Czech marque registers U.S. trademarks amid parent company’s diesel woes

Skoda will decide in 2017 whether it will return to the U.S., the German daily Handelsblatt reports. The automaker has been quietly trademarking a number of existing model names at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, amid reports that crisis-hit Volkswagen Group, Skoda’s parent company, is thinking about letting the brand back into North America.

“During the next year, we want to have the question of North America decided for us,” Skoda CEO Bernhard Maier told Handelsblatt.

The brand currently has six models in its lineup and will add a large SUV named Kodiaq in a matter of months — a model well suited to North America. Skoda currently offers the Citigo and Fabia hatches, Octavia and Rapid sedans and wagons, the Yeti compact SUV and a range-topping, near-luxury Superb sedan.

So far Skoda has registered the Yeti, Octavia, Superb and its vRS sport trim level, the equivalent of Audi’s S lineup.

An important part of VW’s calculus on bringing Skoda to the States is that the brand remains untainted by the diesel scandal, even though its model lineup is still largely VW-based. The very few in the States who’ve even heard of Skoda or remember it sold in the 1960s may associate it, erroneously, with Soviet cars, but Skoda represents a blank slate for the automaker with a ready lineup of affordable and attractive models.

Since becoming part of VW in 1991, Skoda has pursued overseas markets aggressively and with great success, upstaging its corporate parent in a number of important markets including China, where Skodas are manufactured locally. The brand also has made impressive gains in Europe, where Skodas have effectively displaced VW as the Group’s budget brand amid the former’s price and model bloat. In addition to achieving industry-leading customer satisfaction ratings in a number of European countries, Skoda has also managed to completely shed its previous image of an Eastern European budget brand, itself becoming an aspirational, if still-inexpensive, car in many markets.

Skoda’s global reach is still growing, with the company set to start sales in Iran and South Korea shortly. One of the major unconquered markets for the brand remains North America, which Skoda left in the early 1990s after struggling with Canadian sales. By 2025, Skoda aims to sell cars in 120 markets, up from just over 100 at the present day.

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