The all-new Skoda Kodiaq SUV is being fast-tracked for its Australian launch, with the Czech brand confirming the seven-seat, all-wheel-drive high-rider will now arrive here in June.
That is about six weeks earlier than the company had initially planned to launch the first-ever Skoda seven-seater, and there are a few reasons for Aussies earning early access to the Kodiaq. Kieran Merrigan, Skoda Australia planning and product manager, explained: "We had Kodiaq locked in for a July launch, but last week we had some additional production capacity confirmed, which allowed us to bring forward the release of the car. We're a focus market for the factory," Merrigan said.
Skoda Australia director Michael Irmer explained what the 'focus market' tag meant for Australia in this instance.
"It's the first time in the project phase that we were defined to be a focus market. This decision goes back, further than a few months or so, but because we are a focus market we get more attention when we have our request in," Irmer said.
"It comes down to the importance of that model in that particular market, the sales potential of it," he said. "This particular market - Australia moved to SUVs way before other countries: like Europe, people-movers were popular for a long period of times where SUVs were small, but now the market is shifting quite dramatically there as well.
"The relative potential is high," Irmer said.
Paul Pottinger, Skoda Australia general manager of corporate communications, said the market relevance is bang on.
"More than 100,000 seven-seaters were sold last year, which, proportionally, is outstanding," he said. "It's nearly 10 per cent of the market, and in the private market it's a hell of a lot more than 10 per cent share.
"It's the modularity of the space - you have to wonder how many people buy a seven-seater that actually need the extra seats: they want the extra space and flexibility. The corollary of that is that the launch of the Kodiaq is likely going to be early June," Pottinger said.
Irmer said the new model would start in the "mid-forties" price range. That will see it sit a little higher than entry-level versions of the Toyota Kluger, Nissan Pathfinder, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento and Mazda CX-9.
"We haven't released the specification yet, but what we have said is that we will always offer an automatic gearbox, always have seven seats, and always have all-wheel drive.
"The smallest engine will be the 132kW engine, a slightly detuned version of the RS engine," he said of the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol, which has a solid 320Nm of torque available and can see the seven-seat SUV sprint from 0-100km/h in just 8.5 seconds.
"At eight-and-a-half seconds acceleration, I think you'll get your kids to school quick enough," Irmer said.
As Merrigan put it, the brand will be playing where the market is.
"There won't be an entry car, it doesn't make sense if people who are buying seven-seat SUVs are spending an average of $55,000 on that type of car," he said.
On the potential for a base model, front-wheel drive version as is employed by every single one of those aforementioned big-name SUVs, Irmer said there could be potential at a much later date.
"We know how many cars we will get this year," he said. "Supply will better next year, and it makes good sense to go in with the top notch, and then you can reach out later in the life-cycle when the capacity frees up."