Škoda Auto History
|Founded||1895 (as Laurin & Klement)|
|Founders||Václav Laurin and Václav Klement|
|Headquarters||Mladá Boleslav, Czech Republic|
Škoda Auto more commonly known as "Škoda", is an automobile manufacturer based in the Czech Republic. The car manufacturer was founded in 1895 as Laurin & Klement, it was acquired by Škoda Works in 1925, and became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group in 2000, positioned as the entry brand to the group.
The Škoda Works were established as an arms manufacturing plant in 1859. Škoda Auto (and its predecessors) is one of the five oldest companies producing cars and has an unbroken history alongside Tatra, Daimler, Opel and Peugeot.
Laurin and Klement, Slavia
The origins of what became Škoda Auto go back to the early 1890s when, like many long-established car manufacturers, a company started manufacturing bicycles. In 1894, 26-year-old Václav Klement, who was a bookseller in Mladá Boleslav, Bohemia (today's Czech Republic, then part of Austria-Hungary), was unable to obtain spare parts to repair his German bicycle.
Klement returned his bicycle to the manufacturers, Seidel and Naumann, with a letter, in Czech, asking them to carry out repairs, only to receive a reply, in German, stating: "If you would like an answer to your inquiry, you should try writing in a language we can understand". Not satisfied with the reply and realising the business potential, Klement, despite having no technical experience, decided to start a bicycle repair shop, which he and Václav Laurin opened in 1895 in Mladá Boleslav. Before going into partnership with Klement, Laurin was an established bicycle manufacturer in the nearby town of Turnov.
In 1898, after moving to their newly built factory, the pair bought a Werner "Motocyclette". Laurin & Klement's first motorcyclette, powered by an engine mounted on the handlebars driving the front wheels, proved dangerous and unreliable—an early accident on it cost Laurin a front tooth. To design a safer machine with its structure around the engine, the pair wrote to German ignition specialist Robert Bosch for advice on a different electromagnetic system. The pair's new motorcycle made its debut in 1899.
In 1900, with a company workforce of 32, local production began and 150 machines were shipped to London for the Hewtson firm. Shortly afterwards, the press credited them as makers of the first motorcycle. The first model, Voiturette A, was a success and the company was established both within Austria-Hungary and internationally. By 1905 the firm was manufacturing automobiles, making it the second oldest car manufacturer in the Czech lands after Tatra.
After World War I the Laurin & Klement company began producing trucks, but in 1924, after running into problems and being affected by a fire on their premises, the company sought a new partner.
Meanwhile Akciová společnost, dříve Škodovy závody (Limited Company, formerly the Škoda Works), an arms manufacturer and multi-sector concern which had become one of the largest industrial enterprises in Europe and the largest in Czechoslovakia, started manufacturing cars in cooperation with Hispano-Suiza. Škoda sought to enlarge its non-arms manufacturing base and acquired Laurin & Klement in 1925. Most of the later production took place under Škoda's name.
An assembly line was used for production from 1930 onwards. In the same year a formal spin-off of the car manufacture into a new company, Akciová společnost pro automobilový průmysl or abbreviated ASAP, took place. ASAP remained a wholly owned subsidiary of the Škoda Works and continued to sell cars under the Škoda marque. Apart from the factory in Mladá Boleslav it included also the firm's representation, sales offices and services, as well as a central workshop in Prague. At the time, the car factory in Mladá Boleslav covered an area of 215,000 m2 and employed 3,750 blue-collar and 500 white-collar workers.
After a decline caused by the economic depression, Škoda introduced a new line of cars in the 1930s which significantly differed from its previous products. A new design of chassis with backbone tube and all-around independent suspension was developed under the leadership of chief engineer Vladimír Matouš and modelled on the one first introduced by Hans Ledwinka in Tatra. First used on model Škoda 420 Standard in 1933, it aimed at solving insufficient torsional stiffness of the ladder frame.
The new design of chassis became the basis for models Popular (845-1,089 cc), Rapid (1165–1766 cc), Favorit (1802–2091 cc) and the Superb (2.5–4 l). While in 1933 Škoda had a 14% share of the Czechoslovak car market and occupied third place behind Praga and Tatra, the new line made it a market leader by 1936, with a 39% share in 1938.
During the occupation of Czechoslovakia in World War II the Škoda Works were turned into part of the Reichswerke Hermann Göring serving the German war effort by producing components for military terrain vehicles, military planes, other weapon components and cartridge cases. Vehicle output decreased from 7,052 in 1939 to 683 in 1944, of which only 35 were passenger cars. A total of 316 trucks were produced between January and May 1945. The UK and US air forces bombed the Škoda works repeatedly between 1940 and 1945. The final massive air raid took place on 25 April 1945 and resulted in almost the complete destruction of the Škoda armament works and approximately 1,000 dead and injured.
Post World War II
When, by July 1945, the Mladá Boleslav factory had been reconstructed, production of Škoda's first post-World War II car, the 1101 series began. It was essentially an updated version of the pre-World War II Škoda Popular. In the autumn of 1945, Škoda (along with all other large manufacturers) became part of the communist planned economy, which meant it was separated from the parent Škoda company. In spite of unfavourable political conditions and losing contact with technical development in non-communist countries, Škoda retained a good reputation until the 1960s, producing models such as the Škoda 440 Spartak, 445 Octavia, Felicia and Škoda 1000 MB.
In late 1959, the Škoda Felicia, a compact four-cylinder convertible coupe, was imported into the United States for model year 1960. Its retail price was around US$2,700, for which one could purchase a nicely-equipped V8 domestic car that was larger, more comfortable, and had more luxury and convenience features (gasoline retailed for less than 30 cents per gallon, so fuel economy was not of primary importance in America at that time). Those Felicias that made it to American ownership soon experienced a number of reliability problems, further damaging the car's reputation. The Felicia was therefore a poor seller in the States and leftover cars ended up being hied off at a fraction of the original retail list. Since that time, Škoda automobiles have not been imported into the U.S. for retail sale.
In the late 1980s, Škoda (then named Automobilové závody, národní podnik or abbreviated AZNP) was still manufacturing cars that conceptually dated back to the 1960s. Rear engined models such as the Škoda 105/120, Estelle and Rapid sold steadily and performed well against more modern makes in races such as the RAC Rally in the 1970s and 1980s. They won their class in the RAC rally for 17 years running. They were powered by a 130 brake horsepower (97 kW), 1,289 cubic centimetres (78.7 cu in) engine. In spite of its dated image and becoming the subject of negative jokes, Škodas remained a common sight on the roads of UK and Western Europe throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
Sport versions of the Estelle and earlier models were produced, using the name "Rapid". Soft-top versions were also available. The Rapid was once described as the "poor man's Porsche", and had significant sales success in the UK during the 1980s.
In 1987 the Favorit was introduced, and was one of a triumvirate of compact Western-influenced front-wheel drive hatchbacks from the three main Eastern Bloc manufacturers around that time, the others being VAZ's Lada Samara and Zastava's Yugo Sana. The Favorit's appearance was the work of the Italian design company Bertone. With some motor technology licensed from western Europe, but still using the Škoda-designed 1289 cc engine, Škoda engineers designed a car comparable to western production. The technological gap was still there, but began closing rapidly. The Favorit was very popular in Czechoslovakia and other Eastern Bloc countries. It also sold well in Western Europe, especially in the UK and Denmark due to its low price and was regarded as solid and reliable. However, it was perceived as having poor value compared with contemporary Western European designs. The Favorit's trim levels were improved and it continued to be sold until the introduction of the Felicia in 1994.
Volkswagen Group subsidiary
The fall of communism with the Velvet Revolution brought great changes to Czechoslovakia and most industries were subject to privatisation. In the case of Škoda Automobile, the state authorities brought in a strong foreign partner. Volkswagen was chosen by the Czech government on December 9, 1990, and, as a result, on March 28, 1991 a joint-venture partnership agreement with Volkswagen took place, marked by the transfer of a 30% share to the Volkswagen Group on April 16, 1991. By this stage, Skoda was still making its outdated range of rear engine saloons, although it had started production of the Favorit front-wheel drive hatchback in 1988 as an eventual replacement.
In the following years, Škoda became the fourth brand of the German group, as the Volkswagen Group raised its equity share first on December 19, 1994, to 60.3%, followed on December 11, 1995, to 70%.
In the competition for Škoda, Volkswagen was pitted against French car-maker Renault, which lost out because its strategic plan did not include producing high-value models in the Czech factories: Renault proposed to manufacture the Renault Twingo city car in the Škoda factories.
At the time the decision was made, privatisation to a major German company was somewhat controversial. However, it could be argued that the subsequent fortunes of other Eastern-Bloc automobile manufacturers such as Lada, AutoVAZ, and of Škoda Works itself – once Škoda Auto's parent company – suggested that Volkswagen's involvement was not necessarily a result of poor judgement.
Backed by Volkswagen Group expertise and investments, the design — both style and engineering — has improved greatly. The 1994 model Felicia was effectively a reskin of the Favorit, but quality and equipment improvements helped, and in the Czech Republic the car was perceived as good value for money and became popular. Sales improved across Europe, including the United Kingdom, where the Felicia was one of the best-ranking cars in customer satisfaction surveys.
ŠKODA cars are produced in the Czech Republic, China, Russia, India and Slovakia at ŠKODA’s own production facilities or through partnerships within the Volkswagen Group. ŠKODA models are additionally manufactured in Ukraine and Kazakhstan through local partners.
ŠKODA has three production sites in the Czech Republic. Mladá Boleslav is the carmaker's base with a tradition of industrial production dating back to 1895. Mladá Boleslav is not only home to the brand's headquarters and R&D department, but is also the location of ŠKODA's largest production facility in the world. ŠKODA also produces engines (e.g. EA 211: 1.2 TSI, 1.4 TSI and EA 111: 1.2 MPI, 1.2 TSI) and gearboxes (MQ 100 and MQ 200 manual gearboxes, SQ 100 piloted gearbox) in Mladá Boleslav for use both in ŠKODA models, and also for other brands within the Volkswagen Group. At the company’s Kvasiny plant, ŠKODA builds the Yeti, Superb and Roomster models, while the Vrchlabí plant is dedicated to the production of the 7-gear direct-shift gearbox (DSG).
In 2001, India became the first non-European country where ŠKODA produces cars. The first car assembled in the country was the Octavia at the ŠKODA plant in Aurangabad. The Superb followed in 2004, the Fabia in 2008 and the Yeti in 2010. The Volkswagen Group plant in Pune began manufacturing the Rapid in 2011. Production of the Fabia in India was paused in 2013.
In China, ŠKODA cars have been built in cooperation with Shanghai Volkswagen (SVW) since 2007. Initially three models were produced, but nowadays six models – the Fabia, Rapid, Rapid Spaceback, Octavia, Yeti and Superb – roll off the SVW production lines in Anting, Yizheng and Ningbo.
The first ŠKODA model produced in China was the Octavia in 2007. It was followed by the Fabia in 2008, and the Superb in 2009. Production of the Rapid was launched in China at the end of 2012. The ŠKODA Yeti was launched in China in 2013, first as an export model, and later as a locally produced vehicle. The production of the Rapid Spaceback began in spring 2014. Since ŠKODA entered the Chinese market, more than one million ŠKODAs have been produced at SVW plants.
In Russia ŠKODA cars are produced at the production facilities in Kaluga and Nizhny Novgorod. The first locally assembled model was the Octavia in November 2007. The production of Fabia began in 2008 at the Volkswagen Group Russia (VGR) plant in Kaluga, where the Superb is also produced. The Rapid followed at the beginning of 2014. In partnership with VGR and the Russian automobile manufacturer GAZ, the production of the Yeti in Nizhny Novgorod began in 2011, and the new Octavia has also been manufactured at this plant since 2013.
The city car ŠKODA Citigo has been produced at the Volkswagen Group’s Bratislava plant since 2011.
2003 Skoda Fabia-WRC car
World Rally Championship
Following a long history of class victories in lower levels of motorsport, Škoda became a participant in the FIA World Rally Championship in the 1999 season, with World Rally Car models of the Škoda Octavia. Škoda's best result with the Octavia WRC was Armin Schwarz's third place at the 2001 Safari Rally. From mid 2003, the Octavia was replaced by the smaller Škoda Fabia. Škoda used the 2004 season to develop the car further, but did not achieve much success the following season. However, at the season-ending Rally Australia, 1995 world champion Colin McRae was running second before retiring. Škoda then withdrew from the series, and the 2006 season saw Škoda represented by the semi-privateer Red Bull Škoda Team. Jan Kopecký drove the Fabia WRC to fifth place at the Rally Catalunya, and as late as the 2007 Rallye Deutschland the Fabia still achieved a fifth place result, again in the hands of Kopecký. Former works Ford and Citroen driver François Duval also drove a Fabia WRC in 2006 for the privateer First Motorsport team, achieving a sixth place on Rally Catalunya.
In 2009, Škoda entered the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) for the first time, using the Fabia S2000, winning three rallies and finishing second in both the drivers and manufacturers championship. In 2010, Škoda's won a total of seven IRC events winning both the manufacturers and driver championship for Juho Hänninen. These achievements were repeated in the following two seasons, with Andreas Mikkelsen as the drivers' champion. In 2013, the Intercontinental Rally Challenge was merged with the European Rally Championship (ERC) and the team gained the drivers' championship title once again for Jan Kopecký. The car was also raced by privateers in several championships, including Red Bull, Barwa, Rene Georges and Rufa in the 2010 Super 2000 World Rally Championship.
In August 2011, a special Škoda Octavia vRS set the world record at the Bonneville Speedway and became the fastest car in the world with an up to two-litre engine, when it hit 227 mph (365 km/h). The current fastest production Škoda car is the Škoda Superb 3.6 FSI 4x4, with a top speed of 250 km/h (160 mph) and acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h (0 to 62 mph) in 6.5 seconds.
Skoda 1000 MB coupe