When I met Škoda designers at the Trako trade fair in Poland, they were talking about an upcoming double-deck electric unit, i.e. a kind of successor to the famous CityElefant. When will it come onto the market?
Škoda wants to focus fully on single-deck suburban trains and also to return to making double-deck trains. The push pull train (made up of carriages and a control car without a propulsion system of its own – ed.) we presented at Trako forms the basis for the next generation of electric trains. Our aim is to get it onto the market by 2025. Our targets include reducing the weight and increasing the capacity.
In the railway area you are currently focusing on suburban trains. What about long-distance transport? Do you want to enter that area?
Of course we would like to get into long-distance transport as well, but as things stand we lack the resources. We do not have the engineering capacity. Therefore, we will work on improving existing products in the suburban and regional transport area. A number of projects are already coming up in that area – we want to launch a battery-powered electric train and also a hydrogen-powered train.
But does long-distance transport have a place in Škoda’s long-term strategy? Or do you want to stick with suburban transport?
We have a strategic planning period that runs up to 2026 and the main aim is to consolidate our portfolio in regional and suburban transport.
In the area of buses and trolleybuses, how is your collaboration progressing with the Turkish firm Temsa, in which your owner PPF acquired a 50% stake last year? Will it continue to be just one of your suppliers or do you want to take the collaboration further?
We wanted to own a vehicle manufacturer so that we could plan product development and market launches together within a clearly defined timeframe. This is fundamentally different from purchasing a component or even an entire vehicle body from someone (Škoda produces trolleybuses using bodywork from the Polish firm Solaris and the Czech firm SOR – ed.).
We want to step up our involvement in electric buses and hydrogen buses considerably. This will include traditional trolleybuses based on Temsa bodies. Thanks to Temsa, we have huge production capacity either for complete vehicles or for vehicle bodies in Turkey.
How big is the market for electric buses, in which you could become a leading player?
The acquisition of Temsa has given us an almost complete product range in the bus area – from diesels to CNG to electric buses. Therefore, the market is limited only territorially for us – so if we wanted to launch in Scandinavia, for example, we would have to make changes to our vehicles to match what is expected in Scandinavian countries.
Let’s consider the Czech Republic. The market leader in terms of buses sold is SOR, followed by Iveco. Do you have ambitions to catch up?
Of course. The products we have today are comparable with these manufacturers. It is a matter of individual calls for tenders and the carriers who make the investment decisions. Entering a market naturally has costs, but we are prepared for that.
How many calls for tenders are you currently participating in?
Lots. At group level there are several calls for tenders every week. In the past it tended to be several calls for tenders a month.
Are there markets where you want to boost your presence significantly?
Our core markets today are the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Finland. Germany is very important, of course, and we have grown our share in the Baltic states. We are also focusing on the Balkans, where we see enormous potential.
What about Italy? The government is supposed to be encouraging Czech exports to Italy, not least because of the planned public procurement moves there. How do you plan to make the most of that?
Italy is also of interest to us. Nonetheless, we have limited resources at the moment. We have full order books for the next three years.
How about acquisitions? How are the talks progressing with Alstom over the purchase of the plant in France?
We are in talks. I cannot say more at this point.
And are you working on any other acquisitions?
Author: Michal Bouška
Date of issue: 26. 9. 2021
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