DRIVERS OF PAST DECADES
When car production first began, there were no specialised external suppliers, with some exceptions confirming the rule. Each carmaker produced the maximum number of components itself. This also made sense due to the small number of vehicles, as well as the wide range of designs and innovations introduced in rapid succession. Some L&K and ŠKODA occupations have disappeared over the years. But with the advent of new technologies, several new fields, professions and positions have emerged.
Saddlery shortly after introduction of series production (1930)
At least until the 1930s, the people who owned a car were almost exclusively those whose incomes were far above average. Of course, the quality of the suspension had to meet their demands in comfort, especially given the poor condition of the roads at the time. The ŠKODA upholsterers were very handy: The coil springs in the seats and backrests were sewn into separate fabric tubes to prevent them from touching each other and tearing other materials, like seagrass pads or horsehair. In some cases, feathers were even used. Drivers’ seats, which were often exposed to adverse weather conditions, used to be made of leather, which was easier to maintain than noble fabrics. The latter were intended for closed passenger compartments.
Prior to air conditioning, drivers also appreciated it when their skin was not exposed to cold in the winter and their body was not sweaty and sticky in the summer. Leatherettes only started to gain ground in the 1960s, but they went out of fashion after the revolution, giving way to more pleasant textile materials with anti-slip treatment. In addition, the assortment was enriched with carefully processed leather. Modern seats already have to meet the highest orthopaedic demands and safety standards and be able to withstand fire. They are manufactured by external suppliers.
Owing to problems with supplying food to employees during both world wars, the company dealt with the more advantageous centralised purchasing of cattle and growing of vegetables on its land. In peacetime, it even had its own garden. Flowers were used to decorate offices and other facilities, to welcome delegations, to reward workers for major anniversaries etc. However, funeral wreaths were ordered “only from external suppliers“ during the time when the carmaker operated as AZNP.
Corporate railway workers in the wooden age of the carmaker – or rather coal age?
The ŠKODA RAPID 130s heading to their future owners
Looking back at the now 125 years of the brand’s existence, we find that the vast majority of the products – at least, from the Czech plants – have headed to customers on railway wagons. Therefore, the carmaker set up a siding at the beginning of the last century to operate steam shunting locomotives under its own direction and is still using rail transport today. The plant’s siding is operated by the Railway Transport department (PLT/8), which ensures the shift with its own locomotives and is also responsible for the subsequent organisation of transport in the railway network.
The railway workers working for it have historically had to deal with a number of difficulties, such as the fallout from the Mladá Boleslav bombing in May 1945. Free wagons were a scarcity not only during wartime but also due to the dynamic increase in car production. For example, the situation escalated in the spring of 1968: 6,803 out of the 7,333 vehicles produced in March were exported, but when loading for transport to Yugoslavia, Romania, Finland or Sweden, one had to wait up to 21 days for empty wagons to return and had to improvise with less suitable transporter types or rent a fleet in Italy.
At present, ecological rail transport is experiencing a renaissance and is helping to shrink ŠKODA AUTO’s carbon footprint.
BI/2 – PURCHASING INTERIOR
“In my occupation, I have, among others, been in charge of purchasing steering wheels right from the beginning. They clearly demonstrate where the automotive industry has moved in more than two decades. The technical solution has fundamentally changed. At the beginning of my career, the steering wheels that were being produced were mainly airbag-free, but the first versions with an airbag soon appeared. Even the materials have changed. The original steering wheels were made of polyurethane, but the ones covered in leather are far more common today. I’ve experienced the advent of multi-function steering wheels and heated grip zones. Recently, components with sensors that detect the presence of a driver’s hand have become popular. Over the years, we have also replaced our steering wheel supplier, so instead of Horní Počernice, they are now coming to us from Romania, which brings logistical challenges with it. I also buy airbags for ŠKODA, and their range has expanded significantly. Gradually, further variants have been added: for the passenger seat, airbags for the head, knee, side front and rear. A novelty that we focus on is the central airbag, that is, between the driver and the front passenger.”