In the context of gloomy economic data published in recent days and weeks, the optimism and confidence of top managers of Škoda, a Czech subsidiary of the Volkswagen carmaker, is like a breath of fresh air.
“Orders for the first quarter are taking the right direction,” said Winfried Vahland, a chairman of the Škoda board of directors, in a meeting with journalists.
Vahland said it is very difficult to predict the development in 2012, nonetheless he thinks that in terms of production and sales, this will be another record year for Škoda.
Compared to the last year’s figures, Škoda expects an increase of roughly 10 percent in 2012. However, some in the Škoda top management still hope to break the magical barrier of one million sold vehicles.
The Czech carmaker is also preparing a variety of new investments in order to boost the production and implementation of new models.
“For example, we will enhance the capacity of the Octavia assembly line from 800 to 1200 cars manufactured daily,” said the CEO, adding that the production capacity for the Yeti SUV will be increased as well, from the current 70,000 to 100,000.
This is related to a planned boost in hiring. “In 2011 only we increased the number of people working for us by almost 2,000, and this year we are going to continue hiring.”
Gasoline will rule for 10-20 more years
According to Vahland, gasoline engines will remain the most commonly used combustion unit in Škoda models for the next 10 or 20 years. Diesels will suffer a decline, because the Euro 6 toxic emission norm will make them significantly more expensive in four years, so they will be used only in larger models such as Superb.
Škoda also plans to implement alternative engines such as hybrid, CNG (compressed natural gas) or electric cars, Vahland said, adding that they want to use electric motors for small cars such as Citigo, and hybrid engines for larger models such as Octavia or Superb.
However, these cars will still constitute only a small portion of the total production, even compared to other carmakers in the group, such as Volkswagen or Audi.
Škoda will continue the trend started in 2011, when it introduced a special variant of Rapid exclusively for the Indian market.
“Cars for the European and Russian market will be identical, but the Chinese and Indian markets have their particularities,” said Vahland, explaining that cars for different markets will differ in size and rear end shape.