Volkswagen’s Skoda brand is considering selling cars in the U.S., Automotive News Europe reports. The 121-year-old Czech marque has been a part of Volkswagen since 1991 and has a significant presence in most of Europe, as well as in China.
The automaker has already filed several trademarks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, including those for the Skoda Octavia sedan, Superb sedan and Yeti compact SUV.
Skoda occupies a spot below Volkswagen in the VW Group hierarchy, with its models aimed at slightly lower price points, though the differences are negligible — the automaker markets several near-luxury models such as the Superb. Recent Skoda models have stretched the brand upward, with impressive customer-satisfaction and build-quality ratings elevating Skoda above VW in brand perception in some European markets. The brand has recorded substantial growth year over year in multiple countries, with its profit margins surpassing Audi during the first quarter of 2016, Automotive News Europe notes. The Czech automaker’s lineup is continuing to expand, with the large, seven-seat Kodiaq SUV viewed as a vehicle suited to the North American market.
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“In the past, our focus was on the European market, and our path to growth was in China. Now we are discussing the next step for the brand,” a spokesman for the automaker told Automotive News Europe. “You cannot compare our market entry into China, an emerging market characterized by gigantic growth rates, with an established, saturated one such as the U.S. The business cases for the two are totally different,” the spokesman added.
The tipping point for testing the waters in North America is the VW diesel scandal, with Skoda seen by some analysts as untainted by the crisis. The Skoda lineup is still very similar to that of Volkswagen, which started providing its platforms for Skoda cars in the early 1990s, and the prices of Skoda vehicles have been kept in check more strictly than those of Volkswagen, models of which have repeatedly encroached on Audi’s price range.
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Skoda has not made a decision on a U.S. market launch, and future brand perception in the U.S. remains unpredictable; among the few who’ve actually heard of them, Skodas tend to get lumped in with Soviet car brands. Even though Skodas were sold in Canada, most recently in the 1980s, the brand is still effectively unknown in the U.S. But being seen as unrelated to VW may be a good thing, some industry analysts are betting.