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Skoda boss: "we're building hybrids, not rally cars"

Skoda CEO says no to picking up VW's WRC plans, but yes to a Superb hybrid

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Skoda’s CEO Bernhard Maier has ruled out any possibility of Skoda resurrecting VW’s cancelled 2017 WRC programme. He told Top Gear he prefers to keep Skoda’s resources focused on its successful Fabia WRC2 customer rallying project. 

TG popped the WRC question to Maier in the wake of VW’s exit from WRC. It comes after four years of dominance with Sebastien Ogier, and despite the fact that the more radical, 2017 Polo WRC complete with huge aero and widebody extensions is all but ready to roll.

“Doing more is not always better,” said Maier.  “Skoda is already successful in WRC2.” He went on to quash any possibility that Skoda could adapt the Polo chassis for World RallyCross or Dakar competition. 

The affable and enthusiastic Maier was far keener to gaze into the future of Skoda’s road cars, particularly its first electrified models.

“We will have our first plug-in hybrid in 2019, in the current Superb,” he confirmed. “We are also doing a full EV – a bespoke vehicle – for China. And after that, a full EV for the rest of the world. This is part of our commitment to bring one new product to market every year.”

China’s proving ever more influential in Skoda’s carmaking. Maier told TopGear that the next Skoda Yeti will be longer, wider and taller, and there will also be spin-off, long-wheelbase version for the Chinese market.

The Kodiaq, in the meantime, will spawn a plug-in hybrid variant – something that its Nissan X-Trail and Hyundai Santa Fe rivals can’t match. Yet.

Why’s it taken Skoda until the end of the decade to get stuck into the plug-in game? “Skoda is a brand customers link with value”, the CEO explains. “We do not have to bring technology straight to market if our customers are not demanding it.

“There needs to be a maturity in the market and in the infrastructure – which will certainly be better still by 2019. Prices will go down as electric mobility and infrastructure [grows] better. This is all part of our strategy for 2025.”

And what of the future of vRS, which accounts for a massive 20 per cent of all Octavia sales in the UK, but currently features in no other Skoda models? “A Kodiaq vRS is currently under evaluation”, teases Maier. “There has to be a business case, but [the accountants] are looking at it now and I for one really hope they come up with a strong business case…”

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