MLADA BOLESLAV, Czech Republic -- After its profitability fell last year, Skoda is seeking to restore its luster with a big product offensive and a revamp in China, its biggest market.
The automaker will launch a new generation of the Octavia compact car this year, along with a full-electric Citigo minicar and a plug-in hybrid version of its Superb midsize model, Skoda said at its annual press conference here on Wednesday.
Skoda will launch 30 models by 2022 including different body styles and electrified versions, CEO Bernhard Maier said at the press conference.
Skoda will start sales of the Scala compact car, a successor to its Rapid, in Europe in April, while the Kamiq small SUV will go on sale in autumn in Europe.
After launching the e-Citigo this year, which is based on the VW e-Up, Skoda will add continue its electric car expansion with models based on parent Volkswagen Group's MEB dedicated electric platform. Skoda's first MEB production model will be a coupe crossover based on the Vision IV concept shown at the Geneva auto show earlier this month. It will arrive next year.
Skoda’s operating profit declined by 15 percent to 1.38 billion euros in 2018 even as its vehicle deliveries rose 4.4 percent to 1.25 million, the fifth consecutive year of record sales. Operating margin fell to 8 percent from 9.7 percent in 2017. Within VW Group, Skoda's operating margin was still higher than Audi's 7.9 percent figure and VW brand's 3.8 percent margin.
Skoda's earnings were impacted by delays in certifying cars for Europe’s new WLTP emissions regulations, exchange rate volatility including the weakness of the British pound and Russian ruble, and the rise labor costs in the Czech Republic where Skoda builds most of its cars, Maier said.
The trade dispute between the U.S. and China created uncertainty also hit Skoda sales in China.
Skoda's global deliveries fell 2 percent to 90,900 in February, mainly due to an 18 percent drop in China.
China is not as profitable for Skoda as Europe, Maier said, adding: "We haven’t lost any money in China, but of course we have not really been able to achieve the return on sales that we have in Europe."
Maier said Skoda has put in a plan in place with its joint venture partner SAIC aims to improve profitability in China.
Skoda plans to launch more China-specific models. Last year the automaker unveiled the Kodiaq GT, a coupe-styled version of the Kodiaq SUV and the Kamiq small SUV built on a different platform to the European Kamiq.