.

“It is good for us…we are in a position that we can get the newest and the latest and bring it into a segment that is only just starting to evolve.”

The next generation Octavia, described as ‘so important’ by Wiesner is crucial to Skoda’s local success not simply because it adds reasonable volume, but also because it gives dealers a handy profit margin compared to the smaller models.

He has already seen the red-hot RS version (describing it as gorgeous), which will arrive around the same time as the standard models and the new Scout crossover wagon version.

The company has just introduced a Skoda Fabia RS (above), which it hopes will generate some buzz for the carmaker before it starts to ramp up its marketing early next year. It also re-introduced the Skoda Roomster MPV.

“We’re trying to make sure we can make as much noise around the brand at the beginning of 2013 because of what we’ve got coming,” Wiesner says.

“We need to be able to have a fairly strong base of awareness in order to convert some of that into numbers.”




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