John Rooney, head of business sales, who runs a fleet department of eight, said at the launch of the new Octavia RS model: 'Acceptance has improved dramatically and attitudes have changed. When I speak to decision-makers, there is very little resistance to the badge. The fleet sector is very important to us.'
The firm had 5,964 fleet sales last year, with a target of 7,800 this year and 10,000 by 2004, out of 40,000 total Skoda sales. In 2002, sales will be boosted by a new executive contender, revealed at the Geneva Motor Show, which will be backed by the formidable line-up of Volkswagen Group engines, from the 1.8-litre petrol turbo unit already in the Octavia to a 2.5-litre V6 TDi used by sister companies including Audi. But Rooney added that Skoda was determined to ensure wholelife costs were high on the agenda when developing sales.
He said: 'The idea is to win hearts and minds over the next year among user-choosers and fleets. Increasing demand will include protecting residual values. Currently we have two routes to market for ex-fleet vehicles, through closed auctions and through online ordering with our 185-strong dealer network.'
For 2002, he is considering the launch of specialist fleet centres to cope with the expected growth in corporate demand. He added: 'We are encouraging fleet drivers to be smart in the choice of their next car to ensure they minimise their tax liability, but obtain the best specification and quality for their money. This makes the new Octavia RS a very important model for us in terms of shifting the image of the brand overall and attracting a younger age of driver.'