Fleet News

Skoda Superb wins praise from fleets

October 2001: It has been at least three years since VW chairman Ferdinand Piech began to tell journalists of plans for a Skoda that would rival cars like the Opel/Vauxhall Omega and Renault Safrane in Europe's executive class.

The eccentric, but brilliant Piech was well-known for his visionary brand plans for the VW group - but no one could have predicted that Skoda would soon be entering a segment of the market where Ford, Renault, Citroen, Fiat and Peugeot had all largely failed.

On September 11 - the day that will forever be remembered for the terrible events in America - the large Skoda was finally unveiled at Frankfurt.

Based on a stretched Passat platform, the Superb will be priced against lower medium competition like the Ford Mondeo, even though it's closer in size to a BMW 5-series.

'This is where the disappearing competitor cars left us space in which to move,' said a Skoda spokesman. 'If we didn't think we could compete with cars like the Opel Omega, then we wouldn't have started this programme.

'We were given Volvo and Rover as brand targets for this car - and at the time, everyone laughed. Then one year ago we ditched the idea of Rover, and today people - and particularly people from the fleet market - can judge for themselves if we have done a good job.

'We were very keen to stick to our brand identity. For example, we could easily have had our own badge-engineered version of the VW Sharan/ SEAT Alhambra/Ford Galaxy and made a bit of money. But we would have lost our brand strategy if we had done that.'

The Superb goes on sale in many markets early next year, and fleet customers will be among the major targets.

Skoda says it will particularly aim for user-chooser sales - those company car drivers who can choose their model rather than being forced to accept a car from their company's limited-badge selection.

Representatives for two leading European leasing companies visiting the Frankfurt show praised the Superb for its build quality, its classic, clean lines, and its expected value for money.

Both, however, said Skoda would have to ensure residual values are kept high, and also make sure that it listens to the fleet market when it launches the car.

'They seem to have done a good job with the car,' said one, 'but now is when the hard work starts if they want it to succeed in the fleet market. It will have to be specified right in European markets, and supported properly so fleets can buy Skoda products with confidence.'

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