Saturday, September 17, 2005

Skoda going places

I have a confession - I don't know how to drive a car. In car-crazy Singapore, where I live today, that's a anachronism. I have my reasons for this state of affairs, reasons that might surprise you if you knew, but let's just leave it at that. This doesn't stop me from being an observer of cars, which reminds me of an Eastern European make called Skoda. When it first debuted in Singapore, it was very very cheap, compared to the rest of the competition. It was also very very, lets say, flimsy. It looked like an undercarriage which just happens to have a body covering of tin metal. It reminded me when Honda first came out with sub-compact cars that ran on motorcycle-sounding type engines that could seat two Asian-sized passengers - a third or fourth if they could squeeze into the back seat. It was said that the car's body was so flimsy that the car will be crushed completely, like paper, in an accident. Japanese cars have made quantum leaps in terms of power and design of their cars since.

Well, back to Skoda. It looks like it has also grown up since the first time I saw a Skoda about 15-20 years ago - at least in Europe. Strategy+Business has a case study article on this in its current Fall 2005 edition. The entire article is available online here. Prior to reading this interesting article, I didn't know that Skoda has had a long and illustrious history. It is now owned by Germany's Volkswagen, and under its management, it has emerged from its communist days to become a world challenger in car design and performance. It is so successful that its parent, Volkswagen, felt threatened by its designs. How did this happen? Read the article and find out.

P.S. You need to register with S+B, but the registraton is free of charge.