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If you haven’t seen the US and UK reality TV show “The Apprentice”, check it out. A ruthless businessman trials contestants who compete to be his apprentice. They perform a specific task each week, then the mogul judges their performance and reduces their number by one with the bruising dismissal: “You’re fired!” The last one standing gets the dubious honour of working for him for a year.
At ŠKODA, the apprentice scheme couldn’t be more different. It has a much more enlightened approach. Instead of promoting a selfish everyone-for-themselves, you’re-fired culture, the car company encourages real teamwork. The results are stunning and are probably best displayed in the inspiring and impressive apprentice car project. Now in its third year, it is a shining beacon of what young people learning a trade at ŠKODA can do.

_atero_auta

Here’s how the in-house competition works. All the apprentices are invited to dream up a variation of an existing ŠKODA model. The plans, which this year ran to more than 90 in total, are assessed by the management team. They then award a winner, and that lucky design is built as one-off car. But – and this is the important bit – it isn’t the experienced production line or ŠKODA engineers who build it, but the team of apprentices themselves. In this case it was 26 of them, all of whom were under twenty and most of whom had never met before.

The result? A sleek, urban, punchy little number which has been christened the ATERO. The name is apt, because it comes from the Latin word for “black” and it certainly has something of the dark night – or even the Dark Knight – about it. Sprayed with ŠKODA’s signature metallic Black Magic, it’s the kind of car, as one apprentice said, you could call a “superhero auto” – one that Bruce Wayne’s alter ego might drive if he decided to take to the cobbled streets of Prague.

It has certainly inspired the teenagers who built it. We asked four of them if they could drive the ATERO anywhere or see it feature in an exciting film, where would they go and what would that movie be. They gave us some very different destinations; all of them racy, all of them exciting, all of them suited to jet-black ATERO.

ŠKODA Vocational Students Build Dream Coupé The team from the ŠKODA vocational school in Mladá Boleslav developed and implemented the concept together with the support of the instructors, Technical Development, Design and Production departments.
ŠKODA Vocational Students Build Dream Coupé The team from the ŠKODA vocational school in Mladá Boleslav developed and implemented the concept together with the support of the instructors, Technical Development, Design and Production departments.

I would like
to take this car
on a trip around the world.

Jana Bergmanová, 18

Dream driving 

JANA BERGMANOVÁ, 18,

is an apprentice majoring in traffic and transport economics, and  one of four women in the 26-strong apprentice team who helped to build the ŠKODA ATERO. While her friends and colleagues imagine racing the car in capital cities or on the rally routes, Jana has more of global vision. “I would like to take this car on a trip around the world,” she says enthusiastically, and adds that it would easily be able to manage driving to the four corners of the globe. Perhaps she can imagine speeding past the Pyramids in Egypt, or the Taj Mahal in India, glimpsing the wonders of the world in her rearview mirror, through the large, specially designed perspex rear window. But she has a comic touch to go with the majestic world tour. “I love the film Cars,” she says, referring to the animated movie for kids, and then imagines the plucky ATERO taking on the Corvette-like Lightning McQueen in a race.

The ATERO may be a one-off for now, but with a creative team of apprentices who can produce something like this, ŠKODA's future looks set to race ahead.

I can imagine
it speeding through New York City
at sunset, with
the car illuminated along with
the whole
of the city.
NYC has a majestic atmosphere that fits our car.

Daniel Voce, 19

Dream driving

DANIEL VOCE, 19,

whose apprenticeship remit is Traffic, Transport and Economics, thought New York City was the place for the car. “I can imagine it speeding through New York City at sunset, with the car illuminated along with the whole of the city. NYC has a majestic atmosphere that fits our car.” And he’s right. New York, the home of hiphop and beatboxes, would be the right place for the ATERO, which packs a wicked sound system in its boot: a bass-booming 1800-watt stereo amplifier powers 14 speakers and the subwoofer alone has a 400-watt output. That's enough to take on any rapping posse. 

But as we all know the nickname for New York is Gotham, and Gotham City is the fictional setting for the Caped Crusader. Batman’s domain fits Voce’s imaginative location for the car. “I’m a comics fan,” he says, “and I’d love to see the ATERO in a Batman film.” He then imagines fire coming out the exhaust, as well as gas sprays and other gadgets and devices for the car. “The car could take off, or it could take to water. And it could have a kind of chameleon quality where it could adapt its looks!”

Well, it might not spit fire out of its exhaust, but the exhaust is assertive, and there’s plenty to set the car apart in the city. Pulsing red lights in the bonnet and even illuminating the car underneath make it look like a fire-breathing dragon.

Would like
to see it street racing in Paris, speeding around the Eiffel tower.

Pavla Janoušková, 17

Dream driving

PAVLA JANOUŠKOVÁ IS ONLY 17

and an apprentice toolmaker. Her focus for the ATERO is more European. “I would like to see it street racing in Paris, speeding around the Eiffel tower,” she says enthusiastically. In Pavla’s imagination the ATERO would bring a different kind of elegance and charm to stately Paris, perhaps tearing around the Arc de Triomphe, or speed racing with a Porsche down the Champs-Élysées and burning rubber like in The Fast and Furious. 

She could probably do all that with this car. It’s based on a Rapid, so it can pack some power with its 1.4 l TSI engine and 7-speed DSG gearbox. There are some colour splashes too. Not, sadly, a complete French tricolour, but a healthy flash of red. The 18-inch wheels in the Turini design come from the ŠKODA OCTAVIA, and are painted black with red stripes. Manually perforated brake discs sit behind the front wheels. All of which give it a bit of flash.

Three questions for...

"Nervous for days"

Michaela Šnokhousová and Jakub Dvořák began their training at ŠKODA in Mladá Boleslav in September 2016. She is on a course to become a machinery and equipment mechanic and he is training to be a toolmaker.

Congratulations on starting at ŠKODA! Do you remember the moment you found out you’d been accepted on the ŠKODA course? 
Michaela Šnokhousová: I was extremely excited when the mail came – and then overjoyed that I had been offered a place at the vocational school. Also because ŠKODA employs many apprentices after the training, and so may offer me an exciting future.
Jakub Dvořák: I was nervous for days. Then my mother opened the mail and informed me beaming with joy.

You were born in the so-called ‘Generation Y’: What is important for you in life?
Michaela: First and foremost: being healthy. And also having interesting work because that’s how I spend my day. My goal is to be able to fulfil my dreams over the long term.
Jakub: For me it’s especially important that my family and friends do well.

In previous years, the apprentices have built three ‘Apprentice Cars’ – the Citijet, FUNstar and Atero. Your dream car would be…?
Michaela: ... Red with some black, and it would certainly be a convertible. Of the three apprentice cars, I like the current Atero most.
Jakub: I would like to build a real sports car. A two-seater that even looks fast when its stationary thanks to its racy design. The colour? Black ... or lustrous rally-green metallic by ŠKODA.

I’d like to take the ATERO
to the Monte Carlo rally,
to the special stages.

Martin Tejkal, 18

_atero_tejkal3

MARTIN TEJKAL, 18,

is an apprentice toolmaker. He's a bit of a francophile too, but with a twist. “I’d like to take the ATERO to the Monte Carlo rally, to the special stages,” he says mischievously. “It’s a legendary race,” he adds. Fitting, because not only would the ATERO look super taking those famous, tight hairpin bends and screaming corners, but because the silhouette of this car recalls the super heyday of ŠKODA’s superlative rallying history: the ŠKODA Rapid Coupe, known in the 1980s as the Porsche of the East.

The apprentices were clearly inspired by this original “fastback” coupe, first built in 1984. The 1,700 hours of work they put into this project involved transforming a Rapid Spaceback and giving it a completely bespoke rear body section. They removed the rear doors and added a bit more to the front ones, and there was some serious welding involved in converting the rest of what was a five-door car into the zippy shape the ATERO now possesses.