Skoda will kill the Fabia vRS
Skoda CEO tells TG.com about upcoming product plans – including a seven-seat SUV…
Well, not yet, anyway, but very soon. Speaking to TopGear.com, Skoda's CEO Winfried Vahland confirmed that the next generation Fabia - due at some point in 2014 - will not feature a vRS range-topper, and it's because of you lot out there.
"With the Octavia vRS," Dr Vahland says, "we made around an eight per cent penetration into the market. With the Fabia vRS, it was less than one per cent. However, when we introduced the Monte Carlo trim line, we estimated we would sell around 3,000 cars. We ended up producing 20,000."
The statistics speak for themselves, but for those who still need clarification, Skoda's rationale is simple: nobody bought the Fabia vRS (outside Blighty, anyway), but buyers still wanted the feel of that model. "People want to have the look of a vRS," Dr Vahland says, "but don't need an engine that they can't afford". That engine is currently a 1.4-litre TSI petrol producing 176bhp, 184lb ft of torque, mated to a seven-speed DSG and capable of propelling the little Fabia from 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds.
"The Fabia vRS was too expensive in Europe," Dr Vahland says. "Customers wanted the sports seats, the alloys, the bodykit, but they also wanted the functionality of a normal Fabia. And anyway, if you really want a vRS, get an Octavia."
Ah yes, the Octavia. That's been the brand's spearhead of success since Dr Vahland took over the reigns at Skoda; it's an incredibly important car, but one that forms part of a huge, huge growth strategy for the brand over the coming years. Not coincidentally, Skoda calls it the ‘Growth Strategy'.
"Next year we'll get the new Fabia, then we'll get the Octavia Scout, and then there's the big issue of the new Superb in 2015," he says. "This new Superb will be a revolution for Skoda - it will set a new benchmark. After that, we can focus on a new SUV that sits above the Yeti."
Skoda was deliberating over an MPV or SUV, but after doing some maths - presumably more intelligible than our standard Top Gear maths - decided that the trend for SUVs is growing worldwide. Thus, "we're going for a bigger SUV". He reckons on a length of between 460cm and 465cm - the Yeti is 422cm long - along with the option of making it a full seven-seater too. "It's not too big a size - not like 480cm long - but it will be longer than the Tiguan (442cm) and will be launched globally, with a minimum of two production sites. It will be based on a platform that is also used for the Tiguan," he adds.
So what about a name? This elicits a bit of a laugh. "We haven't thought of a name, but there's a rumour in the market that it will be called ‘Snowman'. It will NOT be called ‘Snowman'," he says. "Though it's not a bad name, it has some sense."
So in the absence of a small, sporty vRS, is Skoda planning on anything else to fill the gap? "I have two concepts in my mind that aren't cabriolets or two-seater sportscars. But that is all I can say for now."
We'll report back as soon as we find out what these are, but stay tuned: the next three years will be some of the biggest in Skoda's history...