Skoda’s local SUV push is only just starting, with more models coming.
TWO more sports utilities will join the Skoda New Zealand product portfolio within the next two years.
Brand boss Greg Leet has confirmed the Karoq compact (right), the replacement for the current Yeti, should be on sale next March, if not earlier, while a new subcompact that has yet to be unveiled or named by Skoda is coming too, perhaps as early as 2019.
In addition, there are more editions of the Kodiaq, the medium seven-seater that is kicking off the SUV strategy from next week.
Sportline, Scout (below) and a performance-minded RS are all under consideration for future implementation, Leet has told MotoringNetwork. He says the RS is of particular interest through being a performance diesel which great potential of becoming a halo model.
However, while crossovers and SUVs are expected to become increasingly important for the brand’s emergent presence here – perhaps even mirroring the 56 percent takeup that is presently experienced within the car market now – he says Skoda will not abdicate the traditional small, medium and large car lines that have re-established the brand’s presence here over the past decade. So Rapid, Octivia and Superb are safe.
“We have not forgotten, and we won’t forget, the passenger market,” he said.
Leet’s comment came today at the launch of the Kodiaq, Skoda’s first full SUV, drawn off the same MQB platform as the Tiguan from parent Volkswagen.
Kodiaq is expected to become the top-selling Skoda here, and drive brand sales to 1460 units this year and 1800 in 2018 - a 600-unit lift on the 2016 outcome and 10 times the annual volume achieved 10 years ago.
The only reason why it will have modest influence this year is because the distributor has been advised it will only get 380 cars before Christmas, due to huge global demand.
Priced from $39,990 to $58,290, the model is set to compete with the likes of the larger Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Mitsubishi Outlander, Holden Captiva, Renault Koleos and medium-sized crossovers such as the Nissan X-Trail and soon to land new generation Honda CR-V.
The Tiguan is also seen as a rival, and so too the Ateca, a model from another VW Group brand, Seat, which is set to return here later this year.
Kodiaq joins a relatively small pool of medium seven-seaters and is for now the only MQB car with three rows of seats, though like-configured versions of Ateca and the Tiguan are coming. The Tiguan Allspace will be here before the end of the year.
Honda is also about to release a seven chair CRV-V, but only in front-drive format, whereas Skoda lends this in four-wheel-drive as well.
Nonetheless, Leet is confident his car will look competitive within its buyer set on equipment, size, practicality and, not least, the brand ace card of strong value.
Where Kodiaq goes, Karoq – whose name links with Alaska (in this respect, a native word meaning arrow, which ties to the Skoda badge) to associate the model with the outdoors and adventure - is set to follow.
Though Yeti’s local market penetration has diminished over the past few years, Leet believes the replacement car, also on MQB underpinnings, whose details have only recently been released by the brand, will also be a major sales contributor, probably to the point where it might outsell Kodiaq.
Certainly it will take Skoda into territory Yeti has not penetrated, perhaps because of the way it looks.
“While Yeti offers really good functionality at really good value, it has the last of the old styling language,” Leet acknowledges. “What the Karoq does is that it brings that size of SUV into today’s design language.”
The compact SUV sector is fast growing, and Leet suggests Karoq could achieve six times the volume Yeti ever achieved.
Skoda touted the model's roomy interior and large boot as selling points. The 521 litres of trunk capacity grows to 1630 litres with the rear seats folded down. The seats can also be completely removed, increasing load capacity to 1810 litres.
Also of appeal, though, is Karoq's embrace of high-end connectivity and safety features. The model is set to include a WiFI hotspot, compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and wireless phone charging. Safety features include parking, lane and traffic-jam assistance systems and Front Assist, which offers predictive pedestrian protection.
Sorting out what technology will come to New Zealand is going to take time; chances are, though, that the car will likely not skip on the smart functions, given that the Kodiaq (and Octavia) are introducing SmartGate, an interactive smart phone-linked feature.
Initially, the focus here will be on the engine choices. Among the five powerplants identified for the car are the three selected for Kodiaq: A 110kW/250Nm 1.4 turbo petrol, a 132kW/320Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol and a 2.0-litre turbodiesel in a 140kW/400Nm format. Also in the mix are a 1.0-litre petrol and a 1.6 diesel.
“Our thoughts are for a similar engine lineup to what we have in Kodiaq. The exciting thing for Karoq is that it looks like we can get that 140kW TDi engine, which I think will go really well.”
“It also needs very good, efficient but powerful petrol engine, as a starter.”
Karoq has its official launch on May 18 in Stockholm, public debut is expected at the Frankfurt auto show in September and it will be on sale in Europe after that.
The subcompact SUV, meantime, is likely for 2019 or 2020. Leet has only seen artwork, not a complete car, but is already heartened.
“It represents a very exciting opportunity for us – it completes the suite of the SUV offering that our mainstream competitors typically offer.”
Meantime, with Kodiaq, thinking is that Sportline will be borderline for NZ because the specification chosen for the cars here now is so high that it effectively covers everything that the additional model provides.
However, the RS – which dilutes the family-first formula in being five-seater only – and the Scout, which despite a more elevated stance stops short of being tailored for more absolute off-roading, are more tenable, Leet suggests.
Skoda's global vehicle sales rose 6.8 percent to 1.13 million last year, a record for the brand, and by 2.5 percent to 283,500 in the first quarter, the best result to date for the quarter. In the mid-term, the brand aims for 1.5 million sales annually, boosted by the new SUVs.