Škoda plans to conquer city car market with new Citigo

Škoda Citigo, photo: CTK

The Czech carmaker Škoda has unveiled a new model for the much sought-after city car market – the Citigo. It’s closely modelled on Volkswagen’s Up – not surprisingly as Škoda is part of the VW group – and will appear in Czech showrooms at the end of the month, with a European rollout planned for 2012.

Škoda Citigo, photo: CTK
A slick ad campaign for the new Škoda Citigo, the latest offering from Škoda Auto, which has been part of the Volkswagen Group for two decades. City cars – small, safe and economical vehicles – are all the rage in Europe’s congested cities; they’re easier to park than an SUV and consume a lot less petrol. The Citigo is set to be part of a new range that Škoda is calling its ‘New Small Family’, with which it hopes to conquer the city car market. Petr Pečenka is head of Škoda’s Czech Republic division.

"The small car market accounts for about 10% of total car sales worldwide. So for a company like Škoda, it's a very important market that we're entering - for the first time in our history. As for the car itself, the Citigo has a very roomy interior, it's a very safe car, and has a very clean engine."

That petrol engine will initially be offered in two versions, with plans for a future electric version still being pored over by Škoda’s engineers. The Citigo is currently available in a three-door model but five doors will be on sale by next year, and both host a number of attractive features as standard, including a detachable satnav system and a laser-guided collision-avoidance braking system that slams on the brakes if it senses a collision is imminent. Both are firsts for Škoda cars.

Škoda Citigo, photo: CTK
The price tag - in the Czech Republic at least - will start at around 9,800 dollars for the less powerful 59bhp model – rather less than a VW Up or Seat Mii, from which the Citigo is virtually indistinguishable, give or take a few minor design differences. Jan Blažek, editor-in-chief of car magazine Auto7, told Czech Television that taking on the city car market was a canny move.

"Cities such as Rome, Paris and London - these markets can provide both Škoda as well as Volkswagen and Seat with enough demand to make real money from the small car boom. They come with a whole new range of technology, they're highly modern cars suited to today's times, whereas the small cars being made by Toyota-Peugeot-Citroen in Kolín are starting to look a bit old hat."

And Jan Blažek was referring there to the huge TPCA car factory outside the town of Kolín, in Central Bohemia. The ‘New Small Family’, is a big part of Škoda’s ambitious growth plans. The company wants to sell 1.5 million cars per year by 2018, up from the 762,600 it sold in 2010.

One thing though is clear – Škoda long ago banished all those old jokes about heated rear windows to keep your hands warm while you’re push starting your car, or doubling a Škoda’s value by filling it with petrol. A more appropriate joke for 2011 would perhaps be – did you hear the one about the Czech car manufacturer which is now the main sponsor for the Tour de France?

Škoda Citigo, photo: CTK
Or maybe – did you hear the one about Jeremy Clarkson calling the Škoda Yeti ‘the best car in the world?’

Or how about - did you hear the one about the Czech carmaker that has been so successful that there have been grumblings of discontent at its parent company because German middle managers are now buying Škoda Superbs instead of Volkswagen Passats?

Not quite so funny. But all, it seems, true.