Skoda plans fresh cars every six months in push for sales growth

Sales of Skoda's new Octavia models have jumped 52 percent this year.
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PRAGUE (Bloomberg) -- Skoda plans to offer a new or revised model every six months on average until 2016 to contribute to its parent company Volkswagen Group's target of dominating global auto-industry sales.

Full-year sales at the Czech unit fell 2 percent to 920,800 cars, Skoda said today in a statement, as the company was hit by a shrinking European market and a production switch to new models in the first half.

Deliveries in December rose 6 percent from a year earlier to 70,000 vehicles, boosted by a 52 percent surge for the Octavia compact lineup, Skoda said. That marked the fourth consecutive monthly gain for the brand.

With sales picking up in the second half, Skoda said earlier this week it was on target to sell 1 million cars for the first time in 2014, a step towards its goal to reach annual sales of 1.5 million by 2018.

"Our attractive model range, good flow of incoming orders and increasingly bright future on the European automotive markets make us confident for 2014," Skoda CEO Winfried Vahland said in the statement.

Skoda is pushing into China, which has become the brand's biggest national market, and other developing economies to make up for a drop in industrywide sales in Europe. The company's growth plan is part of Volkswagen's target of overtaking General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. as the world's biggest carmaker by 2018.

New versions of the Octavia, which started entering showrooms in November 2012, helped Skoda's full-year western European sales rise 3 percent. Deliveries increased 3 percent in Germany, the region's biggest auto market, and surged 24 percent in the UK. Sales fell 9 percent in eastern Europe last year, with a 12 percent decline in Russia, and dropped 4 percent in China, Skoda said.

The new Octavia was rolled out in Russia in the second half of 2013, and is scheduled to enter Chinese showrooms early this year, the automaker said. The Rapid compact sedan will start sales in Russia in the first six months of 2014, the carmaker added.

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