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Skoda is back - and for good

Skoda returns to the Singapore car market with a new dealer, and more importantly, new clout behind it.

"We are bringing in the Kodiaq, which will be our group's first seven-seater large SUV. The Kodiaq will complement the group's SUV offensive." - Ricky Tay (above), Volkswagen Group Singapore co-MD


SKODA is back. After exiting the Singapore market in 2013, the Czech brand's new dealership opened its doors for business on March 22.

The brand is now being handled by Volkswagen Group Singapore (VGS), which is operating the Skoda Centre Singapore at the former aftersales area of its building at 247 Alexandra Road. The Volkswagen connection is top-down: Skoda became a wholly-owned subsidiary of VW in 2000, and all its models have since shared their major components with Volkswagen cars.

Ricky Tay, the co-managing director of VGS, said that Skoda is a more youthful, value-for-money label for VW. Launching it here allows VGS to cater to a more diverse group of car buyers with different budgets and needs, he told The Business Times.

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"Though the two brands are owned by the same company, they each have a distinct identity," he said. "At the core of the Skoda brand is its 'Simply Clever' philosophy, which means the simple sophistication of ingeniously designed cars."

Skoda is being relaunched with four models ranging in price from S$103,400 to S$167,900 with Certificate Of Entitlement (COE).

Fans of the brand will recognise the Superb and Octavia models. The latter is a roomy, five-door liftback with a 1.0-litre turbo engine. At S$109,400, it targets buyers who want an alternative to mainstream Japanese family sedans, and is likely to be Skoda's top seller here.

As for the Superb, it is a luxurious liftback that is effectively an enlarged Volkswagen Passat. It's being sold here in the top spec Laurin & Klement trim, with a 220 horsepower, 2.0-litre engine and a price tag of S$159,900.

Newcomers from the brand include the Rapid Spaceback (S$103,400) and Kodiaq (S$167,900).

The Rapid Spaceback is a 1.0-litre, turbocharged compact hatchback with a large, 415-litre boot, while the Kodiaq is a seven-seat Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) that will serve as an informal flagship for the brand here.

Mr Tay said the Skoda line-up can complement VW's own range of cars instead of cannibalising them. "For instance, we are bringing in the Kodiaq, which will be our group's first seven-seater large SUV," he said. "The Kodiaq will complement the group's SUV offensive. As such, we do not expect much overlap in the two brands, as both appeal to their respective target audiences."

The Octavia will also help to replace sales that VGS lost when the popular VW Jetta, a similar-sized car, was discontinued. The Jetta accounted for more than a third of VW's Singapore volume.

Mr Tay said VGS is considering other models to import in order to grow the brand, but Skoda has historically had it rough in Singapore. Its best performance here was in 2010, when it sold only 105 cars, commanding a market share of just 0.25 per cent. The brand has also passed through many hands, and Skoda Centre Singapore is its fourth dealership.

That said, VGS is the largest operator to handle Skoda so far, and brings both scale and financial clout to the business. Both will be needed to convince car buyers that Skoda is not just back, but back for good.