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VW nixes Skoda’s U.S. ambitions

Czech mate

There was a time when Volkswagen considered replacing its mismatched U.S. line-up with mildly restyled, badge-engineered Skodas. When that idea failed to fly, VW’s ambitious Czech affiliate swiftly pulled out Plan B, which weighed the pros and cons of entering North America under its own name.

Although this option is still being evaluated at Skoda HQ in Mlada Boleslav, northeast of Prague, the heavies in Wolfsburg have poured cold water all over the idea. “We may be crazy, but we’re not mad,” commented a senior VW board member. “Entering this huge market with an unknown brand, a model range focused on Europe, and a non-existent dealer network is pure suicide. Furthermore, the last thing Volkswagen of America needs now is in-house cannibalization.”

Otherwise, business is going well for the communist-era brand VW resuscitated in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Once a punchline for jokes about poor quality and ugly styling, Skoda is now seen by a growing number of European buyers as the smarter, better value alternative to a Volkswagen.

Like every major player, Skoda is trying to milk the crossover cow while demand lasts. In the wake of its new Kodiaq SUV, which is based on the long-wheelbase Tiguan built for the Chinese market, Skoda will unveil the Kodiaq coupé at the Shanghai Show. Though built in China for China, it may come to Europe in 2019.

The MQB-based replacement for the popular Yeti crossover, named Polar, also appears this year. The Polar is essentially a cautiously restyled Seat Ateca, which Skoda developed for VW’s Spanish brand. A fourth SUV is being developed on VW’s modular electric architecture (MEB). This coupe-like, zero emission model will reportedly launch in 2019.

Last but not least, our spies are predicting an inexpensive entry-level crossover that will be assembled in China from 2019, but is expected to make it to Europe by 2020. For cost reasons, this model will use the old PQ platform Skoda has kept up to date for its Fiesta-sized Fabia. Rivals would include Fiat 500X, Opel Mokka, and Renault Captur.

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