Tuesday 26 September 2017

End of the price age: Skoda puts a new value on its Octavia

Eddie Cunningham Motoring Editor

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End of the price age: Skoda puts a new value on its Octavia

Little did I think, way back when Skoda made joke cars, that I would live to hear a young Irish executive acknowledge a future where they could not rely solely on price to sell.

There is often a moment in the evolution of a car-maker that crystallises a perceptible shift in its horizons.

I thought that moment had arrived at the recent Irish unveiling of the new Octavia.

We were being taken through the dimensions, technology, equipment, engines, options (all, I might add, substantially enhanced compared with the outgoing version).

And, of course, price. Yes, it is also up – on average €1,250 across the board.

And the big seller will not be the 'cheapest'. No, it will be the mid-spec Ambition model with a 1.6-litre diesel under the bonnet. And it costs? €24,545, excluding delivery and related charges.

Yes, nearly €25,000 for a Skoda Octavia.

Which is when that 'moment' dawned. Skoda's Raymond Leddy looked ahead and lifted a veil on a new vista. It's a future that involves low-price cars from China as well as the current assault on bargain basements by the likes of Dacia (owned by Renault).

Skoda, he predicted, will not be able to compete on price alone. It has to fight for sales on value as well.

They have got to be way, way better on all fronts so that value as opposed to price becomes the deciding factor.

On the face of it, €25,000 for an Octavia (albeit a huge, well-equipped car) is a lot – if you judge it on price alone. It is hard not to do so these days.

Which is where, perhaps, the future should be brought forward a little faster.

The problem is that the emphasis from a buyer's and seller's point of view needs to shift more from comparing the Octavia against what we call small-family cars. These include the likes of the Opel Astra, Peugeot 308, Toyota Corolla etc. Instead, I think it looks really good value against what we call large-family/fleet cars such as the Volkswagen Passat, Toyota Avensis etc.

Against these, it can compete vigorously on both price and value.

So let's see what happens as Skoda chases down its target of 740 buyers of diesel versions and 150 of petrols this year. Variety is another future selling point and there are several variations of the Octavia on the way. In May, there will be a Combi (estate) with a "very good" price promised. In June, there will be a 4x4 Combi. In July, there will be a high-performance RS hatch and estate. By the end of the year there will be a Greenline version with emissions of just 89g/km.

There will also be a Superb (now there's a big, big car for the money) facelift in June and by the end of the year a Yeti facelift, which is when we should be seeing a Rapid hatchback (about the only Skoda that doesn't do it for me).

Right now, the marque has around 7.2pc of the market – the best they've ever had. Alright, it's a small market but you can only compete with what's out there. And if they can do well at a time like this, it bodes well for a future outside the bargain basement.

Irish Independent

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