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Skoda - The Joke That Backfired On The Jokers

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The DriveWrite Archives Topics:  Skoda

Skoda - The Joke That Backfired On The Jokers

Geoff Maxted
September 28, 2013

Skoda S100 Brochure
These days, you can cheerfully study car reviews and be confident that your decision to buy a new or used Skoda is indeed a sensible and wise choice.

However speak to an older motorist about his past purchases and, if Skoda is mentioned, don’t be surprised if he becomes a bit quiet and defensive. He may possibly start crying. Because, you know, it was only about the mid 1970s onwards (Doesn’t it all seem so terribly last century now, darling?) that the name of Skoda became a byword for awfulness and terrible jokes.

In fact, as a manufacturer, they have been around for a lot longer; since 1859 in fact, when they were an arms manufacturer. The first car appeared around 1905. It was still for sale in 1980! No, no; only kidding! The Skoda Works made some excellent cars with names still synonymous with the brand today: the new Skoda Superb, is an example. It wasn’t until the Soviet era of domination over the Eastern European countries that things started to go badly wrong as Western and Far Eastern technology raced ahead, leaving the mighty industrial heartlands of Soviet Europe to struggle along with ageing post-war production and design methods; which makes their motor rally successes of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s all the more remarkable, considering.

The Skoda Estelle, a small rear-engine model, surprisingly became popular in the UK, largely because it was cheap. Unsurprisingly, its reputation for poor performance, dreadful construction and ancient technology rendered it the butt of jokes amongst the motoring public. However, owners at the time defended the car as rugged and built to withstand the roads of the Soviet era, which were not unlike the British roads of today. Some wag at Skoda, no doubt during the office party whilst photo-copying his nether regions, decided to badge one of the Estelle models as the Rapid. Clearly the Czechs were able to maintain their sense of humour in adversity! They did get their act together, a bit, with the really quite successful Favorit. This again sold on price but was, if not a major advance, at least a step in the right direction.

1989 saw the velvet revolution in Prague and, as the Soviet bloc disintegrated, Skoda joined the free market economy as Volkswagen took control and built the company up to what it is today: a modern, successful manufacturer that, since 2005, has sold like hot cakes and is often voted Britain’s favourite brand. Joking aside.

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