ŠKODA AUTO won’t be a cheap brand
We will stick to Strategy 2025, says Thomas Schäfer, the new Chairman of the Board of Management
Mr Schäfer, you’ve been managing ŠKODA AUTO since August. What are your first impressions?
First of all, I would like to thank all the Škodians for a great welcome! They’ve helped me to settle in during the first few weeks. I’ve already met many colleagues, dove into ŠKODA AUTO’s 125-year history and gained a detailed overview of the company’s current status and upcoming products. Speaking of products, one of the highlights so far has been the world premiere of the ENYAQ iV in Prague. It’s a great car, and I’m really proud of the team that stood by during its birth.
Was it difficult for you to say goodbye to South Africa, where you lived for five years?
South Africa had become my home – both professionally and privately. So, of course, it wasn’t easy to say goodbye. But on the plane to Europe, this was outweighed by feelings of anticipation for what lies ahead. I look forward to getting to know the Czech Republic, its people and its culture better. As a keen jogger, I’ve already gained my first tremendous impression of Prague, and I will certainly be making one or other round in Mladá Boleslav, too. And I’m looking forward to the tasks that lie ahead for all of us: ŠKODA is an amazing brand with great potential!
If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
In what direction do you plan to take the carmaker?
ŠKODA is doing very well thanks to the work of the team and my predecessor. My primary task and responsibility is to continue its success story with the team over the coming years. In so doing, I will not abandon Strategy 2025; it is effective, and we’re still far from reaching all of our goals.
What exactly do you mean by that?
ŠKODA AUTO is clearly positioned at the moment. It always offers good value for money. Customers are pleasantly surprised by the Simply Clever solutions, outstanding spaciousness, easy usability and unique design that every model offers. ŠKODA cars will always be accessible – no matter whether we are targeting students, young families or elderly couples. We will keep it that way. However, in addition to our current model range, I see further growth potential in conquering new markets and focusing more on entry-level segments. In this way, we’ll have the opportunity to expand our customer base significantly.
When you say entry-level segments, do you mean moving towards becoming a cheap brand – an idea that has appeared in some media?
We certainly won’t be turning ŠKODA into a cheap brand. We’re concentrating on Korean, Japanese and French manufacturers. They are our core competition, so we’ll be taking them on. I already look forward to the market launch of our new FABIA next year. It will be a great car, and I have high expectations.
There have been rumours for some time that production of the KODIAQ is going to Wolfsburg and that the SUPERB is going to Bratislava. Is this true?
It would be a big mistake if we did not fully exploit the potential of our plant in Kvasiny. It is one of the most efficient and modern facilities in the entire VW Group production network with well-educated and highly motivated colleagues. At the moment, we’re in the middle of discussions with the VW Group. We will have a decision by the end of the year, also with regard to the SUPERB. I’m convinced that there will be a good and long-term solution for everyone.
How quickly will the ŠKODA brand recover from the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic? Where will it stand at the end of the year?
The current sales figures show that the year is by no means lost. We are working hard to make the most of it. Our July figures were even 8 percent up on the previous year, we were able to increase our market share significantly, and August looks very promising, too. My thanks for that go out to all the Škodians – the whole team! Unfortunately, the number of COVID-19 cases is currently growing again, so I appeal to everyone: Let’s stick to the hygienic measures to protect the health of our employees in the plants.
You have been working in the automotive industry for about 30 years. Can you tell us about your most valuable experience?
Together you can achieve the seemingly impossible. If you don’t start, you won’t get anywhere! It’s all about trust in the team. I’m sure that here at ŠKODA we will achieve great things together and put the carmaker on the next level in this decade. One African proverb aptly says: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” ED
Sea or mountains?
Mountains, because I’ve had the sea for the past five years. Now I’m looking forward to the Czech mountains
South African wine or Czech beer?
No doubt, Czech beer.
OCTAVIA RS iV or ENYAQ iV?
Both. Each car has a unique character.
What kind of music do you listen to when driving?
At the moment, I’m spending time with my wife on the phone. She is still in South Africa and can’t wait to be here to see our new home.
How do you relax?
Running every morning to keep my mind clear.