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Skoda Unveils Big SUV, Reigniting Rumours U.S. Looms

Skoda Unveils Big SUV, Reigniting Rumours U.S. Looms.

“We expect Skoda feasibility studies for the U.S. market to be completed next year, but I’d be surprised if they went to the U.S.

BERLIN – Skoda, Volkswagen’s Czech Republic-based brand, which makes cheaper versions of VW vehicles then makes huge profits the parent company can only dream about, has unveiled its new SUV the Kodiaq.

The new SUV is fairly big by European standards, and has been given a name closely linked with a bear, and town in Alaska, the Kodiak. The  Kodiak bear lives in the islands of the Kodiak Archipelago in southwest Alaska. Skoda even persuaded the Mayor of Kodiak to change its spelling to Kodiaq, at least for the duration of the launch.

Earlier this year, Professor Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) at the University of Duisburg-Essen, said Volkswagen, tainted by its admission it cheated government regulations and sold its cars to Americans under false pretences, should withdraw the brand from the U.S and eventually replace it with Skoda.

The idea of entering the U.S. does seem to appeal to Skoda which has reportedly said it is considering the move and will decide by late next year. The Kodiaq would be its entry product, according to German press reports.

Skoda invited 600 journalists to Berlin to unveil the new Kodiaq, which will make its world debut at the Paris Car Show later this month. Skoda usually unveils its new products in its home capital Prague, but this time ventured into the capital city of its parent Volkswagen. This show of confidence, with no expense spared for the assembled media from across the world might have irked the bosses in Wolfsburg, but you could argue the Czech upstarts have earned their place in the sun. Volkswagen’s latest results showed that its in house VW brand earned a meagre profit margin of 1.7% in the first half of 2016, down from 2.7% in the same period of 2015. Skoda though sparkled with a margin of 9.6%, on a level with the premium subsidiary Audi and matching the likes of BMW and Mercedes.

Irretrievably tarnished
CAR’s Dudenhoeffer has said because VW faces extended turmoil in the U.S. following the dieselgate scandal, the brand is likely to remain irretrievably tarnished and will cost huge sums to persuade Americans to buy their cars. Better to pull VW out of the U.S., and eventually replace it with Skoda. Audi and Porsche will continue to make money for VW in the U.S.

Other analysts don’t share this view.

“I don’t see any rationale for that (replacing VW brand with Skoda in the U.S.),” said IHS Automotive analyst Tim Urquhart.

“We expect Skoda feasibility studies for the U.S. market to be completed next year, but I’d be surprised if they went to the U.S. It would be an alien brand in the U.S. and they would have to spend lots of money on marketing, advertising and new dealers. Sure, the VW brand in the U.S. has taken a massive battering, but it is still a storied name with a huge following. People know that it stands for quality and good products,” Urquhart said.

The Skoda Kodiaq is based on the recently launched VW Tiguan SUV, and retains many of the features from the concept shown at the Geneva Car Show earlier this year, the Vision S. 

The Kodiaq seats up to 7, and includes an electronic gizmo which takes control when reversing with a trailer.

At launch there will be 5 engines, diesel or gasoline, with 6-speed manual gearboxes, 6 and 7 speed automatics, front-wheel and all-wheeldrive.

“With the ŠKODA Kodiaq, we are striking out in a new direction and opening up new markets,” says ŠKODA CEO Bernhard Maier.

“With our first large SUV, we are conquering a new segment for the brand – and new customer groups,” Maier said.

Customer pleasing special features include door-edge protection, which deploy automatically using preloaded springs when opening the car door and prevents the metal edge of the door from coming into contact with a garage wall or an adjacent vehicle.

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