Volkswagen AG group's production is blooming and its sales are booming in Slovakia. Škoda Auto, one member of the group, dominates the sales market, while Volkswagen, another member, keeps extending its production facilities in the biggest Slovak automotive plant in Bratislava.
The Bratislava Volkswagen plant plans to launch production of the new VW Vento generation by the end of 1998, possibly in the spring of 1999. A new assembly line with an estimated daily production of 200 units, currently being prepared for the production launch, will be the second assembly line at the Bratislava plant.
A four-door modification of the VW Golf A4, Bratislava Ventos will be custom-made, all-wheel drive Syncro models, which is the Bratislava plant's specialty.
VW Bratislava currently ranks in the first third of the Volkswagen company's quality ranking list. According to top VW Bratislava managers, an important advantage is the plant's high flexibility. This was displayed last June when the factory launched emergency production of the VW Passat B5 to alleviate capacity pressures on VW plants in Germany. Until last December, the Bratislava plant produced 50 Passats every day.
In 1998, VW Bratislava plans to produce 120,000 cars, three times more than production last year, swelling its workforce to 4,500 people. Since the beginning of 1998, the company has produced 9,645 cars, including 8,289 VW Golf A4s and 1,356 Golf A3 Syncro Variants.
In February alone, the plant produced 5,849 cars, a 51-percent increase compared to January when 3,866 units were made.
February was a great month not only for producers but also for dealers. The number of new cars sold in Slovakia reached 4,851 units, an 53-percent increase against January's figures and up 13 percent compared to last February. On the other hand, light commercial vehicles (LCVs) sold a total of 371 units in February, down 3.5 percent against January.
In the category of cars and LCVs, Škoda Auto continued its domination of the Slovak market with 2,211 vehicles sold in February, for a market share of more than 42 percent. Daewoo held on to the number two spot with 632 units sold and a market share of over 12 percent. Volkswagen was close behind in third with 537 units sold and a 10.1 percent market share. Combined, Volkswagen AG brands of Škoda, VW, Audi, and Seat captured a market share of over 55 percent.
Last year, 62,080 cars and 6,485 LCVs were sold in Slovakia. Škoda ruled the country with a market share of more than 46 percent, pushing Daewoo's share down to 14.39 percent and squeezing Volkswagen's to 8.4 percent.
Last year was a record year for Škoda, with its annual turnover climbing by 53-percent to 90.095 billion Czech crowns ($2.65 billion). Jacking up its worldwide sales by 28.8 percent to a record 336,334 cars, Škoda also became the country's largest exporter, taking an 8-percent bite of overall exports to the Czech Republic.
Production at Škoda's three plants in the Czech Republic increased by over 35 percent last year to 357,170 units. At a March 19 press conference, Škoda reaffirmed its commitment to raise annual production to 500,000 vehicles by the turn of the century.
Slovak consumers and suppliers were a large part of the reason for Škoda's record year. Slovakia is Škoda Auto's second most important export market, ranking just behind Germany where Škoda's sales jumped 40 percent last year to 30,000 units.
In 1997, Škoda purchased parts and components worth 3.3 billion Czech crowns ($97 million) from 19 Slovak suppliers. Czech suppliers took the lion's share with sales totaling 37.5 billion crowns ($1.1 billion), while foreign suppliers weighed in with sales of 14 billion ($411 million). "Our intention is to maintain this favorable ratio," said Škoda board chairman Vratislav Kulhánek at a press conference.