— 120 Years of Success
ŠKODA was founded during a time of global awak-
ening. In the late 19
century, new types of trans-
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
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 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.