Škoda: The Surprising Story of the Company



Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

In 2020, there are plenty of car manufacturers that produce hundreds of thousands of automobiles daily. Most popular car dealerships are situated in Japan, South Korea, the USA, and Germany. Yet, the Czech car producers are in no way inferior – the story of the most famous car brand Škoda certainly proves it.

The story of the Škoda business started on the 18th of December 1895 when Václav Laurin and Václav Klement established the company in Mladá Boleslav, the Czech Republic. Initially, the company was named Laurin & Klement, but the name was changed, eventually. The production started from the motorcycles, powered by an engine situated in the handlebars driving in the front wheels (1898). Such design was pretty dangerous, so manufacturers decided to ask for advice from ignition specialist Robert Borsch. In 1899, Laurin & Klement presented a brand-new designed motorcycle Slavia, becoming the first motorcycle company in Central Europe. The product won multiple awards and was used in the competitions, for instance, races. The business started to flourish overseas: the company exported 150 machines to London by 1900. Five years later, in 1905, the board of the company decided to expand its production lines to automobiles. Their first car, Voiturette A, was an overnight success all over the globe. During World War I, the business produced trucks, vehicles, and even airplanes engines to help the army. 

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            In 1918-1919 the legendary Škoda logo was created. Tomáš Maglič was the principal designer of it. It was registered four years later in Plzen, one of the main offices of the company. There were two various but straightforward designs. The first design was a winged arrow with a five-feathered wing in a circle with the word ‘Škoda.’ The second version of the logo was a little bit different: it was a three-winged arrow in a circle. The second type of logo is still used by the brand today. 

After World War I, the company began producing trucks; however, the relationship with one of the partners led to the fire on their factories in 1924, and they stopped the production process. In 1925, the Škoda Works acquired Laurin & Klement. Together, they started manufacturing cars (1930), which are known today under Škoda’s name. 

            In the events of the economic depression, Škoda introduced the new production line of cars, which varied from their previous models. The design included such elements as chassis with a backbone tube and all-around independent suspension. It was developed under the supervision of a chief engineer Vladimír Matouš. All these elements became a backbone for future cars – Popular, Rapid, Favorit, and Superb. By 1933, Škoda had 14% of the market share in the Czechoslovak car market and occupied third place in the car industry. The new line allowed the business to obtain a 39% share and become a leader on the market in 1938. 

            During World War II, Škoda Works were turned into Reichswerke Hermann Göring as Czechoslovakia was occupied. The company was producing military needs, for instance, vehicles, trucks,  planes, and weapons. As it was an excellent help for Germany, the UK and US air forces decided to bomb the Škoda factory repeatedly in 1940-1945: most of the workers were injured, some of the injuries were fatal. In 1945, the primary factory was reconstructed, and the production line of cars of the 1110 series continued. 

Three years later, in 1948, Škoda was separated from Škoda Works and became an integral part of the planned economy of the country. Despite the hardships of the political regime, the company retained a good reputation until the 1960s. 

In 1960, the Škoda Felicia model was exported to the US market; however, people did not like the car that much, leading to a fall in sales. In the UK and Western Europe, the sales results were the opposite: you could’ve spotted the car in these countries during 1970-1980. For 17 years, Englishmen were buying racing cars such as RAC Rally with the 130LR Estelle, powered by a 131 PS, 1289cc engine for numerous rallies. In 1987, a new model, Favorit, was introduced. The design was outstanding, thanks to the Italian co-workers from Bertone. It was sold until the new model came out; it was only in 1994.

Until the 1990s, Škoda’s fundamental strategy was creating small and convenient family cars. The invention of Favorite model (1987), which was a front-wheel hatchback, was the exception. Undoubtedly, the Velvet Revolution brought some changes to the industry: Škoda brought a strong foreign partner. In 1990, it was announced for privatization, and 24 companies were interested in the deal. Among them was Renault, with whom the company declined the offer, and Volkswagen, with whom the company made a deal. Škoda became the fourth brand in the Volkswagen Group that raised its equity share to 60.3% by 1994 and 70% by 1995. The sales improved across Europe and the United Kingdom, and the customer satisfaction level was the best since 1895. A few years later, the company started to export its production to other countries worldwide. 

In 2007, the manufacturer decided to use an ad to promote Škoda Fabia due to the surpassing costs of producing Škoda Superb. The advertisement presented a considerable cake which cost the company $500,000. It was the most expensive Škoda since 1895! Later, the ad won several awards and was honored by form British Television Advertising Awards and Creative Circle Awards. It turned out to be the best ad by Škoda, and it helped the company gain huge sales.

In 2010, Škoda presented their first e-car concept at Paris Motor Show, and, in 2012, the first car was produced. It was an emission-free fleet of Octavia Green e-line. Surprisingly, China overtook German sales to become Škoda’s largest individual market. Meanwhile, the other production lines kept evaluating and improving. In 2015, the firm installed pollution-cheating software to fit the governmental requirements ( you can read more in the Volkswagen emissions scandal). The same year, Škoda started working on the new electric platform: such cars are available from the second half of 2020. Moreover, the plug-in hybrid car, Škoda Superb IV,  is also available for purchase today, as well as the fully electric car Škoda Citigo e IV. 

Sofia Chesnokova

Sofia Chesnokova

Passionate about digital marketing, copywriting, and Prague!
Sofia Chesnokova
Sofia Chesnokova

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Passionate about digital marketing, copywriting, and Prague!