Skoda promises new models with fireworks and a light show
UPSTART brand Skoda is promising product fireworks, putting a VW Golf-size hatch on sale here in the next 18 months and further engaging in Australia's "SUV offensive" with a small crossover to follow.
The Scala hatch, a replacement for the Rapid, is tipped to be a slightly slimmer version of the Vision RS concept from last month's Paris motor show. Dealers will open order books at the end of next year for deliveries in the middle of 2020.
How much of the Vision RS will turn up in the Scala? Skoda board member Alain Favey, looking over the show car at a Sydney briefing, describes it as "closely prefiguring" the hatch.
He concedes the designers were given free rein with the show car, so such features as the rocker switches and paddle-shifters made of pride-of-Prague crystal may not make it into production versions. There are also vegan fabrics in the upholstery and carbon-fibre inserts in the alloy wheels.
The striking nose treatment with LED lights, black grille and illuminated bars warrants keeping. As Favey says: "Light is the new chrome."
In the Vision RS concept, the 110kW turbo and 75kW electric motor - 180kW combined - move it from rest to 100km/h in 7.1 seconds, emitting just 33 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre. Emphasising the low emissions, there is no visible tailpipe.
The concept's battery is good for an electric-only range of 70km and takes 2.5 hours to top up via a fast-charge station.
SUVs being the flavour of every month, the small crossover will sit under the Kodiaq and Karoq - Favey rules out the China-only Kamiq as "not suited to Australia". Styled in the mould of the Vision X concept, it eventually will be joined by a plug-in hybrid variant.
The maker is aiming to double annual sales to 13,000 in five years but also ruled out, for now, is the sporty Kodiaq RS revealed at the Paris show. Local boss Michael Irmer says it would be on the wish-list but the diesel needs modifications to cope with the Australian climate.
On the diesel front, in good news for unrequited potential buyers, Skoda execs say increased production has shortened the lag in building diesel versions of the Kodiaq and Karoq - they expect the Karoq 4WD mid-next year - and unlike others, the brand will keep developing and building diesels as long as we're buying them.
Next year will add to what the brand dubs its "electromobility", the upgrade for the Superb sedan including a plug-in hybrid, a first for the badge.
The new model fireworks continue with a completely new Octavia (still the brand's biggest seller) in 2020.
The following year will bring an SUV-style battery electric vehicle built on a new platform and likely to follow the styling of Skoda's Vision E concept.
As its biggest market, China is a key to Skoda's long-range model plans. India also figures in the strategy Skoda is mapping for the VW parent, including the launch in 2020 of an SUV and a "notchback" sedan for the subcontinent, both with export potential for Asia and possibly Australia.
Having noted the trend to SUVs has flattened in China, Skoda is sticking with its notchbacks - for which, Favey says, "there will always be demand".