Skoda sales rise 17% in Jan. on Europe, China demand

Sales of Skoda's new Octavia models jumped 40 percent in western Europe last month.
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PRAGUE -- Skoda's new-car sales rose 17 percent in January to 80,900 vehicles, boosted by strong sales in Europe and China, the automaker said today in a statement.

The result marked the fifth consecutive monthly gain for the brand as it seeks to hit a target of selling 1 million cars for the first time this year, a step towards its goal of reaching annual sales of 1.5 million by 2018. Last year, the Czech brand sold 939,200 cars, a drop of 2 percent over the previous year.

Skoda is pushing into China, which has become the brand's biggest national market, and other developing economies to make up for a recent drop in industrywide sales in Europe. The company's growth plan is part of parent Volkswagen Group's target of overtaking General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. as the world's biggest carmaker by 2018. Skoda has said it plans to offer a new or revised model every six months on average until 2016 to help lift sales.

A 40 percent leap in sales of the new Octavia compact range, which started entering showrooms in November 2012, helped Skoda's western European sales rise 13 percent in January. Deliveries increased 7 percent in Germany, the region's biggest auto market, and surged 25 percent in the UK. Sales rose 11 percent in eastern Europe last month, with a 3 percent jump in Russia. In China, deliveries rose 27 percent, a monthly record for the market, 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 Rapid compact sedan will start sales in Russia in the first six months of 2014, the carmaker said.

Reuters contributed to this report

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