Superb opportunity

Superb opportunity

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 10.33.31 AMSkoda New Zealand is on a strong growth path. Last year it sold 850 cars, this year it will cross a thousand, and next year is targeting 1300.

New models are one-factor driving sales, with the company getting a good push out of the launch of the new Fabia earlier this year, but so is momentum.

Fabia clearly attracted new buyers to the brand, and our market share spiked, says Skoda New Zealand general manager Greg Leet. And that is what we are expecting with the new Superb.

More cars on the road means more buyers.

When you start to get some mass out there on the road, people become more aware of the brand, Leet says. People become more aware of what Skoda offers.

The new Superb, launched last month, moved just short of 100 units last year, with Leet expecting that to double to 200 “ 60 sedans and 140 wagons “ next year.

It is hard to argue the Superb is one of the best value vehicles on the market, with pricing aligned to take on the Ford Mondeo, which at the opening price point has more power, but less spec.

Leet is insistent cars like the Mondeo “ mainstream brands “ is where the Superbs competition lies.

Our competitor set is mainstream vehicles, he says. Often you will see the Superb compared to vehicles far higher up the market and price range.

The range opens at $44,900 for a 1.8-litre petrol 132kW TSI unit with a seven-speed DSG transmission, next is a 2.0-litre 110kW TDI and six-speed DSG for $50,900, a 2.0-litre 140kW TDI with all-wheel-drive is next for $57,900 and the range tops out with a 2.0-litre 206kW all-wheel drive with a six-speed DSG for $59,900.

They may call them sedans, and they look that way, but are in fact lift-backs, eschewing the old models special split-fold tailgate.

Wagons are available on all levels, at a $3000 premium.

Specifications are strong, with even the base model getting such niceties as an Alcantara and leather interior, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, parking sensors and reversing camera, cruise control and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Move up to the 140kW TDI or 206kW TSI and specification moves up to a full leather interior, 19-inch allow wheels, ˜Kessy keyless entry and start, adaptive cruise-control with a traffic jam function (206kW only) and a Drive Mode Select system.

All models have the usual suite of safety features, with each model getting some form of intelligent safety technology. All cars get a ˜Front Assistant with autonomous braking, lane change warning and assist, and blind spot warning.

The Superb is one of the first cars launched in New Zealand with both Android Auto and Apple Car play fitted as standard, both get LCD screens and navigation – a larger, higher specification unit in the top model.

Leet says the wagon will do 70% of the volume on the new model, while the $44,900 vehicle is likely to bring new business to the brand.

I think the $44,900 car is going to be a great opportunity, and interest is very high in the 206kw car, but I think that is because it is a new model and the top model he explains.

Traditionally diesels are our highest selling models, and I do not see that changing.

AutoTalk drove only the 140kW TDI at the Superbs recent launch, and came away very impressed.

The car is impressive for its roominess, both front and rear, almost limo-like in legroom for those in the back.
Build quality feels as good as anything Audi can offer, even if you can see the price difference in some of the less-important plastic surface choices.

The ride is firm, but not uncomfortable, and steering light and relatively direct for a big sedan. The car lacks some of the feel of the Mondeo, but is still a strong drive.

The all-wheel-drive traction was appreciated when hit by a strong Auckland spring squall, although the wipers on our test model seemed a little flimsy.

Customers ˜Gold Bars

Leet was quick to address the elephant in the room at the launch, the Volkswagen Groups emissions issues.
A small number of Skodas sold here have been pulled into the issue, Leet says. It has been a trying time, not only for Skoda, but all the European Motor Distributors brands.
What is really important for us is we communicate with our customers, he says. There will be a fix, and we will get through this.

What we have committed to do is reset the bar on what the customer recall experience is for customers, he claims.
It is really important they are treated like gold bars.

Out of government

One disappointment of the last year for the Skoda team has been the brand no longer being in the ˜All of Government fleet programme.

Skoda has had significant success with government fleet business, particularly with Octavia, but in the latest round rather than working on its own, the brand took part in a group tender across all of the European Motor Distributors brands, which was not successful.

Leet indicated, however, that the brand is still doing business with some government organisations and had been moving a number of units before the previous tender ended.

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