Skoda should not simply be positioned as a ‘cheaper Volkswagen’ in Australia, says the latter company’s local boss. Instead, it must be defined as a strong and worthy brand in its own right, with its own distinct values to lure a different sort of buyer.
In fact the best parallel for Skoda, according to Volkswagen Australia managing director Michael Bartsch, is with Saab and Volvo in the 1970s and 1980s — European premium brands for people who think outside the box.
Skoda’s positioning in Australia is markedly different to its European heartland. There, the Czech member of the Volkswagen Group is sold principally on practicality and price.
Here in Australia (where it is comparatively free of Eastern European brand baggage), its products represent sharp value — see the Octavia for a good example — but generally aren't much cheaper than their Volkswagen ‘equivalents’.
In fact, the average selling point of a Skoda is more than $40,000, with the Octavia RS hot wagon easily its top-selling car here.
“Remember where Saab used to be in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and where Volvo used to be?” asked Bartsch. “A brand that sort of marched to a different beat, after someone who does individual research and has very individual values.
“They’re doing very well with [Superb], why? It’s not inexpensive. It’s for people who aren't marching to the same drumbeat as others.
“I think the brand positioning and what they stand for will be well communicated in the product substance and styling. People make a very clear choice based on styling and engineering as distinct from, ‘that’s from the VW group and its cheaper or dearer’. I don’t think that’ll work.”
Here is where we mention that the flagship Superb 206TSI 4x4 wagon sells for $52,690.
VW Group corporate communications general manager, Paul Pottinger, added to this, saying: “The prime example of that is Octavia RS, at first everyone said that’s a [Golf] GTI wagon, that was the common wisdom. That’s much less prevalent now, it’s seen as a product in its own right”.
Despite this, Skoda is still a minnow in Australia — not that this necessarily hurts its branding. It has attained 2721 sales this year (about even against last year), with the Octavia family representing about half these sales. This puts it ahead of Peugeot.
As you can read in more detail, the highly anticipated 2017 Skoda Kodiaq seven-seat SUV will arrive in Australia around August next year, following on from its world premiere at this October’s Paris motor show. In 2018, the all-new Yeti will arrive.
Is Skoda cool? Tell us below in the comments.