Skoda campaigns for VW Group gigafactory in Czech Republic
25 March 2021 - autocar
Boss Thomas Schafer wants the brand to be part of VW Group's plan to build six new gigafactories in Europe
Skoda has expressed a strong interest in building a battery gigafactory in the Czech Republic, after its Volkswagen Group parent company said it will build six such facilities in Europe by 2030.
The Czech brand already produces plug-in hybrid batteries in its home market but its CEO, Thomas Schäfer, said that as it continues its transition to a builder of pure-electric vehicles, it makes logistical and financial sense to localise the production of batteries for full-electric models.
"The core market in Europe will be the electric car market, and we want to take a big slice of this cake, to safeguard our jobs at Skoda and in the Czech Republic," said Schäfer. He listed access to "green" electricity and an "urgent" need for better infrastructure as crucial elements in this ambition.
"It is clear that an automotive location as important as the Czech Republic will be handling battery production for electric vehicles in the future," Schäfer said. "We can see from the example of Spain how the private sector and politicians can work together to develop solutions to secure the future."
The VW Group has confirmed that one of its six new gigafactories will be built at Salzgitter in Germany, and another in Skellefteå, Sweden, but it has yet to reveal locations for the other four. "With regard to the Czech Republic," Schäfer said, "Skoda would be happy to be part of it."
Schäfer added later: "We need at least one gigafactory here in the Czech Republic. It is the right place to do it for many reasons. Not least logistically because we are in the heart of Europe, close to many automotive countries around us, so I believe it's a great location - and there's lithium in the Czech Republic.
"We at Skoda play a major role in the economy of this country, and if the company changes, the infrastructure needs to change with it, to be successful in the future. We cannot import such critical components forever. We need to also make them. Discussions are under way, but it is early times."
Each of the VW Group's new facilities is targeted to have an annual production output of 40GWh, adding up to a total European capacity of 240GWh. The group has already said one of the unconfirmed sites will be in Spain, and the other in Eastern Europe - suggesting Skoda could be named as a battery producer.
A Skoda statement read: "The development of green electricity and a nationwide charging infrastructure will be crucial for electromobility to take off in the Czech Republic, the brand’s home market. Skoda takes into account all possibilities of co-operation and projects that further support the Czech Republic as a location for the automobile industry.
"The company welcomes the general considerations about a possible gigafactory in the Czech Republic, to further strengthen the country as an automotive location and make it fit for the future."