Czech car brand Skoda has undergone a complete reinvention since its acquisition by Volkswagen Group in 1991. Because of its Eastern European heritage it retained a reputation for several years as a lower quality brand, but the group has worked hard to overturn those preconceptions. Indeed a key element of the brand's marketing in other European markets since the 1990s has been a mocking acknowledgement of those old misconceptions. The brand's lower cost manufacturing base in the Czech Republic enables pricing to be kept low, allowing Skoda to be presented as value for money brand. Marketing has concentrated for several years on emphasising the brand's high quality despite its low cost. The "Simply Clever" slogan has been used since 2008 in keeping with that positioning of smart understatement. The range is split between smaller cars like the Fabia and Rapid, the biggest sellers in Eastern Europe, and the high quality Octavia sedan, the flagship model in Western markets, with newer sporty SUVs like the Yeti/Karoq. These are complemented by a top of the range limousine, the Superb. Deliveries topped 1m units for the first time in 2014 and reached a new high in 2018 of 1.25m units before slipping back. Registrations for Covid-impacted 2020 were 1.01m vehicles. The flagship model is the Octavia sedan, which alone accounted for 400k units in 2018, making it the single biggest non-VW model within the Volkswagen Group's whole portfolio. Volumes slipped to 265k for 2020 (and it was overtaken by the Audi Q5 as the group's top-selling non-VW model). Other key Skoda models are the Karoq and Kodiaq SUVs. Deliveries in 2021 were 878k cars. The Skoda brand continues to dominate the comparatively small Czech car market, with almost a full third of local market share, three times the sales of its nearest rival (which is sister brand VW). However, China is now Skoda's single biggest market by sales, despite a steep fall in sales since 2018 to 173k cars in 2020. The Kamiq is an SUV designed specifically for the Chinese market. Germany is another major territory (162k), followed by Russia (95k) and the Czech Republic (83k). Klaus Zellmer replaced Thomas Schaefer as divisional CEO in 2022. Skoda is in fact one of the world's oldest surviving automobile manufacturers, first established in 1895 as Laurin & Klement, before being acquired by the Skoda industrial conglomerate in 1925. It was nationalised by the Communist government after the Second World War, and then gradually privatised from 1991 onwards. Volkswagen initially acquired a 30% stake from the Czech government, and gradually increased its holding to full control over the course of the following five years.
Capsule checked 5th March 2021
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Marketer Moves 6th Apr 2022: New CEO at Skoda. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Daily Update 18th Jun 2021: "Robots". You might be surprised to find that Fallon London is still going, so precipitous has been its decline since the 1990s, and so rare its creative output... Though not as surprised, perhaps, as the lady who finds twin baby robots abandoned on her doorstep one morning. Let's not even think about the hows and whys of this set-up, and the 60 seconds that follow - how robots grow, for example - because the resulting spot for long-time client Skoda is an absolute charmer, proving there's life yet in this one-time star agency. This is a fine example of a completely off-the-wall concept that actually works brilliantly. Welcome back, Fallon London, we're glad you're still turning out hits. Well done Skoda too for keeping faith with the agency that arguably first put you on the map here in the UK.
Adbrands Daily Update 27th May 2020: "Shot At Home". Animators have done especially well out of lockdown, allowed the time and resources to experiment on behalf of brands who have few other ways to get their message across to an equally housebound audience. Skoda's global agency Optimist commissioned a trio of Dutch animators from prodco HALAL to play around with miniature versions of the Kodiaq, Kamiq and Karoq SUVs with entertaining results. "In times where 'the normal' becomes 'the odd', you have to leave the beaten path to move forward," says Optimist CCO Ton Hollander. "When the pandemic hit, our industry was (and is) confronted with radical new propositions forcing us to go back to the very core of creativity – coming up with unconventional solutions for newly emerged challenges... Can you shoot a Skoda SUV campaign at home, with a minimal crew consisting of your household, only equipped with a miniature car model?" The answer, clearly, is a resounding yes.
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