You have been on board at ŠKODA since August. What are your first impressions?
First of all, I would like to thank the ŠKODA team for the great reception over the first few weeks! It certainly made it easier to get settled in. I have already met many colleagues, dived deep into ŠKODA’s 125-year history at the museum and gained a precise overview of the status quo of the company and the upcoming products. Talking about products: One of the highlights so far was the world premiere of the ENYAQ iV in Prague. A great car and I’m really proud of the team.
How difficult was it for you to say goodbye to South Africa, where you had lived for five years?
South Africa had become my home – both professionally and privately. So, of course, it was not easy to say goodbye. But on the plane to Europe, this was outweighed by feelings of anticipation for what lay ahead. I am looking forward to getting to know the Czech Republic, its people and its culture better. And of course I am looking forward to the tasks ahead: ŠKODA is a fantastic brand and has great potential!
ŠKODA’s new CEO Thomas Schäfer
In what direction do you plan to take the company?
ŠKODA is doing very well thanks to the work of the team and my predecessor. My primary task and responsibility is to continue ŠKODA’s success story with the team over the coming years. In doing so, I will not abandon Strategy 2025; it is effective, and we are still far from reaching our goals. Nevertheless, I will, of course, contribute my own ideas to take ŠKODA to the next level.
What exactly do you mean by that?
ŠKODA is clearly positioned at the moment. A ŠKODA always offers good value for money. Customers are pleasantly surprised by the Simply Clever ideas, outstanding spaciousness, easy usability and unique design that every model offers. ŠKODAs will always be accessible – no matter whether we are addressing students, young families or elderly couples. We will keep it that way. However, in addition to our current model range, I see further growth potential by conquering new markets and focusing more on entry-level segments and this way, we will have the opportunity to expand our customer base significantly.
Thomas Schäfer introduced the new ŠKODA ENYAQ iV
When you say entry-level segments, do you mean moving towards becoming a cheap brand?
No, we will certainly not be turning ŠKODA into a cheap brand. We are concentrating on Korean, Japanese and French manufacturers. They are our core competition, so we are going to take them on, and together we will realise ŠKODA’s full potential. I am already looking forward to the market launch of our new FABIA next year. It will be a great car and my expectations are high.
How quickly will ŠKODA recover from the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic? Where will ŠKODA stand at the end of the year?
Looking ahead to the rest of the year, we are doing everything in our power to minimise the impact on our business. The current sales figures show that the year is by no means lost. We are now putting all our efforts into making the most of it. The trend is in our favour: Our July figures were even 8% up on the previous year, we were able to increase our market share significantly, and August looks very promising, too. I want to thank the entire team for their dedication! At the same time, given the rising number of cases in the Czech Republic, I appeal to everyone to stick to the measures of our safe office and safe production concept.
You have been working in the automotive industry for about 30 years. Can you tell us your most valuable experience?
Together you can achieve the almost impossible. If you don’t start, you won’t get anywhere! It’s all about the trust in your team. I am sure that here at ŠKODA we will achieve great things together and put the company on the next level in this decade. There is actually an African proverb: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”