James Bond to boost image of Skoda cars

Sean Connery as agent 007, James Bond

The fortunes of Czech car manufacturer Skoda have improved greatly since the fall of communism. Now fully owned by Volkswagen, Skoda cars are infinitely more efficient and much better looking than their socialist predecessors. But to banish old Skoda jokes once and for all, the company has hit on the idea of signing up none other than James Bond in his most popular form, actor Sean Connery, to drive their cars in a series of television ads. Nick Carey reports.

Sean Connery as agent 007, James Bond
Over the past ten years, Skoda has done well for itself. Its latest models, the Octavia and the Fabia, modern cars made using Volkswagen technology but selling at a fraction of the price, are popular both at home and abroad. The Fabia has done so well that last year it won European Car of the Year award.

But there was a time when jokes about Skodas abounded, particularly in Great Britain, with oft-repeated one liners such as:

How do you double the value of a Skoda? Fill up the tank.

...or...

What do you call a Skoda with twin exhaust pipes? A wheelbarrow.

The new Skoda models have gone a long way to killing off the old jokes, but the company is determined to bury the past. Final negotiations are apparently underway in Spain with Sean Connery to star as James Bond in European-wide commercials for the company's new Octavia model. Richard Fuxa, director of the Prague office of the advertising agency Ark Thompson, thinks the idea is simply brilliant:

"I think it's an excellent, excellent move and in the European market it will of course give Skoda some added value. It can only boost the car's image, so I think it's a brilliant idea."

Mr Fuxa feels that using Sean Connery in Skoda commercials will have a particularly strong impact in Great Britain, a key market for the company, because Mr Connery is held in such high regard there:

"I'm not British, but as far as I know, but I think that the British people are very proud of Sean Connery and it will give Skoda a very good image in their eyes."

According to reports in the press, Mr Connery could receive up to 1.4 million US dollars for driving an Octavia instead of James Bond's traditional Aston Martin. One question that has already been posed is whether this will be money well spent:

"From what I remember of the prices of other stars like Bruce Willis, the going rate was around one million dollars, so I think it's a normal price. For a European company where you have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars or euros or marks or whatever, I think it's a reasonable price. And of course James Bond is already widely accepted as the top action movie series, with high investments involved, so I don't think it's a huge amount of money."