A few days ago, Škoda Auto presented the second generation of the Kodiaq, the model that really started the expansion of the SUV range in the Mladá Boleslav brand’s portfolio. It was the Kodiaq that fully kicked off Škoda’s expansion in this field, which will not stop even in the coming years. But the history of SUVs is much richer in the Czech environment. It didn’t start with the Kodiaq, or even the Yeti, which was Skoda’s first modern SUV.
The Mladoboleslav automobile company had already been building off-road vehicles for decades. Even Avia had its say on the topic, and we shouldn’t forget the automobile factory in Nošovice either.
Skoda army specials
The Škoda 903, a military staff car with three axles, developed for the needs of the then Czechoslovak army, was already created in the interwar period. It was powered by a six-cylinder, the first prototypes with a 2.7-liter, later cars with a 3.1-liter from the then Superb. In the end, 45 pieces of this car were produced.
In a similar spirit, the post-war Škoda 1101 VO model (later P, as standby), whose prototype was presented in 1947 as a replacement for ex-service Wehrmacht vehicles that continued to serve in the army even after the war, followed a similar spirit.
It was based on the 1101 Tudor passenger sedan, which was not very suitable for a military car, even though there was also a variant with all-wheel drive and a reduction gearbox. Therefore, the “combat tudor” ended up serving more with the National Security Corps or fire protection units. But it was also exported abroad, to Bulgaria or Egypt. Thanks to this, 4,000 examples of this car were built.
Škoda 973, nicknamed Babeta due to its performance in the musical If a Thousand Clarinets, was similarly designed. In it, she appeared during the scene in which Hana Hegerová and Karel Gott sing the song “Babeta went to the world”. After all, the car from the early fifties was supposed to replace the previous military 1101 P. But mainly it had the ambition to become an army jeep for the entire Eastern bloc, when it also took part in demanding testing near Dresden. In the selection process for the “Eastern European Jeep”, however, the GAZ 69 was finally preferred, so the Škoda 973 remained only a prototype.
The Škoda 998 “Agromobil” was a car made from a slightly different dough, in this case it was aimed at customers from the field of agriculture, who, like the army, should appreciate a car capable of off-roading. That’s why the car had an additional two-speed gearbox and connectable all-wheel drive.
Even in this case, however, mass production did not take place. There were insufficient funds to complete the project, so work was stopped. Finally, the model 998, like the 973, appeared in the musical If a Thousand Clarinets.
New Zealand Trekka
The Škoda Trekka from the late 1960s and early 1970s was already mass-produced, but not for the Czechoslovak market. It was an unconventional car project for the New Zealand market. The project was created due to the high customs duties on imported cars in New Zealand – the Škoda 1000 MB was already assembled there from imported parts, and the Trekka was designed exactly to the needs of the customers there. Behind the idea were New Zealand Škoda importer Phil Andrews, businessman Noel Turner and coachbuilder Josef Velebný, who oversaw the assembly of the “Embéčka” in New Zealand at the time.
The Land Rover-style car was available in various variants, such as station wagon, pick-up or convertible. The chassis, axles and 35 kW petrol 12-litre engine came from the Octavia of the time.
Subsequently, the development of cars at the Mladá Boleslav car company went in a different direction. However, in the nineties, off-road vehicles became popular on the Czech market, which attracted the attention of one Czech manufacturer. Not a Škoda, however, but an Avia from Letňa.
A now-forgotten project is the Avia A11 from the mid-1990s, when the Letňa factory tried to succeed in the selection process of the Czech army, which was then looking for a replacement for the obsolete UAZ 469 from the Soviet Union.
For this project, Avia used its contacts in France and established cooperation with the Auverland company, which produces, among other things, licensed Willys Jeeps. The resulting car was based on French technology, which also applied to the power units, specifically coming from Peugeot. The car with rigid axles and attachable all-wheel drive offered two versions of length and different body types.
Unfortunately, the interesting project eventually ended due to failure in the army tender – a modified Land Rover Defender won in the end. The final point was the takeover of Avia by the Korean Daewoo, who saw no potential in the production of off-road cars, and thus ended the production of the A11. In the end, according to various sources, up to 250 units of this car were built.
The arrival of Skoda SUVs
Škoda didn’t see an SUV until the new millennium. Specifically, in 2009, the unusually designed Yeti model was introduced, which was ahead of its time in a way. It came to the market only at a time when the trend of compact SUVs was just beginning to develop (the first was the Nissan Qashqai in 2007).
The arrival of the car was indicated by two concepts of the same name already in 2005. The blue one was very close to the shapes of the resulting Yeti, the later orange one was an unconventional SUV-convertible with a canvas roof.
Yeti’s success subsequently led to the gradual expansion of Škoda’s SUV brand. In 2016, the Kodiaq family SUV came with room for up to seven people. Yeti was replaced in production in 2017 by the compact Karoq, but in terms of size, it is more closely matched by the Kamiq crossover introduced in 2019.
The last years, however, are rather characterized by electric SUVs, which we have to count on in the future as well. The second generation Kodiaq should be the brand’s last combustion engine SUV for European markets. The Enyaq and Enyaq Coupé will be complemented by the new Elroq, an electric SUV the size of the Karoq, in 2025. A large family SUV with an electric drive based on the Vision 7S concept will also come later.
Today, Škoda is already a globally operating car company that also offers some models adapted to non-European markets. For China, there was an extended Yeti and the original Kamiq, and for India, in 2021, a completely unique Kushaq was created with simpler technology adapted to the market there.
SUV z Nošovic
In the overview of Czech SUVs, we should not forget the Hyundai models produced in Nošovice, which is the first European plant of the Korean car manufacturer. After all, in the past some of these models were also presented in advertisements as “Czech SUVs”.
The first such car was the Hyundai ix35, which began production in Nošovice in 2011. Until then, the model was created in Žilina at the Kia factory, but due to the development of demand, production had to be moved. The Kia Venga, produced until now alongside the related Hyundai ix20, traveled in the opposite direction.
The ix35 in Nošovice was later followed by its successors – once again in Europe called the Hyundai Tuscon. The current generation has been produced since 2020, for Europe it has a shorter wheelbase than the version for non-European markets.
In 2020, the Nošovice factory also started producing the first electric cars – specifically the Kona Electric model. It is produced here for the European markets, starting this summer already in the second generation, which bet on a more expressive and futuristic appearance than its predecessor.