Detlef Wittig Born in 1942. Engineer by education. At Volkswagen since 1973, he worked as a company representative in France, Japan, and Canada. He was responsible for European sales of brand cars. Since 2000, he has been a member of the board of directors of the Volkswagen concern, and since 2004, he has also been chairman of the Skoda board of directors.
- Six years ago, Skoda was among the leaders in the market of cars imported into Russia. Choosing their first foreign car, many bought Felicia. Last year, with the double growth of this market in one year alone, Skoda lost 18.7% of customers. The price war with Korean and other manufacturers ended not in your favor. Now the Czech automobile team has a new German coach in your face. Does his arsenal, in sports terms, have a plan for effective counterattack?
- Skoda has known success in the Russian market. In 2002, we sold almost 10 thousand cars here. “Octavia” performed in heavy weight, it was sold at two thousand a year. What can I say as a trainer after analysis? The reason for the fall was the price of the car and the change in the exchange rate. Manufacturers from Japan, Korea, the dollar zone countries, have gained an advantage. The position of "Skoda" was also complicated by a strong crown against the euro. So for us it has become a double problem. We have analyzed everything and are now operating in prices in dollars.
The analysis led to other conclusions. Despite the fact that the number of our dealers has reached 50, the quality of their work did not quite suit us. Now the network of dealers has decreased to 35, but their level of activity has become higher. In the future, this number may increase, but already without loss in quality - now the company manages these Russian enterprises not from Mlada Boleslav, but from Moscow. Skoda has become independent in the framework of Volkswagen Rus LLC. This year, when we have already dealt with all the problems - the exchange rate and prices, managing a network of dealers, we want to rise to the level of 2002. This means selling cars twice as much as last year. But we will go further and strike back - Skoda should be among the top sellers!
- Did Volkswagen do the right thing by buying the socialist Skoda and not the socialist AvtoVAZ?
- Volkswagen bought a 100% Skoda and became its sovereign owner. This is true, as is the fact that Volkswagen is taking steps to become even more authoritative and attractive in Russia.
- But why not AvtoVAZ?
- Then, in 1989, the Czech Republic very quickly switched to market rails, opened up for new economic relations. In addition, there were family ties between the Czech and Saxon automotive industries, of which we, of course, knew. Professor Porsche himself was born in the Czech Republic. There were no such ties with AvtoVAZ.
- Now three powerful competitors are appearing on your domestic market - Peugeot, Citroen, Toyota and launch a plant in the Czech Republic with a capacity of 300, 000 cars a year. Are you ready, returning to sports terminology, to play here in the attack?
- Skoda and Volkswagen are leading the Czech market. According to the image of "Volkswagen" at the very top. And although Skoda is inferior to it in this, in terms of the combination of price and quality, it meets all the requirements of the market. These two brands will be forwards.
- Since Toyota and PSA go to the Czech Republic, does Skoda intend to bypass its competitors from the flank and open its own company in Russia?
- These things are completely unrelated. Our goal is to conduct our own policies without regard to competitors and do our job well. Toyota is investing in order to work here not only in the Czech and Russian markets, but also in the West European. We want to gain a strong position in the Russian market and we have the opportunity to achieve this in two years.
- You organized the assembly of cars in Ukraine. Can the same be followed in Russia?
- The assembly plant in Ukraine is designed only for the local market. We are working on a Russian project separately. If Ukraine and Russia merge industrially, then we can have a single approach. Time will tell.
- We know how much you have done to organize the production of components in Slovakia …
- If you want, this is a classic example of how one could work in Russia. Start small. Master the production processes, organize the supply and supply of components of the quality that we require for our products. If it works clearly, you can move on. In Bratislava, in the first year we collected 5000 “trade winds”. Today, the plant’s capacity makes it possible to assemble 300, 000 cars a year. We produce there both small “polos” and luxury cars - “Tuareg”. See what opportunities are opening up! We would like to apply this concept to Russia.
- I heard that in due time the Audi 100 was developed secretly from the parent concern Volkswagen. Can Skoda have similar secrets when creating new models?
“Each of us has time to think about a new privacy with ourselves.” And only later, when we are sure that we have done something worthy, we allow ourselves to boast of it within the framework of the concern. If you are not sure about the results, keep silent. In Geneva, visitors were expected a big surprise at our booth. We secretly developed the design of the new product, which we decided to show not only to the concern, but to the entire automotive world. We would like to know your reaction - how good this is for the Russian market.
- So, new developments for Skoda are being created in the Czech Republic itself?
- “Skoda” is an independent enterprise, about a thousand engineers are employed in the design work. The company is able to make projects for other brands of the concern, while, of course, it receives various services and components from the concern, from Audi and Volkswagen. We conceive new products here at Skoda, then a presentation is held within the framework of the concern, where the fate of the project is decided. If they say yes, the car will be completely built with us.
- Make an exception for readers “Driving” - at least hint about promising models from “Skoda” …
“I have to be very careful.” Now successors of “Octavia” and “Octavia combi” have entered the market - they have been successful. There is a draft of a new model, which has been shown as a concept for the past two years. We liked it, and we want to make this model as the first in the new lineup for Skoda. But the Geneva concept may open another lineup. For the Russian market, this machine, I think, is especially interesting. So it is very possible that in two or three years, one or two of our new families will stand next to Fabia, Superbom and Octavia.
- In what configuration do you think Octavia is most suitable for the Russian market?
- Sedan with a two-liter gasoline engine and manual gearbox. We offer diesel 2.0 TDI and automation in other markets. For your conditions, the new automation is not too suitable.
- In Russia, Octavia, Golf, Audi A3, which are made on the same platform and are close in technical equipment, are sold at close prices. Why should I prefer the Skoda, what is its image?
- A3 is 10-15% more expensive, it is noticeably smaller than the Octavia, it does not have such a big trunk. It is a compact sports car with exclusively selected finishes. "Octavia" is more functional - it is a spacious, comfortable family car. In the Czech Republic it is used as a service.
- And what do you think about the image of Skoda Octavia in Russia?
- We are studying it now, but I can say about the image of a Czech or European Skoda: a large car of good quality at a bargain price.
- Do not you think that Skoda, having relied on a rather expensive modern car, is gradually moving away from what was characteristic of it - inexpensive, high-quality cars? No wonder the Russian buyer increasingly chooses simpler and cheaper Korean brands.
- I emphasize once again: “Skoda” is a modern technology of high quality at a reasonable price. We will continue to fine-tune our pricing policy, but this has nothing to do with technical reorientation. Superhiteck is not our motto. We follow simple but smart technical solutions. Now, for example, we want to offer the Russian market the best option "Fabia", reasonable in price and configuration.
- How do you assess the idea of Renault to create a cheap world car Logan?
- “Logan” is a good offer for emerging markets, including the Russian one, but such a car is not needed in Western and Central Europe - here it has no chance. Therefore, here “Logan” for us is not a challenge. But if you focus on Asia and Eastern Europe, then you need to look for an answer to it.
- “Skoda” participates in the World Rally Championship. What is more in this project - calculation or romance?
- In order to waste money just like that, we are not romantic enough. Here we invest in the image of our brand. For society to believe that our machines are durable, we must win. So far we have only participated - this year we want more. And this is from the field of calculation, not romance.
- What feelings do you remember about your first personal car?