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The only Škoda Superb in the U.S.

Škoda Cars, a part of the VW-Audi group, is usually voted as the most recognized Czech brand these days. It produces something over 1 million vehicles a year. You could think that you may buy anything in the U.S. – but you can't. At least when it comes Škoda's mainstream flagship, Škoda Superb, you may find one piece in the U.S.



This Gentleman bought the top edition named Laurin & Klement (after the name of the car company up to the 1920s) in the U.K. where Škoda is winning many "happiest consumers brand" [top 3 places, in fact] and "car of the year" contests (not sure why he didn't buy it outside the British islands to have the driver seat on the proper side). The fact that Škoda used to be the target of most of the British car jokes 30 years ago probably helps, not hurts.




Three weeks ago, Škoda introduced the 3rd generation of Superb, its more expensive variant. For the event, they hired a composer to compose a special symphony, the Superb Symphony. They also invited the woman with the longest legs in the world, the Slovak-with-a-Czech-name supermodel (who married and divorced a soccer player) Adriana Sklenaříková-Karembeu, to show that she can sit in the new model which is bigger, better.




The 3rd generation Superb is significantly larger, lighter, more fuel-efficient, has (even) a larger trunk. It's full of high tech – automatic parking, automatic traffic jam assistant, MirrorLink (with USB connector, WiFi, wireless charging etc.) and so on, and so on. It offers lots of "simply clever" details. For example, Škoda dares to stand in the minority of brands that believe that each seat in the front should store an umbrella. Only Rolls & Royce agrees with this opinion. ;-)



Most people say that the 2016 Škoda Superb looks prettier than the newest Passat and Audi models. You often hear that the design is "Teutonic" – probably meaning "Germanic Aryan". But what they really want to say is that it looks masculine; it has sharper edges, not quite round like the smoother women's body covered by fat.

The idea that the design is characteristically Teutonic must be wrong – the extra special features were incorporated by the Škoda designer-in-chief Jozef Kabáň who is Slovak. Only now, I feel that the model got close to the somewhat futuristic concept, Škoda VisionC. Maybe all the parameters of the shape of the 2016 Škoda Superb are the average of the previous Škoda Superb and of VisionC – so that people can get used to the progress.

There are hundreds of reviews, e.g. this Australian one, video reviews, and you may look at all the historical models produced by Škoda. You may see how the company continued to follow the trends, even during communism, but during communism, it was falling well below the average.

The company was started as Laurin & Klement, named after the two founders, in 1895, and produced things like bikes. It created it first car in 1905. In the 1920s, it was bought by Škoda Works, the largest industrial corporation of Czechoslovakia (and Austria-Hungary) located in my hometown of Pilsen, Western Bohemia. Because the carmaker is located North of Prague, the brands would effectively be separated during (Nazism and) communism again – even though both of them would use the logo at all times.

Škoda Works has been producing tons of heavy machinery, lots of weapons, and is doing things like trains, streetcars, trolley buses, nuclear reactors, and similar big stuff. Despite the hysteria about its catastrophic privatization, it's doing unexpectedly well but the Škoda Cars namesake is probably much better off, anyway. Yesterday, the Czech Ice-Hockey Extraleague saw the decision about a preliminary round before play-offs. It was a derby between Pilsen (my town, the location of Škoda Works) and Mladá Boleslav (where Škoda Cars has headquarters). We lost, they (Mladá Boleslav) won – despite Pilsen's being the champion two years ago or so.



The logo of Škoda Pilsen began to be used in the mid 1920s. It's a "winged arrow" (the arrow used by native Americans along with a longbow; the logo resembles a native American, too; but the Škoda employees technically call it the "shot through hen"). The arrow represents the speed, the wing is the progress and freedom, and the hole is the eye for the precision. The circle around is the holism and blah blah blah. No one is sure who actually drew this logo – probably some vice-chairman in the 1920s – but the logo is an expensive thing.

For example, in 1991, the Volkswagen Group bought Škoda Cars and paid 300 million crowns to Škoda Works in Pilsen for the rights to share the logo. These days, Škoda Cars tends to use the green-on-white version (and the 3D remake) while the Škoda Works uses the blue-on-white (and 2D) version.



Like Škoda Octavia and Škoda Felicia, Škoda Superb is a name that's been used for decades – in this case since the 1930s – and the new promotional video features this 1938-1943 Superb model. It is not meant to boast that it's better than the competition. "Superb" just modestly says that it's a more expensive car than other cars from the same company.

But back to the title. Škodas are not being exported to North America at all – the only part of the world that has to live without them. It's being explained economically – the brand isn't understood by the Americans, it would cost a lot of money to create the infrastructure and train Americans to buy it, and the result would mainly be that it would take mostly the consumers of VW proper away.

Well, an alternative explanation is that the folks at the top of the Volkswagen Group are seeing that Škoda beats Volkswagen in so many other countries and their national pride tells them to keep at least one important market where the "core brand" is at the top. Given the fact that Volkswagen is not doing so well in the U.S., it's a myopic decision.

The very idea of the Volkswagen Group that Volkswagen should produce the upper-class models while subsidiaries like Škoda should keep the lower-class models may sound logical in the wake of communism and its inferior products. But from the viewpoint of the longer history, it sounds silly. Laurin & Klement and then Škoda used to produce rather luxurious models while the German word Volkswagen is translated, you know, as the "motorized cart for a six-pack Joe".

If I were the German guy who heads the Škoda company, I would make sure that these cars are sold in the U.S. – perhaps as the German car (or German-Czech car) VW Skoda Superb etc. The Volkswagen Group is losing money by insisting on stereotypes that are rather unnatural in the long run. Like other brands, Škoda has a long history and it is unknown in the U.S. However, a long history isn't really needed to create a good name – some brands are recognized as trusted and perhaps luxurious brands in a couple of years. Being unknown sometimes helps – that's why Škoda enjoys a similar "luxurious status" as BMW in India, for example.



Bonus: A new U.K. ad shows that even with the cheapest Škoda model, a Fabia, your attention becomes so focused that you won't be able to see that the whole street is completely different! ;-) Well, Honda's illusion commercial was a bit more hi-tech.

I won't proofread this blog post, sorry, it is a lower priority.

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reader TomVonk said...

You often hear that the design is "Teutonic" – probably meaning "Germanic Aryan".
.
You said it before I could have said it :)
When I looked at the picture before reading your post I definitely and spontaneously recognized a BMW (I had a few of them over the years).
For the same reason I spontaneously found it elegant, robust and racy.
.
I couldn't say whether this is Aryan but it looks like if somebody in VW decided to step in the BMW garden what no VW model ever did sofar and what would probably not be reasonable given what the VW brand vehiculates.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Tom, yup, I agree, it's Teutonic because it resembles a BMW.


But a favorite big U.S. car of mine, Chrysler 300, looks even more Teutonic then! ;-)


https://www.google.cz/search?q=chrysler-300&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&biw=1317&bih=708


reader TomVonk said...

You are probably right.
There is and has always been a sense of solidity and safety in German cars. Perhaps masculinity too. Or more precisely reasonable adult masculinity as opposed to cars like Jaguar, Ferrari or Peugeot. Or even Porsche.
My first car long ago has been a BMW 520 and over the years I have tried many of them (right now I changed for a Mercedes 2 weeks ago).
So I am clearly conquerred but couldn't tell why .
.
Sure there is nothing that would prevent VW to compete with BMW via another brand. It would just be diabolical given the history of VW that never tried to try their hand in the upper class segment.
Pan Schicklgruber od nich ocekaval neco jineho ;)


reader Shannon said...

I didn't know that Adriana Karembeu was Czech. She is on some French TV program I don't really watch but she seems to speak French fluently.

I still have my Skoda Octavia 2.0 I bought in 2012. I never had any problem with it. It's comfortable, powerful, easy to drive and has a large boot. There are a lot of sharp slopes around where I live and it's like driving on flat land with my Skoda ;-). This new Superb looks beautiful.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Thanks! Adriana is technically Slovak although with her maiden name Sklenaříková, which is typically Czech including the letter "ř" that only Czech has, it would be hard for anyone to guess that she isn't Czech.

This French soccer guy

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Karembeu



was her husband for 15 years until recently.


reader scooby said...

Hmm was that one of the Pink Panther movies with Steve Martin? in my opinion the real Inspector Clouseau is the late Peter Sellers and always will be.


reader Shannon said...

Haha! The blond girl on the left sounds even more French than the one on the right ! :-).


reader Gene Day said...

As somewhat of a car nut (I have at least 50 cars over the last sixty years) I agree that my fellow American’s taste in automobiles is deplorable. It took us at least thirty years to learn that General Motors was producing crap (a situation that has, at last, been rectified). Now, it appears that Volkswagen is similarly succumbing to bureaucratic malaise albeit to a lesser extent.
I am quite sure that Skoda’s cars are superior to VW and fully prepared to compete with anyone in the world. I apologize for my countrymen’s proclivity to ride dying horses but what do you expect of a people still fighting the cold war.


reader Gene Day said...

If you saw Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau I recommend that you not see the original with Peter Sellers. I fear your suffocation would be terminal.


reader Gene Day said...

There once was an American lost in a very upscale London neighborhood, which was filled with huge mansions, who was desperately was trying to find a loo in order to relieve himself. He chanced upon a bobby and told him his plight. The bobby said “Please follow me, sir” and led the poor man down a narrow alley and in through a high ornate gate that opened into the most beautiful garden that he had ever seen. The bobby said “Here, sir, just take a whiz wherever you like. “
The American asked if this was an example of British hospitality to which the bobby replied “No, sir, this is the French Embassy”.


reader scooby said...

For what it's worth Gene I've an old Ford Fiesta that I bought with 90000 miles on it and it has been working flawlessly with now 60000 additional miles. I would never criticize the quality of american cars. American motorcycles, on the other hand...
About VWs, the VW Passat is perhaps the only European car that frequently figures at the top of the reliability reviews and polls with the usual Toyotas and Hondas.


reader Shannon said...

We do have the best gardens, haven't we? André Le Nôtre is our gardeners' father. He is the one who designed the garden of the Chateau de Versailles. ;)


reader Gene Day said...

I’ve had many different makes, scooby, and my 1965 Chrysler 300 was simply “superb” for its day. All manufacturers seem to produce both winners and losers. I really don’t think you can buy by brand these days.
It is apparent that American cars are, generally, more competitive than in the past in every segment of the market. The new Chevrolet Impala, for example, is a formidable competitor.
I now drive a 2012 Audi A6 Prestige, having switched from a BMW. It is the best car I have ever owned but the competition is closing really fast.


reader Gene Day said...

I would call it a tossup between France and Japan. French and Japanese gardens have such a different character, of course, that you can’t put them on the same scale at all.
Losing either would be an immense tragedy for us all.


reader RAF III said...

Gene - I must disagree! A Shot in the Dark is one of the funniest films ever made! In particular, the scenes where Clouseau instructs Hercule on the science of detection.


reader scooby said...

Indeed. But I think that this is what Gene meant too. I.e. if Lubos were to see one of the original Pink Panther he could die laughing.


reader Tony said...

Happy still driving my Ford Mustang GT from 1998 (previously the same brand and previously the same brand) with a stick shift.


reader RAF III said...

I hope you are right. My faith in humanity has taken quite a beating lately.


reader Tony said...

Re BMW the back window angle is considered an example of "Teutonic design":

https://www.google.com/search?q=bmw+teutonic+design&rlz=1C1CHFX_enUS526US526&espv=2&biw=1458&bih=800&tbm=isch&imgil=bhSTLLuMH1hY7M%253A%253BPgPy9q1fXbc9HM%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.saltwaternewengland.com%25252F2014%25252F04%25252Fpreppy-cars.html&source=iu&pf=m&fir=bhSTLLuMH1hY7M%253A%252CPgPy9q1fXbc9HM%252C_&usg=__wbV4KI-WiKIlfgDmFhZx3zuPF8E%3D&ved=0CDIQyjc&ei=6S_-VJHnIsKPsQSxs4AQ#imgdii=_&imgrc=rFNDqiZBbWml0M%253A%3BWRUpkiw-Zzk6gM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fautomobilesdeluxe.tv%252Fwp-content%252Fuploads%252F2009%252F04%252Fbmw-5er-automobiles-de-luxe.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.automobilesdeluxe.tv%252Ftag%252Fw140%252F%3B672%3B410


reader Tony said...

That is, while there are many similar designs nowadays, it was allegedly first introduced by BMW. Typically, before that, it was a sharp or a rounded angle.


reader Tony said...

Real Americans drive muscle cars from Detroit. The rest are wussies who sold their souls ;)


reader lukelea said...

Maybe VW should market it the way Toyota marketed the Lexus. Downplay that VW owns the oompany. That car would compete well against the BMW in the US I would imagine. Looks cool!


reader lukelea said...

O, come on! Really, the English are in a class by themselves when it comes to beautiful gardens. And no wonder. The climate is ideal and gardening is the national past time. Which is not to say that the Golden Goat (however your translate that into French) on the Riviera was not one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen -- or, rather, the most sophisticate. There was only one tiny perch where you could see the sea. In Britain, by contrast, there are countless masterpieces. I say this as a professional landscape gardener, retired.


reader QsaTheory said...

Nobody can beat American landscape design. Of course they have the advantage of large space.


reader QsaTheory said...

American cars have the best price/performance, the US dollar is dirt cheap, or was.


reader Gene Day said...

Of course! It was wonderful!


reader Bernd Felsche said...

The initials of "Bohemian Motor Works" were already taken so VW had to stick with "Škoda" ;-)

Škoda have been the "young upstarts" almost since the first day that they became part of the VW Group stable. They've ruffled more than a few feathers; especially with the L&K trim levels; not available in several markets including Australia where the VW Group's brand marketing is much more closely coupled than in e.g. Germany. I "rib" their marketing department on Facebook about being unable to sell green cars in Australia. Literally; the colour green is not available, except the Fabia RS.

The practicality and depth of product thought at Škoda may well be unrivalled, not just in the VW Group, but amongst all volume car makers. While ostensibly being the Group's "cheap" brand, Škoda manages to outwit the bean counters and Group's muddle managers by building not just good cars, but excellent, practical interesting and fun cars to a budget. No matter how small or large the budget.

Re-establishing the Škoda brand in Australia wasn't difficult. It'd been than 30 years since the last rear-engined ones sold new in Australia. There was no hang-over with the settled "natives" except with a few, recent immigrants. It's perceived as "a sort of VW". The dealership network is a bit of a mess; as with the rest of the VW Group. Prices of parts are "gold plated"; clued-up owners order parts direct from the Czech Republic and get them airfreighted more quickly (and cheaper) than the behemoth "logistics" of the VW Group supply chain.


reader Luboš Motl said...

I did see the Sellers version of all episodes - even recently - love them, and associate them with the Pink Panther.


But for some reason, I think that the new Martin version is pretty cool, too. Things are also affected by the funny translation of inspector's speech to Czech.


reader Shannon said...

Wow! Lukelea I didn't know you were a professional gardener. It is true that English gardens are beautiful too. I find Japanese gardens too perfect, almost unnatural or fake... The village where I live in Ireland has one of the most beautiful garden called Powerscourt House & Gardens. It was voted No3 Garden of the World by National Geographic last year. Check it out: http://powerscourt.com/gardens


reader RAF III said...

Gene - My apologies. I have never seen 'suffocation' used in this way. I feared the worst but, of course, should have known better.
Cheers.


reader Smoking Frog said...

In case it's any consolation :-), there's a shop less than a mile from my home that sells JAWA motorcycles.


reader Smoking Frog said...

I don't know the overall picture, but I know of one thing which, at least in the past, favored American cars: much cheaper parts. Back in the 1970s I had a Mazda. As it happened, I needed a clutch plate at the same time a friend who was an autophile and former racer needed one for a Chevy Camaro he was "building." We went shopping together, and I paid nearly 3 times as much for mine as he paid for his.

In the mid-1960s the Plymouth Fury was a great car.


reader scooby said...

Somewhat off topic, but since you are a professional gardener and we were talking about Peter Sellers elsewhere in this tread, have you ever seen the movie "Being There" Luke? That's a great movie!


reader thejollygreenman said...

Lubos, sometimes I agree with you and sometimes I don't. Driving on the wrong side of the road, those unfortunate souls who had Napoleon invading their countries and telling them which side of the road to drive on vs the true land of the free, the UK where we drive on the right - as in correct - side of the road. Until you join the free world, which includes the UK, Japan, India, Australia, and just about all of Southern Africa, where you park your arse on the side of the car where you can brandish a sword , or lance, you will never know the true spirit and freedom of driving a car. Ps. I do have a driving licence, now expired, for driving on the wrong side of the road, and hated every minute of it.


Here in the UK the Skoda Yeti is one one the best selling cars and I am eyeing it when I replace my current VW - the 9th VW i've owned. The Czech with their Skodas are creating such masterpieces, VW must be so happy with their investment they made, and the VW brand is all the better for it.


reader Luboš Motl said...

LOL, come on, there is a Z_2 symmetry between driving on the left side and driving on the right side. To link one of the two structurally equivalent choices with freedom and the other with the tyranny is totally childish.


There is a very good reason why whole countries drive on the same side, however, whatever the side is - omitting this convention (or violating this "freedom") would surely lead to too many accidents or too big slowdown of the cars, wouldn't it?


Also, it's stupid for a country to drive on the opposite side than the overwhelming majority of the world. It makes it harder for domestic drivers to travel abroad, almost anywhere, and for tourists to drive here.


In Czechoslovakia, we would drive on the left side for quite some time but plans to switch to the right side existed from the early 1930s or so, and when Hitler came to power, we could switch to the right side overnight. That's perhaps the main decision that Hitler's reign is generally praised for. ;-)


reader Gene Day said...

Of course it would be a separate brand, luke; even VW is not stupid enough to graft a VW logo onto a Skoda. People here are not entirely happy with their VW Passats and associating the Skoda brand with VW would probably result in a stillbirth. The Passat is actually an excellent value for the price but VW has cheapened it too much, especially as regards the interior quality. People want luxurious appointments and Skoda can supply them.
If done correctly, VW has a nice opportunity to establish a new upscale brand here since so few Americans even know the name. They should target BMW directly along with Audi and Mercedes Benz. European brands all have a definite zing in the American mind.
If they do dive in it is essential that their first cars sold here be totally reliable.
I would love to see Skoda in my country.


reader Gene Day said...

The Hofmeister kink and the kidney grill have been BMW trademarks for decades. Despite BMW’s claim that form follows function, neither of these design elements serves a useful purpose.


reader Gene Day said...

The slant-six engine in many 1960’s Chrysler automobiles, including its Plymouths, was just unbreakable. It may be the most durable car engine ever produced. I agree about their transmissions, too.


reader Gene Day said...

I did not intend to belittle English gardens, luke; they are wonderful.


reader Gene Day said...

A lot could be lost in Translation.


reader Gene Day said...

They sure got burned with the Maybach, did they not? It’s really, really hard to sell a $100k Volkswagen.


reader QsaTheory said...

Japanese do have a different character. I stayed in this hotel with an exotic garden inside. I also ate the best meal. They served it backward, they bring the dessert first and you finish with an appetizer.

http://www.newotani.co.jp/en/tokyo/garden/index_2.html?4


reader Gene Day said...

Cadillac has made impressive strides in interior quality but, in my view, Audi still leads the pack but I am biased against touch screens in a car.


reader Tony said...

Damn, you really *are* somewhat of a car nut.


reader Luboš Motl said...

A new whatcar.com contest: Skoda Octavia beats a Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf:
http://www.whatcar.com/car-news/ford/focus/ford-focus-vs-volkswagen-golf-vs-skoda-octavia/1337975