The Skoda Superb is just now reaching western European markets after debuting in the Czech Republic and Slovakia in late 2001.
Skoda invested only E180 million in the new full-size sedan. The Superb makes extensive use of Volkswagen Passat parts - including the complete doors - and VW and Audi engines and transmissions.
Though technically a long-wheelbase Passat, the Superb looks like a Skoda. The bodyside design is inspired by the Octavia, the rear lamps are similar to the Fabia's, and the nose reflects Skoda's family look with its black grille and chrome frame.
The Czech carmaker expects the Superb to compete with the Ford Mondeo, Nissan Maxima, Opel Omega, Peugeot 607, Rover 75 and Volvo S60. Company executives reject the idea that the Superb will cannibalize sales of the Passat and other models within the VW group.
Skoda says the average Superb customer will be 35 to 60 years old, male and married with children.
In central and eastern Europe, the Superb targets upper-income buyers - mainly top managers and high-ranking civil servants. In western Europe, it is meant to appeal to medium-income buyers.
Skoda has installed capacity for 150 units a day at its Kvasiny plant, near Prague. It plans to sell 22,000 Superbs this year and 32,000 in 2003. Annual production could eventually rise to 40,000 units. Western Europe will account for almost 70 percent of the volume.
The Superb is offered in three trim levels. The base Classic is expected to account for 35 percent of sales; the medium Comfort range for 45 percent and the upper Elegance for 20 percent.
Launch: December 2001 in Czech Republic and Slovakia; March 2002 in Belgium, Germany and Switzerland; April in Austria, Hungary and Sweden; May in France, UK, Italy, Poland and Spain
Platform: VW group B platform also used by VW Passat and Audi A4
Price: E22,000 to E33,000
Competitors: Ford Mondeo, Nissan Maxima, Opel Omega, Peugeot 607, Rover 75, Volvo S60
Engines: Gasoline - 1.8-liter, 150hp, four-cylinder turbo; 2.0-liter, 115hp normally aspirated; 2.8-liter, 193hp V-6. Turbodiesel - 1.9-liter, four-cylinder in 101hp and 135hp versions; 2.5-liter, 155hp V-6
Dimensions: Wheelbase 2803mm, length 4803mm, width 1895mm, height 1444mm
Standard equipment: Four airbags, antilock brakes, electronic differential locking, air conditioning