PRAGUE Volkswagen's (VOWG_p.DE) Skoda Auto, the Czech Republic's biggest exporter, is on target to sell 1 million cars globally for the first time in 2014 thanks to the launch and ramped-up production of new models, a spokesman said on Wednesday.
The biggest Czech company by sales has yet to announce 2013 revenues, which were hurt in the first half by the changeover to a new generation of its flagship Octavia model. But a jump in sales in the second half has put it back on course.
Spokesman Jozef Balaz said sales exceeded 900,000 vehicles in 2013, although he did not have a final figure. Deliveries rose by 7 percent in 2012 to 939,200. The company aims to reach annual sales of 1.5 million by 2018.
Skoda, which made 263 billion crowns ($13 billion) of sales in 2012, is often viewed as a bellwether for the Czech economy, which pulled out of a six-quarter recession in the second quarter of last year.
The company has gradually cut into the 5 percent drop in sales it posted in the first half of 2013, lifted by the switch to the new Octavia and as production of the family car reached full capacity to meet a backlog of orders.
"The trend of a build-up of orders should continue, at least in the next months, so the preconditions are there that we could reach this step (of selling 1 million cars in 2014)," Balaz said.
"We view that million as a logical step to meeting the (longer-term) target," he added.
Octavia sales accounted for about half of 2013's total, he said.
Skoda has been transformed into a popular selling car in western Europe and is focusing on eastern markets like Russia and China to meet its 1.5 million annual target.
($1 = 20.1741 Czech crowns)
(Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Jason Hovet and Mark Potter)