Target In Sight

Sleepless in Sheffield, Andrew Miles turns to tried and trusted methods.

(c) skoda-storyboard.com

Robbed of sleep by frazzled nerve endings, I turned (as one does) to that comfort blanket known as the internet. My searching led to previously unknown (to me) demographic targets that manufacturers use to ascertain future sales. 

The new Škoda Octavia RS (appearing to have dropped the ‘v’) along with the muscular Scout were being virtually revealed in a ninety minute long video. Supported by a cast of dozens of minions introducing their own particular nuance; infotainment, Head up Display, transmissions and engine parameters, to name just a few, the big guns fired the opening salvoes to a sparse audience, seated around circular tables and to practically unsocial amounts of distance. Bottles of water and disposable coffee cups clearly seen on every table.

Bernhard Maier, soon to return the Fatherland under the Porsche wing of Volkswagen Group, led with the importance of Octavia. Shifting around 400,000 8’s per year is big business and in order to keep that income river flowing, changes and enhancements must occur. As you would expect from a CEO (even one about to hoof it out) Herr Maier bigs the car up.

Then it’s the turn of Christian Strube, a board member. Again, many convincing words sprout forth of the new cars connectivity, safety measures, excellent driving characteristics, etc. The stage is then clear for Oliver Stefani to strut his stuff. In a shorter presentation than I thought permissible, O.S. seems a little rushed, almost resigned to highlighting the small details on offer, the kind of minutiae noticed only by those fully conscious and in need of bragging rights. In essence, he gives the performance of a tree: wooden.

The next few screens made me turn to my sleeping partner and exclaim “Wow, that’s almost us!” I took the accompanying snore as a hint of recognition. 

2020 Octavia Scout. (c) skoda-storyboard.com

Certain that many educated, responsible and down to earth individuals must be employed by manufacturers the world over, analysing data and crunching information to ascertain who buys what and where, Škoda’s target audience projection figures were remarkably accurate – certainly for the wee small hours of the night.

The Scout is extremely popular in Germany, Switzerland, the U.K. and their homeland. U.K. sales have rocketed and it’s allegedly because of this chap, Hugo. I wish to (virtually) shake the hand of the bright spark coining that name. Hugo is 46, married with no kids. He is decently educated, works in a clerical role and cites walking, cycling, snowboarding and football as his extraneous activities.

Hugo is a loyal Škoda customer, willing to spend €37,000. Winning Hugo’s heart are the switchable drivetrain, rugged looks, durability and road holding prowess. To what system of power to propel Hugo to the mountain trail or parking nearest to the Kop, no mention is made. Hugo does not want to be seen dead in a SUV. That last bit I gave to Hugo, for free.

Gallons more information poured forth whipping the crowd into a distanced frenzy. Then came the icing as well as the cherry – the RS – the Czech brand’s panzer for the autobahn. 

Again, popular to the tune of 9% sales in the U.K. alone, the ever increasingly aggressive creations from Mlada Boleslav are sought after Europe-wide. Getting this car correct is vital as the next target customer is Albert. No information was given on how many meetings were had (by Zoom, Teams or FaceTime) to land on the name of Albert, but good on yer, sport.

2020 Octavia RS. (c) skoda-storyboard.com

Albert is a soupçon younger than Hugo at 42. He has a partner and two kids and his job is that of a sales manager. With a university education behind him, Albert is most keen on motor racing, cycling, walking and sports, with no definitive answer to that final part. One hopes Albert could be in a desperate rush to attend the World Tiddlywinks Finals. Or after sustaining an injury in his last game, keen on supporting his team mates at the Korfball match in downtown Leeuwarden.

Albert may currently run another brand and be swung over to the charms of Škoda as he is expecting to shell out a hefty amount per month on his new motor, with a household income of €4,700 per month. Albert has a love of the RS exterior style, the performance available and the value for money offered – any of the Powertrains shove out some serious poke and all undercut the German three, though this is not mentioned – it’s a fact.

Powertrains for these latest Czech offerings include those evermore demonstrative fossil fuels, plug in hybrids as well as compressed natural gas; all are cleaner, greener by percentages usually only offered by those in the murkier end of the financial world than the old versions of the same cars.

As sleep finally began to take hold, I drifted off with thoughts of knowing no-one with those names or being that specific in their target requirements. And my final thought was to wonder just how accurate those targets in sight appear to be. Could be a new sport y’know; Albert and Hugo spotting, as they are seemingly everywhere. I wonder what parameters such carmakers as the Germans or Jaguar, use? Does Mr Musk target everyone? Goodness only knows what happens if either of our protagonists works for a different car maker. Does that clock really say 4am…?

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

11 thoughts on “Target In Sight”

  1. Good morning, Andrew, and I hope you had a more restful night, undisturbed by Škoda promotional videos! Regarding the ‘VRS’ suffix for the company’s sporty versions, it has actually always been simply ‘RS’. The part of the badge that looks like a ‘V’ was never intended to be a letter. However, in the UK (and Ireland?) it was apparently read as such and Skoda went with it, possibly to avoid raising heckles at Ford. Here’s the badge in question:

    The Škoda UK website uses VRS, whereas the German website uses RS.

    Regarding the new Octavia, it’s a quite handsome car, apart from the front end which is rather too busy for my liking:

    I don’t like that additional piece of black plastic outside the chrome trim on the lower part of the grille. It makes it look like the grille is too small for the valance and its only apparent function is to align with a graphic within the headlamp. Likewise, the crease in the valance just outside the headlamp washers. Still, I suppose it’s better than those weird split headlamps on the outgoing model.

    1. The “v” appearing in front of the RS is related to a copyright infringement case since Renault uses the abbreviation for “Renault Sport”. Škoda’s two letter stands for “Rally Sport”, but for a while only “version Rally Sport” was accepted. I assume lawyers found a way the two nomenclature can co-exist.

  2. As if any of it matters.
    All car sales have dropped off a cliff, not to return except as distress purchases until Covid-19 goes, if it does.

    1. Hi Vic. What about PCP and lease deals coming to an end? If customers can’t find the bullet (GFV) payment so they can own their current car outright, aren’t they effectively forced to refinance on a new car? I know that changing cars is absolutely the last thing on my mind at present, but I believe I’m very much in the minority these days in owning cars outright.

  3. Daniel, if you don’t actually own the car, how can you modify it to fix the bits the manufacturer got wrong ? My Honda currently has LHD switchgear on the steering column, but I have sourced JDM parts to correct that.

    1. Hi Mervyn. Isn’t it odd that your Honda, which is RHD in its home market, has the “wrong” parts fitted? Well done for sorting it out.

      I’ve no recent experience of having a car on PCP (I only did it once, back in 1997 on a Mercedes-Benz SLK) but I would imagine that you would have to undo any modifications and reinstall the OEM parts before returning it. I have heard some horror stories about hefty charges being levelled by dealers for even trivial rectification work on returned cars.

      Even when you own a car outright there are still pitfalls: I’ve fitted two aftermarket parts to my Boxster, a glass wind deflector, replacing the standard net item, and mesh grilles in the lower front intakes to protect the air-con condensers and radiators from stone damage. Fitting both parts technically invalidated the Porsche warranty and I was warned to remove them if I needed any work done under warranty, irrespective of whether or not the work had any possible connection to the aftermarket parts . Now the car is out of warranty and I didn’t bother to extend it, this is no longer an issue.

  4. Morning Andrew. Hot chocolate is the answer to your inability to sleep imho – just saying.

    Having read your latest offering I had a quick look at the Skoda website. I have to admit I had never heard of the “Scout” or the “Skala” either, but walking down the High Street just now I saw one – a “Skala” that is. I am assuming that is the replacement for the “Rapid” perhaps?

    I’m thinking that most Manufacturers use similar principles for their market research but have different names for their target buyers. Topic for another article maybe?

    1. The Scala is an upper category replacement for the Rapid, now the manufacturer fully moved over to the Golf platform. The most popular trims of the Rapid looked ideal on paper for rental businesses, but customer feedback about the car was rather negative. A very Spartan vehicle compared to the Octavia.

  5. Albert and Hugo sound like the kind of fellows I would go out of the way to avoid at parties, but that’s the daft profiling game. A few years ago the marketing department of manufacturer of the car I owned at the time had me down as a participant in rugby, golfing, and yachting and also interested in building my own house. All this was based on my address, age, and choice of car. Was I turning into the sort of person I had always hated, and they knew before I did?

    Should I meet Bernhard Maier at a party – unlikely I know – I’d like to ask him what the Scala is for. 38,062 sold in Europe in 2019, which is 0.65 White Hens. In the interest of fair comparison I should note that Scala sales only started in significant numbers in May 2019.

    Pre-launch, Škoda were promoting the Scala as a compact Octavia, but it seems to more of a puffed-out Fabia, a car too far which makes little case for itself in a an over-populated and declining market sector.

    Finally that vRS matter. Digging deeper, it seems that the v-like character is the Czech accent called a Haček. Since when were diacritical marks, without a letter to modify, A Thing? Perhaps it’s Škoda’s version of the Heavy Metal Umlaut, intended to convey an air of authority and menace. Absurd, yet more forgivable than its gratuitous cousin the Fitted Kitchen Umlaut.

    1. Ah, yes – the Manchester-based kitchen manufacturer, Moben, pretending to be German, by becoming ‘Möben’. See also British electronics firm, Matsui.

    2. For what its worth, by brother-in-law had a Scala loan car while his Kodiaq was being serviced a couple of weeks ago and found it perfectly agreeable.

      It’s got to be better than the Rapid/Toledo twins, a number of which are run by our local taxi company. They’re perfectly serviceable and, apparently, cheap and reliable, but you can feel and hear the rear beam axle thump over every bump in the road surface.

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