The ŠKODA story began in 1895 when two cycling enthusiasts by the name of Václav Laurin (a mechanic) and Václav Klement (a bookseller) started out by designing and manufacturing bicycles under the name Laurin & Klement. This name is now reserved for the top-end L&K models in the Škoda lineup. The bicycles sold well, and technology was advancing; So Laurin and Klement took the next step and started creating motorised bikes. Motorbike production began in earnest during 1899, with the pair producing a total of nearly 4,000 motorbikes of various models and styles.
During the early 1900s, Laurin and Klement were riding a wave of success, and having completed their first motorised car – the Voiturette A – it became a resounding success, cementing its place as a classic model in Czech motoring history. Due to the challenging economic climate at the time, Laurin and Klement realised that they needed a reliable commercial partner to help achieve their dream of taking the next step with their company. In 1925, they merged with engineering firm Škoda from Plzeň, and the Škoda brand as we know it today was born.
Since then, the familiar winged arrow logo has taken pride of place on all vehicles from Mladá Boleslav. The first genuinely stand-out vehicle to come from the Škoda team was the new and modern ŠKODA Popular (image at top) during the early 1930s, which would go on to become a cult vehicle during the second half of the decade. In what would prove to be a great piece of product marketing for the brand, four factory-prepared Popular models embarked on a four-month trip across the continents to India. The roadster version performed heroics on the 1936 Monte Carlo rally – a competition that Škoda maintains success, even to this day.
The 1950s saw Škoda enter the 24-hours of Le Mans for the first time, and also saw the launch of the ŠKODA 440 which, in 1959, evolved into the first in a long time of Octavia models, named because it was the eighth model built after the end of World War II.
The spring of 1964 saw the ŠKODA 1000 MB replace the popular ŠKODA Octavia; It featured an entirely new car with a 1.0-litre, four-cylinder engine housed in the rear. By May 1965, over 1,000 vehicles were rolling off the assembly line every month. By the end of the year, the company had been able to ramp up its daily production to at least 150 units, making the 1000 MB the first Czech vehicle to be truly mass-produced.
Following the formation of the Czech Republic during 1993, the new government began to search for a strong foreign partner in an effort to secure the future of the Škoda brand. In December 1990, they decided on Volkswagen and a joint venture began the following year. ŠKODA became the fourth brand in the Volkswagen Group (VAG), alongside Volkswagen, Audi and SEAT.
Under VAG ownership ŠKODA has increased in size and production exponentially. Since the 1990s Škodas’ production has grown sixfold as models such as the Superb, Octavia and Fabia have built upon a loyal fan base, as well as winning over customers that were previously loyal to other brands. The introduction of ŠKODA’s current SUV family that includes Kodiaq, Karoq, and Kamiq has further expanded the reach of the marque. It has firmly cemented Škodas’ reputation for quality, practicality and accessibility.
The year 2020 will mark the beginning of a new era for ŠKODA with the arrival of the all-electric SUV, Enyaq – the brand’s first vehicle to be based on the Volkswagen Group’s Modular Electric Platform (MEB). ŠKODA will also be launching more than ten partially or fully electric cars before the end of 2022 which will include the exciting All-New ŠKODA Octavia. So here’s to ŠKODA and what the future will bring.