DETLEV SCHMIDT, head of sales and marketing at Skoda, wants to strengthen the company's dealer network this year. Meanwhile, he's worried about how Volkswagen's Czech brand will do in the fragile markets of Turkey, Poland and Russia. Schmidt was interviewed by reporter Luca Ciferri.
Last year, Skoda set a sales record of 462,231 units, 6.2 percent more than the year before and more than double the 261,067 units sold in 1996. What about this year?
If the markets don't suffer a dramatic collapse we think Skoda could also show a little growth this year, something under 3 percent. We can now count on the full range of the Fabia, which in 2001 established record sales for a single Skoda product at 251,900 units. We also have the addition of the Superb.
Which markets worry you?
Turkey, Poland and Russia. To give an example, last year we almost doubled our market share in Poland to 11.2 percent, but the market was so depressed that we barely sold the same volume as in 2000.
Skoda surprised us at the 2001 Geneva show with the Montreux concept car. Within a year it was on sale as the Superb. This year the surprise at Geneva was the Tudor, a concept car for a possible luxury coupe based on the Superb. Should we expect the Tudor to be in production in early 2003?
It is too early to comment on new models. We are now discussing what Skoda's role will be among the other VW group brands. Since the new brand positioning will be well defined, we have begun thinking about new or additional products.
What is your priority for this year?
Strengthening our dealer network. We have almost 2,600 dealers in the world, but still some crucial open points in central and eastern Europe. Our presence has to be improved in big cities in western Europe, where real estate costs are too high and a dealer can afford them only when he reaches appropriate volumes.
What about the rest of the world?
In eastern Europe, we suffered like everyone else from the crisis in Turkey. Our growth in terms of market share was unable to compensate for the collapse of volumes. Last year, we strengthened our position in Latin and central America and we entered India. Currently, we are analyzing whether to enter Australia.
What about North America?
It is not part of our current plans.