On March 28, 2021, it was thirty years ago that Škoda and Volkswagen were linked together. However, the first contacts between Škoda and Volkswagen already started in the late 1991s. From that moment on, the Czechoslovakians and the Germans had a good relationship with each other, which was good for an extremely fruitful cooperation. Today, Škoda has become an indispensable part of the traffic scene. But not so long ago, someone who bought a Škoda had something to explain. Something I certainly never understood after XNUMX.
I remember it well. In the XNUMXs, Škoda came up with the Favorit, a car that was developed entirely in-house, and at that time it began to trickle down in the West that Volkswagen was developing a more than normal interest in the brand because of this car. And that while in Germany and other Western countries there was often a scornful attitude towards cars from the Eastern bloc. The Dutch journal was often not for the cat, almost disdainfully. And who old test reports in German magazines like car engine and sport read between the lines sees a mixture of arrogance and compassion.
Volkswagen was not guided by that opinion and it developed a good relationship with the authorities in Czechoslovakia and the policymakers in Mladá Boleslav. It saw the potential of Škoda in general and the Favorit in particular. It was therefore no surprise to insiders that Škoda was part of Volkswagen from 28 March 1991. At that time, the offer was still Czech in style.
The Favorit was the basis for the station version Forman. And in a profile he was also for successor Felicia. That was in fact the first Škoda that was available with VW technology. In addition, the Felicia winked at both the future and the past, as certain Felicia models were still available with the engines that were already installed in the successor to the 100 series during the XNUMXs. That was very smart, because that way a regiment of old Škoda drivers remained in the picture at the manufacturer. At the same time, for many status-sensitive people this was a reference to the old Eastern European and cheap school.
Volkswagen had already regularly tested the Favorit, with the Felicia the first result of the cooperation between the Germans and the Czechs came out. I thought it was a pleasant car that fits the spirit of the times. But in 1994, western Europe had just recovered from the Wende, from the fall of the Wall. And many Westerners still regarded Škoda as a second-class brand back then.
Forgotten was the era of both before and after the Second World War, when the Czechoslovakians built appealing cars. But during the darkest period of communist Europe, Škoda was above all a manufacturer in the suspect bank. That was unjustified, who in the sixties, seventies and eighties drove a Škoda with the engine in the back did not have a modern concept in hand, but a car that usually offered excellent value for a modest price. That was never mentioned. In fact, even after the VW attack, it took a long time for the negative image to disappear. Until after the turn of the millennium, Škoda drivers had something to explain, according to the prevailing opinion influenced by subjective images.
In 1995 I went to the Auto RAI with my father. Within the Škoda booth, I pointed my father to the then brand-new Felicia. My father showed a healthy interest, asked about the availability of larger engines (later the 1.6 MPI and 1.9 diesel would be available) and was also enthusiastic. Let's introduce myself at home. But my mother was unrelenting. She was not often wrong in her life, but now she was mistaken. A Škoda? Are you completely screwed up? She also ignored my series of recommendations. The link with VW was also not enough. Blinded by the still present Eastern Bloc image, she rejected our suggestion. Resolute. There was no talking to it.
About five years later, colleague Leen bought a new car. The man drove Japanese for years, and rightly so, Japanese cars had long and widely accepted. Within the middle class and the larger middle class, the Avensis, the Primera, the 626, the Accord and the Galant, for example, were on the retina to a considerable extent. They were formidable business assets and therefore competitors of the European order. This time, however, Leen did not opt for a Japanese middle class. “Guys”, he said one autumn morning in 1999, “guess what I bought”. I knew immediately. The colleagues struggled and mentioned all kinds of things, but not the right car. ”Van Putten, you know, I think, you have talked about it before.” I immediately congratulated Leen on the Octavia. "That is really an excellent choice."
So Leen got an Octavia, a Combi with 1.9 TDI engine, first series. He bought a guarantee of quality and received scornful laughter from most of his colleagues as a gift. That did not diminish after Leen filled his workplace with Škoda posters. Contrary to most of them, I did right behind Leen. And that while the sympathetic and born Amsterdammer often laughingly measured me because of the Fiat Tipo that I once drove. But that was no reason to let go of my loyalty to Leen and his new addition. He had just bought an excellent car, and I predicted that Škoda within a few years established order would be. “They build excellent cars under the VW flag and operate right in between the segments. VW only benefits from this, and will bring many brand foreign drivers to the group via Škoda. That is clever and grand. ”
Today Škoda is a firm and stable value. Since March 28, 1991, a large series of models in various shapes and sizes have been built and still do. For seven years, it has been building more than a million cars a year, and simply clever they do this with cars that usually fall exactly between the usual segments. With a strong VW image behind it, Škoda overcame the prevailing skepticism. And became big with building excellent cars. As a no-nonsense brand it has long been impossible to imagine life without it.
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