Skoda Auto commemorated the 100th anniversary of its subsidiary plant in Vrchlabi this weekend. Last year in September, the plant celebrated one millionth vehicle manufactured after the merger with Volkswagen in 1991.
‘The Vrchlabi plant continues the history of Petera a synove, a ‘manufacturer of vehicles and English saddles’ established in 1864 by Ignac Theodor Petera. In 1908, the company manufactured the first car body,‘ said Skoda Auto Archive Manager LukaS Nachtmann. After 1920, the plant specialised in the production of automobile bodies. Over 1930-1935, the company reached its boom, producing convertibles built on chassis made by Skoda, Tatra and Walter, as well as German, Italian, English and US companies.
‘During World War II, the plant was rebuilt to reach, more or less, its current size,’ says Nachtmann. After the war the company was converted to a car body making plant (SEVKAR – ‘Severoceska karosarna’), but soon after that, in 1946, the plant was nationalised and became part of AZNP Mlada Boleslav. It was then when the plant launched a line manufacturing system, for the first time in its history. The first model to have been produced was the Skoda 1101. In 1952, the company started producing the Skoda 1200, a vehicle fitted with an all-metal body (in contrast with its previous models with wooden frames).
1954 saw the establishment of an independent company named Automobilový zavod Vrchlabi that then merged with Karosa, a plant in Chlumec nad Cidlinou. In 1955, the plant launched the Skoda 1201. In 1958, the Vrchlabi plant became part of AZNP Mlada Boleslav again.
In the years that followed, Vrchlabi specialised in the manufacturing of lightweight commercial versions of Skoda passenger vehicles. A few years later, the portfolio was extended with small series of Skoda’s best-equipped vehicles. In the nineteen-sixties, the company launched the Skoda 1202 and later the Skoda 1203. Besides that, the plant produced disassembled pickups for Turkey. Furthermore, the company built a press shop and substantially reconstructed most of its manufacturing facilities. ‘In the mid-nineteen-seventies, the plant started cooperating with the Mlada Boleslav-based factory, testing and checking the standard Skoda 120 as well as its enhanced versions. More luxurious versions of the existing models still continue to be manufactured in Vrchlabi even today,‘ adds LukaS Nachtmann of Skoda Auto.
In late 1981, the plant produced the last Skoda 1203, thus finishing the era of manufacturing commercial vehicles that, almost without a break, lasted from 1946. In 1987, Vrchlabi was the organisation’s first plant to have launched the test production of the Skoda Favorit and in 1990 also the Skoda Forman. The launch of the Favorit required an extensive modernisation of the assembly line and some other production facilities.
In 1991, Skoda Mlada Boleslav became part of the Volkswagen Group – Vrchlabi remained one of the manufacturing plants of Skoda, automobilova a.s. At that time the plant manufactured special versions of the Favorit and the Forman. In September 1994, the plant started producing the Skoda Felicia, later also the Felicia Combi, the Felicia Pickup and the Felicia Fun.
These days the plant produces the Skoda Octavia Tour and the Skoda Octavia.