Škoda, the Czech automaker that has been wholly owned by Volkswagen since 2000, has recently been filing trademarks applications at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. While automakers regularly do this even in markets they are not planning on entering, it opens an interesting discussion…
Škoda, first established in 1895 (not a typo), in fact has sold cars in the United States before, back in the 1950’s with its Felicia sedan for a few years before taking its ball and heading back home without having had much success. More recently, it has pretty much served as VW’s entry-level brand in Europe. Last year (2015) they sold just over a million vehicles globally, which I believe is a bit more than Subaru did, however Subaru sold just over half of those in North America.
Yes, many of you may think that VW is itself an entry-level brand but both Škoda and Seat rank below VW in their internal hierarchy with Audi one step above VW and then there is Porsche and Bentley above that (as well as Lamborghini and Bugatti of course as far as passenger vehicles are concerned).
Over the last few years Škoda has been increasing its status and generally now is seen more as a VW with a little more space/size for about the same or a bit less money which as a general concept is usually a winning one in the U.S. In any case, I recently came across these pictures I took of a Škoda Yeti (pre-facelift version) in Iceland at the beginning of this year and thought this might be an opportunity to use them even if they are a little blurry due to the dampness.
This particular one appears to be owned by Isavia, which runs the public airports in Iceland. I have no idea what it was doing in downtown Reykjavic.
The Yeti has been quite successful for Škoda . Introduced in 2009, it is basically a reworked VW Tiguan and about a foot shorter but almost as wide as a Honda CR-V and looking a bit like a slightly raised Kia Soul or 2nd generation Scion xB. Engines in Europe are typical VW fare with a whole range of 4cylinder gas and diesel engines ranging from 1.2l to 2.0l in displacement.
The highest current output (if I am not mistaken) is 170hp which would be more than enough for the North American market but any drivetrain that fits in a Tiguan or Golf should fit without issues. An available AWD system is Haldex based (so a slip and grip system) and it has garnered high safety ratings in European crash testing.
I’ve been in a few modern Škoda’s over the years and the feeling is a bit weird at first if you are used to VW/Audi. If you are used to or familiar with modern Audis, getting into a new VW feels familiar but a little off, most things look and feel very similar but are slightly different and generally a small step down in perceived material quality.
Getting into a Škoda is a bit less of a step down from VW, overall they are quite close in overall look and material feel and like the Audi to VW relationship, the available technology has tended to lag behind by about one generation.
Personally I love the look of the Yeti, it’s small but looks purposeful, chunky and bigger than its numbers suggest. Supposedly it drives similarly to a Tiguan and Golf (which makes sense being based on them), and should be of similar quality – I realize this means very different things to different groups of our readership and I don’t want to get into a pissing match regarding if they are or are not durable, reliable, and well-built.
Suffice it to say that VW’s can rack up some very impressive mileages overall but perhaps may need more care and feeding than some of the class leaders. They tend to do best in the hands of fans and not just as an alternative to five other similarly sized vehicles.
Note that Škoda’s are nowadays very common, and have sold very well in places with inhospitable climates and geography including Iceland and Russia as well as locales that we are generally more familiar with such as England and the rest of Western Europe. Seeing a Škoda is no more remarkable than seeing a Kia here in North America, in fact in Iceland I would say I saw more Škoda’s than VW’s which are themselves very common.
If nothing else, the Yeti tends to stand out visually, at least to me. When in Europe (or Iceland in this case) with many different cars than I see at home but a lot of them still looking somewhat generic, the Yeti is one that I instantly am drawn to and recognize.
The problem that VW would face is how to position it; some have spoken of just replacing the brand’s offerings in North America with the equivalent Škoda versions. This would be somewhat do-able as the Škoda range more or less duplicates VW’s (with the exception of the Touareg and the supposedly upcoming even larger SUV; the new Škoda Kodiaq 7-seater on the other hand is basically a stretched next-generation Tiguan) but perhaps it might be better to start as a secondary offering at existing VW dealers.
The biggest hurdle would most likely be pricing. While Škoda’s are generally seen as less expensive than their “donor” VW, making them even less expensive than many of VW’s stateside offerings would seem to be a challenge. Perhaps with a much longer warranty and an emphasis on the more “established” technology they could make some inroads here. So, what do you think, would you ever consider a Škoda Yeti (or any other Škoda offering, see them at www.skoda-auto.com/en) as a realistic option or dismiss it out of hand as if it were a Yugo?