Skoda changes gears, to launch a new car every yea

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Thomas Kuehl, member, board of directors (sales and marketing), SkodaIndia, puts up a brave face: "We were the first to introduce the concept of super hatch (in India) but as is the case always, the product which followed the Fabia received a much better response."

That's an understatement considering that Fabia sales are now averaging just 500-550 units per month compared to 4,000-5,000 units of the i20, as per the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers and company data.

Fabia suddenly started facing a lot of questions.

The money one would pay for a Fabia can be better used by a discerning customer to buy two Maruti Altos and an automatic scooter -- basically an entire family's automotive needs, says an analyst.

Skoda's travails did not end there. The company's once most popular brand Octavia (a Rs 10.5-13.5 lakh sedan) was phased out creating a wide gap in the product line-up which includes the Fabia (entry level), Laura (premium) and Superb (luxury).

The Octavia was positioned between the Fabia and the Laura for the premium car maker.

But the Czech car marker is fighting back in India, and how. It is getting ready for a new play with a range of new models which will hit the market this year. In fact, Skoda would launch at least one new model every year in India.

The new model from Skoda this year will be the much-publicised Yeti, a compact five seater sports utility vehicle slated to explore the segment (Rs 10-13 lakh or Rs 1-1.3 million) that has been left untouched by many manufacturers.

The company will start the assembly operations of the Yeti around October and will launch the SUV around the same time. Presently all cars of Skoda are assembled and not made here.

This will be followed by a refurbished Fabia, complete with a new bumper and fog light and new interiors, in December this year. Company officials are tight lipped about any changes in the pricing, but say it would be competitive.

"We are quite confident that the new Fabia will clock monthly sales of over 1,000 units", adds Kuehl.

Skoda will also plug the gap left by the phase-out of Octavia with the planned launch next year of an all-new sedan slotted in the entry premium segment (Rs 10-13 lakh).

This new car is built on the same PQ25 platform which was used by Volkswagen to make the Vento sedan that will hit the market later in the year.

The company is also working on a new small car below the Fabia. The starting price could be around Rs 3.5-4 lakh and could house a new small engine.

This car would be launched in 2012 after Skoda finalises its assembly plans at the Chakan plant of Volkswagen.

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Skoda products are just fine, I keep dreaming of the Laura 1.8 TSI; but once you take it for service the nightmares begin. I really don't mind paying a premium for a product, but definitely would never like to be ripped off at service. It's not the products but the after sales service that is coming to haunt Skoda as a brand and undermining it's reputation.

Skoda may engage the forward gears but it's dealers are firmly bent on engaging reverse gear.

Durango Dude2010-07-12 17:18:31

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I remember the days when the single Skoda dealer of Bangalore, Tafe access behaved to all high and low as if it was dealing in Mercs ! The sales guys would be too bothered about how you dressed up and quivered if any questions were posed to them by the public. Heck they even locked the cars in the showroom until people started walking out of their showroom. Bah, the arrogance Skoda dealers had. Skoda's success boils down to the after sales of its vehicles which falls under the, ahem, SKODA INDIA DEALERS category.

Even the other day i went to Vinayak cars ltd the second dealer for the Yeti showcase. I went on day one by 10.30 and the car was not even ready to  be kept in the showroom floor ! Boy talk about enthusiastic indians and exactly opposite dealer sentiments!

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One must remember that for most of us once you buy a car you are stuck with the A$$ for the next 5-8 years at least. Also, leaving out MS & some Tata and Hyundai products you are stuck with the jokers.

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