New Skoda boss: small car and saloon are next EV priorities
7 December 2020 - autocar
Thomas Schäfer says Czech firm will focus initial electric effort on Enyaq SUV and forthcoming coupé variant
New Skoda boss Thomas Schäfer says a small city car and family car are the "most important" priorities to add to its electric vehicle line-up within the next decade following the new Enyaq iV SUV.
The Enyaq will go on sale early next year as the first Skoda model built on the Volkswagen Group's dedicated MEB EV platform and is set to be joined next year by a coupé variant.
Schäfer, who moved across from running Volkswagen's South African operation to take over from Bernhard Maier as Skoda chairman earlier this year, said the brand would focus its electric efforts on those two models for the next two years as demand for EVs grows.
Asked whether Skoda planned to eventually offer an electric equivalent of every combustion engined model in its range, Schäfer said: "First of all you've got to pay for all of it. I could wish for another 10 cars but the total investment won't happen. We're not going to double the portfolio.
"On the electric side, with the Enyaq and the Enyaq derivative that's coming, that's fine for now, but we need something smaller, maybe city-sized, and we need something in the flat [saloon] range, maybe an Octavia of the future, in a sense. For our brand, those are the most important electric vehicles we will see in this decade developing."
When asked about the timeline for a hatchback equivalent in size to the Volkswagen ID 3 to sit below the Enyaq, Schäfer said: "Starting vehicle concepts usually takes at least two or three years, so probably [the] middle of the decade, to be safe.
"We still believe the Enyaq has a lot of potential to bridge quite a range of demand, going almost from a sleek SUV into estate terrain. We're balancing and trying to find out when our factories have to changeover to electric vehicle production as well. It's a tremendous investment to change a factory around so you don't do that for fun.
"The Enyaq is for the next one or two years definitely our hero, and we have the derivative of the Enyaq launched at the end of next year. Those will take us through the next two or three years, and then we'll see how quickly we'll get onto another model."
The Volkswagen Group is currently developing an 'ID Lite' platform for small electric cars, with Volkswagen planning o use it for an ID 1 supermini and ID 2 crossover. Schäfer said: "If the platform is there, we will definitely do something off it, but it will definitely look completely different [to the Volkswagen models] and we'll play in a different ground there."
Schäfer said that capacity remains Skoda's biggest issue in growing its line-up, with the firm's Czech factories in Mladá Boleslav and Kvasiny currently operating at 118% capacity.
The firm will shift production of the next-generation Superb to Bratislava from 2023 onwards, freeing up annual capacity of 150,000 units at Kvasiny for a new model alongside the Kodiaq and Karoq. The Enyaq is currently produced at Mladá Boleslav on the same production line as the MQB-platformed Octavia and Karoq.
Prior to Maier's departure earlier this year, there had been reports that the Volkswagen Group wanted to reposition Skoda as a 'budget brand' to move it apart from Volkswagen, Audi and Seat. But Schäfer insisted that wasn't the case.
"When you look at the statistics, the movement of customers between Volkswagen and Skoda is negligible," he said. "The question for us strategically is: how do you address the maximum number of customers for the group? We have been doing this: we're more functional, more rational. You've got to see where the profit pools are and where the cars are sold, and you want to play in that.
"I've got no instructions to move [the brand] in any direction: we have instructions to keep this company successful, and so far we've been doing well."