125 years of ŠKODA: Important places

125 years of ŠKODA: Important places

125 YEARS ŠKODA

Over a hundred markets, production in Europe, India or China. 125 years after its founding, ŠKODA is a brand that truly bestrides the globe. Let’s see where its history has been and is being made.

23. 6. 2020

You can find places linked to ŠKODA all over the globe. From exotic New Zealand and glamorous Paris to Mladá Boleslav.

Mladá Boleslav (Czech Republic)

Mladá Boleslav is home to the management of ŠKODA and its main production plant. Almost 590,000 automobiles rolled out of the local factory gates in 2019, with 260,000 of these the brand’s OCTAVIA bestseller. FABIA, SCALA, KAMIQ and KAROQ models are also made in Mladá Boleslav. In addition, 570,000 engines and 570,000 gearboxes, four thousand batteries and over 2,312,000 axles were made in ŠKODA’s home town. The modern factory’s pride and joy is, among other things, the new paint shop, one of the most advanced and ecological facilities of its type in Europe, and the Data Centre with the most powerful company-owned supercomputer in the Czech Republic, whose two petaFLOPS capacity can perform two billion calculation operations per second. Today, ŠKODA remains the only company that both builds and develops passenger cars in the Czech Republic. In spring 1991, when the company was integrated into VW, the Mladá Boleslav development department had 600 employees, but that figure had grown to 1,170 by 1999. In April of that year they moved into the new construction centre, a glass building by the river Jizera. It has traditionally been nicknamed “the Comb”, derived from the original use of the site in the 19th century as a factory where combed yarn was spun. The ŠKODA Technology and Development Centre was opened in 2008. In September 2014 the Engine Centre was put into operation, with the gearbox centre moved to the same facility. There are currently over 2,000 qualified specialists working in technical development in Mladá Boleslav.

Kvasiny (Czech Republic)

Kvasiny-1

The automotive tradition at Kvasiny, a town in Eastern Bohemia, dates back to 1934, when inventor František Janeček’s armaments factory opened a car body workshop. The company had just added cheap and basic automobiles to its range of weapons and Jawa motorcycles. The ŠKODA story began 13 years later (1947), when the experienced local employees were tasked with working on the company’s prestigious flagship model, the six-valve SUPERB. It’s no coincidence that this model line’s modern history has retained its links to Kvasiny. This is where some iconic ŠKODA models were made, including the timeless and elegant FELICIA cabriolet or the 110 R coupé. In recent years the Kvasiny plant underwent one of the biggest modernisation and expansion overhauls in its long history, and now SUPERB limousines and estates, including the SUPERB iV plug-in hybrid and also the KODIAQ and KAROQ SUVs, are manufactured here. Last year, the company made over 320,000 vehicles here, beating the previous year’s record when the 300,000 mark was topped here for the first time.

Vrchlabí (Czech Republic)

Vehicles made in Vrchlabí were already appreciated by customers in the 19th century, as the original firm of “Petera and Sons, carts and English saddlery factory” was founded in 1864! In 1908, automobile bodies were added to the factory's output of horse-drawn carts, sledges and other products. In the interwar years, bodies were fitted to chassis of Czech brands ŠKODA, Tatra and Walter, as well as German, Italian, English and American cars. After the firm’s expansion during World War II it was nationalised and made part of ŠKODA. The first car with the winged arrow logo made here was the popular ŠKODA 1101 Tudor model. The introduction of all-metal bodies for the ŠKODA 1200 was a major technological turning point. Vrchlabí became the birthplace of countless practical vehicles derived from ŠKODA cars, including ambulances. But the higher-end versions of the ŠKODA 120 were also made here. And it was here that mass production of the FAVORIT and FORMAN models started, followed by the FELICIA, including the FELICIA Fun model. The brand’s bestseller, the ŠKODA OCTAVIA, was later built here. In 2012 the plant was transformed into a manufacturer of modern automatic two-clutch direct-shift transmissions – last year around 556,000 were made here, bringing the total to over three million. The plant’s DQ200 gearbox is used in a whole series of ŠKODA models and other cars made by the Volkswagen concern.

Prague (Czech Republic)

The Czech capital is linked with the evolution of the brand from Mladá Boleslav on many levels. It was here that the public first sighted LAURIN & KLEMENT motorcycles on the road (1899) and the company’s first mass-produced car, the Voiturette A from 1905. Countless other premieres were staged at both the exhibition ground in Prague’s Holešovice district and in the Trade Fair Palace, among them the debut of the fourth-generation OCTAVIA on 11 November 2019. Prague is also one of the bases of the ŠKODA Design department. The studio is located in the inspiring environment of an Art Nouveau building on Masaryk Embankment. The local team works on designs for future ŠKODA models. One of the ŠKODA AUTO DigiLab offices is in Prague, with others in Tel Aviv, Pune in India and Beijing in China. This unit’s specialists are working on dozens of innovative smart mobility, eMobility, AI and Smart Cities projects. It is in Prague that the BeRider electric scooter sharing service or the car rental app HoppyGo operate, for example. Another project worth mentioning is Citymove, the first multimedia transport application created for the Prague capital. Prague is also home to an inspiring workplace for ŠKODA IT specialists, students and customers in the capital’s Holešovice district.

Bratislava (Slovak Republic)

A car manufacturing company was officially established in Devínska Nová Ves, a borough of the Slovak capital, in April 1971. It was called “Bratislava Automobile Works, State Firm”), but everyone knew it by the abbreviation BAZ. From 1982 to 1984 the ŠKODA GARDE coupé was made here and in 1987 its more modern successor the RAPID. After the Velvet Revolution the company was privatised into the hands of Volkswagen group (1991). Besides VW models, ŠKODA cars have been made here since 2008: first the OCTAVIA, then the ŠKODA CITIGO. The latter is currently available in a distinctively innovated form, the fully electric CITIGOe iV.

Pune (India)

With over five million inhabitants, Pune is the eighth most populous city in India. It is home to a factory producing ŠKODA RAPID cars (the other Indian plant at Aurangabad makes OCTAVIA, KODIAQ and SUPERB models), the new Software Development Centre and one of the ŠKODA AUTO DigiLab branches. In January 2019 ŠKODA and Volkswagen Group opened a new Technology Centre roughly 30 kilometres north of Pune. Having an active presence on the important and growing Indian market allows ŠKODA to achieve a high degree of localisation, with the ultimate goal being to make almost all the vehicle components in India itself. The Technology Centre in Pune was the first step in the ambitious INDIA 2.0 project, which ŠKODA leads in the Volkswagen concern. The Czech brand is therefore in charge of the concern’s planned model offensive on the Indian market.

Nizhny Novgorod and Kaluga (Russia)

ŠKODA’s traditionally strong presence in the largest country in the world, the Russian Federation, began over 100 years ago. Roughly one third of LAURIN & KLEMENT’s total output headed to imperial Russia, as the company's products were hardy enough to cope with the most demanding road conditions. In 1936, when the crew of a ŠKODA RAPID semi-cabriolet passed Kaluga on their round-the-world journey, they could have had no idea that future RAPID models meeting the needs of demanding 21st century customers would be made in a new factory here three-quarters of a century later. There is another Russian plant producing ŠKODA cars in Nizhny Novgorod. In addition to the OCTAVIA and KODIAQ model lines, in December 2019 they started assembling compact KAROQ SUVs from CKD (Completely-Knocked-Down) sets, i.e. from parts and components delivered in the highest degree of disassembly. Nizhny Novgorod was thus added to the list of KAROQ birthplaces: Mladá Boleslav, Kvasiny and the plant at Ningbo in China.  

Nanjing (China)

ŠKODA cars are very popular in the most populous country on the planet, which has been the biggest national market for the tenth year now. Exports to China started in the 1930s, when the basic one-litre four-cylinder ŠKODA POPULAR led the way. By 1936 the carmaker had five branches in China. The brand’s modern-day presence in China dates from 2007. Mass production currently takes place in plants at Nanjing (KAMIQ, KAMIQ GT, SUPERB), Ningbo (OCTAVIA, KAROQ), Changsha (KODIAQ, KODIAQ GT) and Yicheng (RAPID). Nanjing, which was the capital city of China at various times in history, is one of the Czech brand’s main bastions.

Monte Carlo (Monaco)

The glamorous resort city in the Principality of Monaco, whose rulers from the Grimaldi family have been passionate motoring fans for generations, is more than just the location of a traditional Formula 1 race. If anything, the Monte Carlo Rally is an even more respected event. In January 1912, Czech aristocrat Saša Kolowrat-Krakowský drove a Laurin & Klement in the second year of this prestigious race. Major successes were achieved in ŠKODA POPULAR and RAPID models in the 1930s. In the sixties, a ŠKODA OCTAVIA came first in its class three years in a row. Other triumphs worth mentioning include that of the ŠKODA 130 RS in 1977, a series of four victories in its class for a FAVORIT hatchback (1991-1994) and, most recently, successes by ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo specials. But ŠKODA did not rest on its Monaco laurels – on the contrary, it ensured that the company’s customers would benefit from the acquired know-how. In 1936, the first customers could order roadsters and coupés in the POPULAR MONTE CARLO* special edition. Since 2011, when the FABIA MONTE CARLO* made its debut, selected other ŠKODA models have paid homage to the company’s sporting history with sporty looks and a number of other black design features. From 2014 to 2019 there were ŠKODA CITIGO, RAPID and RAPID SPACEBACK MONTE CARLO* versions, which were joined in August 2019 by MONTE CARLO* versions of the SCALA and KAMIQ models. 

* Monte-Carlo is a registered trademark of Monaco Brands. 

Otahuhu (New Zealand)

Aotearoa, as the original Maori population call New Zealand, is one of ŠKODA’s most remote national markets. That does not mean, though, that the company lacks a solid footing there or roots stretching back to the beginning of the 20th century. Sixty years into the last century, experienced body constructor Josef Velebný played a major role in developing and producing New Zealand’s first automobile. The distinctive TREKKA (1966-1972) based on the OCTAVIA SUPER was the predecessor of the company’s present-day SUV offensive and was made at Otahuhu in Auckland. It was also exported to Fiji and Oceania. Disassembled exemplars of the vehicle also ended up in Pakistan and Australia. The TREKKA was seen as a low-maintenance workhorse for the road and bush. Many were driven until they literally fell apart. That’s why only a few dozen have survived into the 21st century. By the way, in 2003 a TREKKA represented New Zealand at the prestigious Venice Biennale of design and art.

Tel Aviv (Israel)

ŠKODA cars have been popular in Israel since the beginning of the 1990s. In 2011, Israel broke the record among over 100 national markets by achieving a share of 54.2%. The Czech carmaker gradually worked its way up to become the strongest European and overall fourth biggest automotive brand in Israel. So it’s no surprise that the world premiere of the SCALA model in December 2018 took place in Tel Aviv. At the end of 2017, ŠKODA initiated a joint venture with Israeli importer Champion Motors, and their mutually beneficial collaboration was stepped up a level on 30 May 2018. The new company ŠKODA AUTO DigiLab Israel Ltd., based in the “global start-up capital” Tel Aviv, focuses on boosting ŠKODA’s development capacity in the digital realm by injecting local know-how, looking for promising local start-ups, developing digital mobility services, IT technologies and hardware and software innovations. It’s a fact that a diverse range of partnerships is one of the key pillars the carmaker stands on today. In Israel alone the company works with around ten promising start-ups, like Chakratec or Anagog, which ŠKODA even bought a minority stake in. This strategic investment in the Israeli company gives ŠKODA access to new AI and Big Data technologies. But Israeli innovators also come up with new ideas in the fields of cyber security, automobile sensors, Connected Car, eMobility, infotainment and Industry 4.0, which is set to be crucial in the future.

Paris (France)

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At the beginning of the 20th century, the country producing the most automobiles in the world was not Germany or the USA, let alone China. It was France. That is why everyone who wanted to push the boundaries of progress headed to Paris. Among them was Václav Klement, the co-founder of the Mladá Boleslav factory. In autumn 1898 he brought back from Paris the trailblazing albeit highly impractical “motocyclette” made by the Werner brothers, which inspired Klement's associate Václav Laurin to design a globally unique motorcycle whose drive system is still modern by today's standards. Nor can we forget the Paris motor show in autumn, where key models like the first modern OCTAVIA (1996) were unveiled. In 2004 ŠKODA became the official partner of the legendary Tour de France. This legendary annual sporting event would not be possible without a fleet of reliable and practical vehicles from its official main partner ŠKODA. What’s more, the company’s designers are behind the event’s unique trophies made from world-famous Bohemian glass. The trophies come into the spotlight at the race’s finish, which has traditionally been Paris.

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