Volkswagen Group's Skoda division doesn't see Europe's economic problems slowing its growth.
Last year, Skoda reported record global sales of 879,200 vehicles. "We plan to continue to grow in 2012," Juergen Stackmann, the Czech-based brand's head of sales and marketing, told Automotive News Europe.
Europe represents 60 percent of the brand's global sales. "Our market share is currently just under 3 percent in western Europe. I see more potential for Skoda. Our goal is clear: We don't merely want to grow in emerging markets but in our core markets as well," Stackmannn said.
The former Ford marketing executive also confirmed Skoda's goal to increase its global new-car sales to 1.5 million by 2018, helping VW achieve its groupwide goal of reaching 10 million sales by the same year.
By 2018, Skoda wants 60 percent of its volume to come from outside Europe in developing markets such as China and India, compared with 40 percent now. Europe's share of the brand's global volume would reduce to 40 percent.
This plan is already gaining traction. In 2011, China became Skoda's largest single market based on unit sales, surpassing Germany to reach No. 1 just five years after the automaker first launched sales there. The three models that Skoda sells in China, the Fabia subcompact, Octavia compact and Superb mid-sized car, are all produced in a VW Group plant in Shanghai.
Skoda also has production operations with VW in Kaluga, Russia, and Pune, India. Stackmann said the brand will not expand into new markets like North America, Brazil or Argentina. "We are focusing on exploiting the potential of our existing regions," he said.
Skoda plans to add dealers in China and Russia to help boost sales in those countries. In China, Skoda will add 100 more dealers to its current network of 300 outlets. The company has 4,500 dealers worldwide.
Stackmann said that Skoda will continue the biggest model offensive in the brand's history. "Over the next few years, we will deliver a new product to our dealers every six months on average," he said.
Skoda recently launched the Rapid subcompact in India and the Citigo minicar, which is a derivative of the VW Up.
The company also is working on a compact, family-oriented sedan based on the Mission L concept. This new model will compete against cars such as the Renault Fluence when it debuts in in Europe, where it may also be called the Rapid, in the second half of 2012.