Based in the Czech Republic, Skoda Automobile was created by a disgruntled bookstore owner and his brother and started out as a bicycle repair shop in 1895. Vaclav Laurin and his brother started the business when they couldn’t get their German bikes fixed due to lack of parts. They decided to call the company Slavia from a patriotic urge. Later, it was changed to Laurin & Klement Co. and it started making motorcycles.
After several victories in local races, the two bothers decided to export their motorcycles to London. Based on the success of the first model, Voiturette A, Laurin and Klement expanded into automobile making starting with 1905. By that time they were established as a big company both locally and internationally.
The First World War meant that the factory was now engaged in war production but as soon as it was over, the company resumed car production. In 1924 they made a merge with Skoda Works, an industrial conglomerate and started making trucks. This is the moment that all products came out with the Skoda name.
The Second World War brought the German occupation which put Skoda in the position of producing to support the nazi war effort. Civilian production was at first limited and then halted altogether. After the war, the company was affected by the nationalization program ran by the government and became known as the AZNP enterprise in 1946. The only benefit was that it obtained the monopoly of passenger car making.
Models from this period include the 1101 series (an updated version of the Skoda Popular), the 440 Spartak, 445 Octavia, Felicia and 1000 MB. As time passed, Skoda lost contact with the West which caused a break in development. Soon, most Skoda models became outdated and as other car companies increased in sales and models, Skoda was strictly controlled by the state.
Only after the economic crisis of the 70s did Skoda manage to gain somewhat of success with the new Skoda Favorit in the 1987. This model designed by the Italian company Bertone and having Western engine technology sold remarkably well in Eastern Europe and in the UK as well, being known that Skodas were generally reliable cars.
As the communist regime fell throughout Europe, the Czechoslovak government set new market economy conditions, which allowed Skoda to search for a foreign partner to help it grow.
In december of 1990 Skoda became associated with Volkswagen Group, and became effective on April 16th 1991. With German technology by its side, Skoda managed to increase the quality of its cars and has since become a major player in the European car market.
Recent trends have seen the Czech automaker move into a slightly more luxurious market with the Superb and the Octavia. The company is also trying to secure other segments of the market with the 2006 MPV called Roomster and a crossover concept called the Yeti.