Skoda plans small EV, cheaper variants to take on French, Korean rivals

Skoda’s new CEO, Thomas Schaefer, says the brand plans to launch cheaper model variants in Europe to better compete with Hyundai, Kia, as well as enter new markets in Africa, and expand its EV lineup with a small electric car. Schaefer, who took charge of the Volkswagen Group brand in August , spoke with Burkhard Riering, editor of Automobilwoche, a sister publication of Automotive News Europe.

Volkswagen unions in Germany complain that Skoda is competing with the group’s core VW brand. What do you say to that?

The matter has been cleared up. Skoda is clearly positioned. Our models offer good value for money. We recently launched a great product on the market in Europe with our Enyaq iV [full-electric compact SUV]. At the same time, we need suitable products for regions where simpler cars are in demand. In India, we are now launching with the Kushaq small SUV. We plan to export the model from India to nearby regions.

On the electric side, we are working on vehicles below the Enyaq iV to gain a foothold in the smaller segments. That will happen relatively soon. By mid-decade, we will have at least one model below the Enyaq iV. Later, I can imagine an additional full-electric car the size of the Octavia. But that’s more something for the second half of the decade.

How will Skoda better compete with brands such as Hyundai, Kia and Citroen?

The Korean and French automakers are strong in southern Europe. We can get closer to them with a new attractively priced, entry-level variants developed with tight bottom-line calculations. The Kodiaq (midsize SUV) is as example of this. If anyone in the VW Group can do that, it’s us. Skoda is the savings champion.

Skoda is available in over 100 countries. Could the brand enter new markets?

The question is: Where are the attractive opportunities for us? In addition to India, since January we have also been responsible for Russia, including the former CIS states, and North Africa. There are many markets where I see a lot of potential for Skoda and the VW Group.

Why North Africa?

Look at Egypt or Algeria, where you can establish a car industry that creates jobs and supplies the markets locally, i.e. away from the imported second-hand market.

So with your own manufacturing?

Local production could be worthwhile at some point. Egypt has 100 million inhabitants, and the market is good for 700,000 to 800,000 vehicles per year. We want to be part of that.

Skoda has permanent capacity problems. Will the factory structure change again soon?

We have the right locations in the Czech Republic, Russia and India. My aim is to make even better use of their potential. That is part of the mandatory program. As far as capacity is concerned, by moving production of the Superb successor to Bratislava, we will create capacity for more than 150,000 vehicles at the Kvasiny plant from 2023.