SKODA are serious about taking SME sales from Ford and Vauxhall with the new Superb. So, how do they think they’re going to do it?
At the launch of the new Skoda Superb I managed to catch up with Skoda’s head of sales, Martin Barrow-Starkey, to find out more…
The new Superb is predominantly a fleet car isn’t it?
“Yes, it’s probably a 70:30 split between fleet and retail for us.”
What’s the opportunity for the SME with the new car over rivals?
“I think for an SME, the new Superb is quite an adaptive car, but space is obviously key.
“It’s also a smart-looking car that’s a good reflection on your business. Mainly though it’s a practical car – Skoda has prided itself on having practical cars.”
The Superb has always been a practical car, but the third-generation model adds another dose of style on top – doesn’t it?
“Absolutely, the current Superb is six-years old – all the technology you see in other cars has been brought into this model. Things like the virtual foot pedal for opening the boot and the power tow bar.
“So, if you’ve got a small business, there will probably be an occasion where you might need to tow something, or you might need to fold down the rear seats.
“Equally you might need to show someone round in a presentable car and create the right impression; this car fits all these bills.”
Do you have any idea of what the corporate take up will be between diesel and petrol power?
“The old Superb was predominantly a diesel car, though with all the modern technologies now and legislation I guess, that might swing it back towards petrol power. Previously it was 90:10 diesel, but more efficient petrol engines could change that, although I think it will be largely a diesel car for the foreseeable future.
“We’ve got a selection of petrols for people who want something a bit sharper. People have that choice, but if legislation changes, which has been mooted in the background, then we’ve got that option as well.”
Like the last, do you think the estate version of the new Superb will be more popular than the saloon?
“The challenge we had with the old Superb, was with the TwinDoor mechanism of the old hatch, which was a bit marmite. Some people loved it, some people hated it; it was also quite heavy. One of the good things about taking that away, is that it’s one of the big contributors to making this car 75kg lighter.
“I also I think people weren’t so sure about the styling of the old hatch. I think that’s gone now, I think we’ve now got a car that people will be comfortable with – whether it’s a hatch or estate. I think the estate will do very well though, but we’d like it to be a more even split than before.”
We’ve driven the 1.4 TSI and were very impressed by it, but for the corporate market, is it a risk putting such a small engine in a big car as the Superb?
“I think one of the biggest challenges when selling this car to corporate, is most people associate a 1.4 engine with a small or medium car from maybe 10 years ago, when that engine suited a small or medium car, but engine technology and the power you get from a turbocharged engine is so vastly different now. As you’ve seen yourself, there’s some really good power, but the efficiency of that car from a tax point of view, hasn’t been compromised by the bhp.”
Do you see the big opportunity corporate-wise, as far as sales are concerned for the new Superb, to be the 2.0-litre TDI diesel 150?
“It’s hard to say, but the SE Business 150 is key, as high-powered engines have gone well for us. By the end of the year, we’ll have the new Greenline engine and that engine will take buyers below the 95g/km level of CO2, which from a tax benefit point of view, is quite significant. So to start with, the core of our market will select that 150 engine, but when the Greenline version comes in, it might prove attractive to people who want that tax efficiency.”
Do you think Greenline will be more important moving forward for the SME company car buyer?
“I think so, moving forward. We’ve got a new government and they’re looking to do more and more green-friendly policies and laws. I think Greenline is an absolute must moving forward, maybe not right now, but in the future. There’s talk that by 2050, that they’ll be zero emissions; in 2015 that seems a long way away, but this is the start giving customers a greener choice.”
The new Superb is a real move upwards in terms of style, do you see this as a conquest car? Or do you see this car appealing to a typical Volkswagen Group buyer?
“I think this car will retain that core loyalty, but with the new design that’s been created, the new Superb is all about conquest. We do want to try to get new people in the car – it does turn heads!
“From a style point of view, we hope it’s something that will attract people over the old car. Although clearly we want to keep our loyal buyers happy at the same time – the cost value relationships is something we know they value dearly.
“We’re trying to get people out of their Fords and Vauxhalls!”
With its smarter looks, do you think the Superb is a strong enough package to take sales from premium rivals such as the Audi A4 or BMW 3-Series?
“Our customers will tell us ultimately, but we’ve set out to pitch ourselves against Ford and Vauxhall’s share. To turn the heads of those drivers towards a Skoda, if BMW drivers, Mercedes drivers, or whatever other premium manufacturer it might be, it makes them think that for the money, they could get a bigger car with a better spec, then if they choose to do that , all the better for us. We’ve pitched ourselves at the mass market – that’s where the volume is. Anything else would make me smile all day long.”