But with Fabia casting an upward halo, Skoda's business sales manager John Rooney is confident of 30,000 units in the bag by the end of 2000, with new Octavia accounting for a steadily growing share that will accelerate with the introduction of an image-building 4x4 estate, Laurin & Klement wood and leather model, and the hot RS in the first quarter of next year.
'It's a better car, it's better value - top specification with low prices - and the timing is right,' said Rooney, who has been overseeing the business sales training of the dealer network as well as the relaunch of the Skoda Approved used car scheme.
'We're looking for realistic growth over the next two years which will lead us to 40,000 by 2004, by which time the new Beta-Plus Skoda - similar in size to the Audi A6 - will be established. That will be Skoda's first true fleet car, as it will be positioned where retail leaves off, and we'll have the infrastructure and product in place to provide the level of support and service required in mainstream fleet.'
The strategy of careful growth and prudent preparation includes a commitment to a maximum 5% into the daily rental and emergency services sectors.
'Our growth will not be built on fast cycle business. We don't want to be seen as a small player chasing daily rental for the sake of volume,' Rooney said. 'We need to protect residual values, which are up there with Mondeo and Vectra, which I consider something of a major achievement.
'We must also continue to build Skoda's image and we've still got some work to do on that in Britain. The immediate acclaim and success of Fabia has made our task a lot easier and new Octavia will help considerably as corporate buyers realise its capital cost advantages.'