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Skoda appoints new CEO, promises significant shake-up

Skoda has a new CEO and a plan to transform the brand, but that doesn’t appear to involve stepping downmarket.

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William Stopford
William Stopford
Journalist
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Skoda is promising its biggest shake-up since it became part of the Volkswagen Group more than 20 years ago, as it further electrifies its line-up and expands its presence in new markets under a new leader.

From July 1, 2022, Klaus Zellmer, currently the member of the Board of Management responsible for sales and marketing for the Volkswagen Passenger Cars division, will step into the CEO position at Skoda.

He previously served as president and CEO of Porsche Cars North America from 2015 to 2020.

“Our new next level strategy and the overall transformation demands a comprehensive design overhaul, not only with regard to products but also the whole brand,” said board member for sales and marketing Martin Jahn at Skoda’s annual media conference, which took place just days before Skoda announced its new CEO.

“Modern Solid is the new direction for the Skoda brand. This shift represents the most dramatic change for Skoda since it became a part of the Volkswagen Group,” said Jahn.

“We will newly define our purpose, positioning and customer groups which will shape our new brand design.”

Modern Solid is Skoda’s new design language, and the brand earlier this year released a teaser of an unspecified SUV with these new features, obscured by a pane of frosted glass.

Jahn added the company will release more information on this in the second half of this year, and outgoing CEO Thomas Schäfer has said the new design language encapsulated the “rapidly changing demands” of its customers and allows the brand to “align itself more closely with their lifestyles”.

He claimed when the new design language is unveiled to the world, it will be “a real wow moment – both for our customers and for our competition, too”.

Part of Skoda’s new strategy is to increase its presence in certain regions, including in India.

It’ll also expand its model line-up with an additional three electric vehicles, which will sit beneath the Enyaq.

Automotive News Europe notes Skoda’s status as a profit powerhouse for the Volkswagen Group has brought it powerful enemies within the company.

It cites criticism from Volkswagen brand labour leaders that Skoda’s products are attracting too many potential Volkswagen customers, with said leaders reportedly arguing Skoda shouldn’t get the latest technology from Volkswagen.

While VW Group CEO Herbert Diess has said he wants minimal overlap between the Group’s volume brands, the German giant’s sales chief Christian Dahlheim has said Skoda won’t be stepping downmarket to compete with Dacia.

Instead, Dahlheim said last year Skoda will continue to compete with the likes of Ford, Peugeot and Renault, targeting customers who want functionality from their car but can’t afford higher-priced vehicles.

Skoda’s outgoing CEO, Thomas Schäfer, will still be privy to the goings-on at the Czech brand in his new role.

He’s now the chief operating officer for the Volkswagen brand and will become its chairman from July 1.

He’ll also join the Group Board of Management as the member responsible for the Volume Brand Group, which comprises Volkswagen, Seat, Skoda and Cupra.

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William Stopford
William Stopford

William Stopford is an automotive journalist based in Brisbane, Australia. William is a Business/Journalism graduate from the Queensland University of Technology who loves to travel (remember that?), briefly lived in the US, and has a particular interest in the American car industry.

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