Laurin & Klement / Škoda 120 Years of Success

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Laurin & Klement / ŠKODA 

— 120 Years of Success







ŠKODA was founded during a time of global awak-

ening. In the late 19


 century, new types of trans-

port emerged, reshaping people’s everyday lives and 

broadening their horizons. Bicycles became readily 

available, the earliest forms of aircraft were being 

tested and the automobile was invented.  People 

were fascinated by this exciting new mobility – en-

thusiastic about speeds never before experienced, 

they gained the freedom to travel further – easier and 

quicker than they had ever imagined. It was in this pi-

oneering era that two visionaries, Vaclav Klement and 

Vaclav Laurin, founded a company together. As avid 

cyclists, they were very excited about the concept of 

individual mobility. 

In the heart of Europe – at the traditionally strong 

industrial centre of Bohemia – they began manufac-

turing bicycles in Mladá Boleslav in 1895.  The bicy-

cles bearing the name ‘Slavia’ were a huge success 

on both the domestic market and abroad. As early as 

1899, the young company began producing motorized 

two-wheelers.  These  were  the  first  motorcycles  in 

Austria-Hungary. It is interesting to note that Laurin 

later developed an important design principle for mo-

torcycles, whereby the frame was constructed around 

the engine.

The speed at which transportation developed was 

immense.  After their success with two-wheeled ve-

hicles, the pioneers took a great leap forward. At the 

turn of the century, Laurin & Klement were already 

working on a four-wheeled prototype. Finally, in 1905, 

they introduced their first automobile under the name 

‘Voiturette’, which they launched into full-scale series 

production one year later.  

As one of the longest-established car companies in 

the world, ŠKODA looks back on a rich tradition and 

a wealth of fascinating automobiles. The brand’s ex-

pertise is based on a tradition spanning 120 years and 

the experience of a talented team, with generations 

of families working for the company today. 

1991 marked the dawn of a new era for the brand. 

After the Planned Economy years, ŠKODA went on 

to become the fourth brand under the Volkswagen 

Group, after which the leadership, marketing, product 

development and production underwent substantial 

modernisation. Today, with a range of over 40 mod-

els, ŠKODA produces more than one million vehicles 

annually, and our cars are available on more than 100 

markets around the world. 

Peik von Bestenbostel 

Head of Communications at ŠKODA AUTO a.s.



From a modest workshop to a global brand

120 years of success

steeped in tradition

At 120 years old, ŠKODA is one of the oldest auto-

motive manufacturers in the world. From as early 

as  1895,  first  bicycles,  later  motorcycles  and,  from 

1905,  cars  have  been  built  at  the  headquarters  in 

Mladá Boleslav, Czech Republic. The story of this car 

manufacturer steeped in tradition began in Decem-

ber  1895  with  the  founding  of  a  bicycle  production 

by  bicycle  mechanic  Václav  Laurin  (1865—1930)  and 

bookseller  Václav  Klement  (1868—1938).  With  brav-

ery, ability and passion, the two enthusiastic cyclists 

laid the foundations for the incredible success story 

of the Czech car manufacturer ŠKODA.

The beginnings of the company Laurin & Klement 

were modest. To start with, the two founders of the 

company were only supported in their bike production 

by two workers and an apprentice. However, the 

company quickly developed. The bicycles sold under 

the name ‘Slavia’ won acclaim with their reliability

practicality and high quality. Complete customer focus 

was the guiding principle; ‘only the best we can do is 

good enough for our customers’ was the motto.

Success was just around the corner as demand in-

creased. In as early as 1898, a small bicycle factory was 

built on a green field site. 40 workers were employed 

there. The first bicycle with an auxiliary motor was pre-

sented in 1899. Motorcycles were to be the main pillar 

of the young company for several years. The company 

was also very successfully involved with motorsports 

from 1901. The next sensation came in 1905: Laurin & 

Klement presented the company’s first automobile — 

the Voiturette A. An easy to use, two-seater vehicle 

with a 7 PS two-cylinder engine.

On the back of the success of the Voiturette A, which 

soon inspired many customers outside of their home 

country, the company continued to expand. A real 

product campaign followed and the company grew. 

The transformation into a stock company took place in

1907. The corporation became the largest vehicle manu-

 facturer in the then Austro-Hungarian Empire and 

its vehicles were exported all over the world. Whilst co-

operating with leading automobile experts such as 

Robert Bosch, Laurin & Klement continued to expand 

their own research and development. The company es-

tablished itself internationally.

In order to strengthen their market position, in 1925 

Laurin & Klement merged with the ŠKODA factories

based in Pilsen, which were at that point already the 

largest Czech industrial company. ŠKODA had just 

founded its own automobile department in order to 

gain a foothold in the new market. The merged com-

pany was given the name ŠKODA AUTO and the vehi-

cles were first sold under the name ‘Laurin & Klement 

— ŠKODA’, and then later simply as ‘ŠKODA’ .

Equipped with a strong capital base and excellent 

technical expertise, the company continued to de-

velop its position. Assembly line production began in 

1930. In the 1930s, ŠKODA introduced important auto-

motive milestones, such as the legendary Popular, the 

first ŠKODA for a wider range of customers.

The thriving development was brought to a halt with 

the Second World War. After 1945, the company was na-

tionalised. But even in the time of communist planned 

economy, the brand showed what it was made of. 

Cars such as the ŠKODA Octavia of 1959, the ŠKODA 

Felicia convertible, the rear-engined ŠKODA 1000 MB 

or the 1987 ŠKODA Favorit are proof of this.

The Iron Curtain fell in 1989. And, in April 1991, the 

merger with Volkswagen Group followed. The involve-

ment of Europe‘s largest car manufacturer marked the 

starting point for the rapid resurrection of the ŠKODA 

brand to an internationally established car manufac-

turer with a presence in more than 100 markets.

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