Have you heard the one about the Skoda? You might not have done so because the days when Skoda cars were the butt of jokes are long gone.
Indeed, this car maker has had a remarkable renaissance. Last year, the company celebrated its 125th anniversary — and what a century and a quarter it has been.
It is 30 years since Germany’s giant Volkswagen Group took full control of the Czech brand following the fall of the Berlin Wall two years earlier in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of communism across Eastern Europe.
Powerful: The new Enyaq iV SUV is Skoda’s first fully electric vehicle and described by the firm as ‘one of the most significant new models ever introduced in the brand’s 126-year history’
Those early cars were aimed at the budget market but in the past decade Skodas have become rather posh, with bold designs and sporty performance. Now, they are viewed as a smart or clever choice for people who want value for money but also demand style.
Skoda hasn’t been shy about using glamour to sell its wares, as vintage snaps reveal. Singer Paloma Faith appeared in Skoda’s 2018 campaign for the Karoq SUV with a cover of the 1969 song Make Your Own Kind Of Music. The following year she covered the Sammy Davis Jnr classic I Gotta Be Me for the range.
Leader of the pack: The Skoda Enyaq iV heads the peloton at the Tour de France
It is two decades since Skoda introduced its first rally-sport victory inspired vRS performance model in the UK — the Octavia vRS Mk1 of 2001 — with the cult-status Fabia vRS Mk1 hot-hatch following soon afterwards.
A decade later, in 2011, a Skoda Octavia vRS officially became the world’s fastest 2.0-litre supercharged production car in the world when the 600hp ‘salt spec’ racer exceeded 227mph to clinch the land speed record on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah in the U.S.
Skoda now sells around 75,000 cars a year in the UK, with the Octavia its most popular model, followed by the Fabia. The latest car for Skoda buyers is the fourth generation (since 2000) Fabia hatchback.
Order books are about to open for deliveries later this year with prices from around £15,000 to £20,000.
The current UK Skoda range also features: the Scala hatchback from £17,270 to £25,950, the Octavia hatchback and estate from £22,245 and the Superb from £25,890 to £42,035. The 280hp 2-litre Sport Line version of the Superb, costing £34,740, is also the fastest-accelerating Skoda, covering 0-62mph in five seconds.
Skoda Enyaq iV
Skoda SUVs comprise the Kamiq (£18,755 to £26,985), Karoq (£23,675 to £35,660), and facelifted Kodiaq (from £27,650), whose sporty vRS at £44,635 is the most expensive car in the range, powered by a 2-litre 245hp petrol engine that propels it from 0 to 62mph in 6.4 seconds.
The new Enyaq iV SUV is Skoda’s first fully electric vehicle and described by the firm as ‘one of the most significant new models ever introduced in the brand’s 126-year history’. There are also plug-in hybrid versions of the Octavia and Superb.
Many mourn the passing of the popular Skoda Yeti, but second-hand ones are a popular purchase with families and fans who love its practicality and looks.
Skoda started in 1895, when two cycling fanatics — mechanic Václav Laurin and bookseller businessman Václav Klement — set up a bicycle repair shop before designing and manufacturing their own cycles under the name Slavia.
In 1905, they produced their first motor car — the 25mph Laurin & Klement Voiturette A — and by 1907, L&K was the largest car producer in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
New 4th generation Skoda Fabia
But the defeat of Germany and its allies in World War I hit the firm hard. So L&K merged in 1925 with the giant Skoda engineering works in Pilsen which was then the largest company in Czechoslovakia. Taking on the Skoda name, automobile production was relaunched outside Prague. The 1930s saw the creation of several legendary vehicles, including the first affordable car for the Czechoslovak masses — the Skoda 420 Popular.
By 1938, however, war clouds were looming again. Hitler’s territorial ambitions in Eastern Europe meant he had his eyes on the engineering excellence and armaments produced by Skoda.
After wartime occupation by the Nazis, Czechs and Slovaks then had to endure being part of Russia’s Soviet empire.
But Skoda says: ‘Even under the difficult conditions of the socialist planned economy, a number of significant models were created in the 40 or so years as a ‘publicly owned company’.’
In tune: Singer-songwriter Paloma Faith appeared in Skoda campaigns
These included the Skoda 1101 Tudor, the Skoda 440 Spartak and the Skoda Felicia Roadster. Another milestone came in 1964 with the Skoda 1000 MB, the first Skoda with self-supporting body, rear-wheel drive, and the world’s first mass-produced die-cast aluminium engine in the rear.
By 1987, the Skoda Favorit became the firm’s new front-wheel drive compact car. After the nation’s rejection of communism, Skoda’s strongest partnership began in 1991 with Germany’s Volkswagen Group as the company’s history came full circle. This proved the making of Skoda as its annual sales increased six-fold between 1991 and 2014.
Today, Skoda employs 43,000 people and is active in more than 100 markets, selling over a million vehicles in 2020.
With three more pure electric vehicles in the pipeline, its aim is to be one of the five best-selling car brands in Europe by 2030. So, who’s laughing now?
CZECH MATE WITH THESE LEGENDS
1905: Laurin & Klement Cart
A The company’s first car had just 7hp and a top speed of 25mph. This open-top two-seater offered the driver little more protection from the elements than motorbikes but it was a huge hit.
1936: Popular Skoda Monte Carlo
In the 1930s, the company returned to motor sport and the Monte Carlo Rally. In January 1936, a special Popular roadster took second place in the under 1,500cc class. The first open-top version of the Popular Monte Carlo was delivered in July 1936.
Behind the times: More than 57,000 rear-engined models of the Skoda 110 R were produced
1970: Skoda 110 R
More than 57,000 rear-engined models were produced. The 110 R provided the base for a range of sporting specials and was quickly adopted by the motorsport fraternity. Its successor, the Škoda 130 RS, remains one of the most successful competition cars of all time.
1996: Skoda Octavia
The first Skoda developed from scratch after the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the takeover by Volkswagen, the Octavia kick-started a design and engineering renaissance. Since 1996, it has accounted for more than 40 per cent of Skoda sales, with five million built to date.
2020/1: Skoda Enyaq iV
The all-new all-electric Enyaq iV is Skoda’s first fully electric vehicle. The Enyaq iV 60 costs from £31,995 after the Government’s £2,500 plug-in car grant. Charging takes just 38 minutes on a fast-charger, and overnight on a domestic charger.
A ‘CLASSIC’ WEEKEND IN STORE FOR VINTAGE FANS
Classic cars are being celebrated this weekend as campaigners say they are making progress in getting ministers to protect the heritage of vintage motors against controversial government plans to drive petrol and diesel cars off the road.
Controversial: Campaigners say they are making progress in getting ministers to protect the heritage of vintage motors
The newly formed Historic & Classic Vehicles Alliance (HCVA) welcomed the ‘constructive approach’ of DVLA chief executive Julie Lennard, who told MPs she would be ‘very happy’ to explore closer engagement with the car industry in order to solve long-running problems over classic vehicle registrations.
The news came as the agency boss appeared before the House of Commons Transport Select Committee to answer questions on a 1.4 million backlog of licence applications, lengthy industrial disputes, and Covid-related staffing issues.
- Tomorrow, a tribute to vehicles that were once a common sight but are now a rarity on UK roads takes place at the postponed seventh Hagerty’s Festival of the Unexceptional (left) at Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire. Already sold out, the event aims to ‘showcase the best examples of some of the most mundane cars ever built’. Organisers said: ‘It showcases much maligned and long forgotten ‘ordinary’ classic cars and commercial vehicles of the late 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s.’ (hagerty.co.uk).
- Earlier this month Transport Minister Rachel Maclean, Conservative MP for Redditch, sought to reassure classic car owners by saying that it is ‘important to be clear that while we’re phasing out the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, at this stage we don’t have any plans to actually ask people to remove existing or classic cars or older cars from the road.’
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