Skoda Auto

Nov 23, 16:05 Filed under culture

Two men stood at the beginning of Skoda Auto: Václav Laurin and Václav Klement. In 1899 the founded a company specialized in manufacture of bicycles. Soon the range of products widened. After a successful introduction of early motorbike in the region, Laurin a Klement Co. went on to produce the first model of a car in Czech lands. After the 1905 Voituretta, the company became a successful producer of sport cars, becoming the biggest car producer in the Austro- Hungarian Empire within five years.

This period ends after 1918. Europeans, devastated by war, had little interest in sports cars. The company resolved to merger with Skoda Works. Emil Skoda founded the company in 1869. For many years it concentrated on manufacturing steam engines, components, various machines and weaponry. The factories were modernized and new models soon created. The company name changed again in 1930, but Skoda remained the name of all the types it introduced on the market. Just before the World War II, thousands of Skoda cars were produced annually (up to 7000 in 1937) and it made the car industry a major part of Czech export.

During the war Skoda was forced into the Herman- Goring- Werke conglomerate and its production was reduced to arms manufacture. After the war, with its name damaged and facilities ruined by Allied forces’ bombings, it was soon nationalized.

The central planning economy was in many ways damaging to the company. During the following decades, it gradually became technologically inferior to the Western car- makers. But it took many years to be so: during the late 1960s, its production was progressive and very popular, not only for its price. Skoda sold very well in the Eastern bloc, but it was also popular car abroad, although, even in the 1980s. It was cheap and simple and was easier and cheaper to repair than the more technologically advanced, more expensive cars. Also, the 1987 Favorit model, strongly inspired by Western models, was quite efficient and its design suited tastes of the period.

Skoda cars are said to be extremely popular on Malta, for instance. The island is quite small, so the motor does not get exhausted crossing it from one end to another. That means the Maltians often do not encounter the biggest disadvantage of old Skodas: engine failures and constant minor faults when used for long distances.

After the Velvet Revolution it became clear that Skoda Auto was not ready to enter a competition with the West: it was far too dependent on centralised Soviet bloc economy for too long. So, against wishes of those, who believed the new born business sphere in CR should be dominantly 100% Czech companies, it became part of the Volkswagen Group in 1991. Patriotic, or proto- nationalist sentiments soon faded away: under the new owner, Skoda Auto experienced major growth and progress in all aspects. It seems a bit like a parallel to the merger of Laurin a Klement with Skoda Works nearly seventy years earlier. Some still have reservations, noting that Volkswagen, having larger and more important branches, will never have Skoda manufacture a true hit, it will keep hot inventions for its own brand. It may not be very nice, but it makes sense.

Skoda cars were and are popular, solid and relatively cheap and its producer proved to be a survivor several times in its history.

Should They Pay?

Apr 9, 16:03 Filed under transport

There is a funny argument taking place, considering the Prague public transport and the Czech legislators.

There is a successful, relatively cheap and convenient private transport company called Student Agency. This company is interesting not only because in its ads the name is pronounced by the rules of Czech phonetics instead of English ones. It managed to bring havoc into the field of inter- city transportation by setting up a competitive environment.

Czech legislators are guaranteed free transport by the state. As the law was passed at the time when all transport companies were state- owned, it doesn’t say what should a private transport company do if a legislator decides to use its services for free.

That is why Student Agency’s director, Radim Jancura, decided to bring the question to court and the court decided just the way he wanted: a private enterprise does not have to serve our MPs for free.

Now there’s a problem: there are those who say that Prague DPP (the Prague transport company) is a private enterprise so the MPs, when they do use the system, should pay for a ticket like anyone else. And if they don’t, they should pay the fine, like anyone else. It seems perfectly sensible. But the Czech MPs obviously consider paying couple hundred crowns a month too large an investment, or they feel it would be degrading for a member of Parliament to have his transport ticket checked. They just don’t like the prospect.

At one moment it seemed they would be pressed hard by the city magistrates, but at this moment the action seems to be losing momentum. After suggesting that the DPP should fine MPs if they use the system without paying for a ticket, the Prague magistrates seem to be backing down, leaving the author of the proposal Markéta Reedová alone in the field.

The whole theme of MPs’ advantages has become a joke in the Czech Republic. Not only are the salaries and, mainly, various compensations and special payments still rising. The funny thing is that the vast majority of MPs, when asked separately, support the idea they should be paid less and, mainly, to be less subsidized. But when they arrive in parliament the motions never get passed. How could that happen? Most of them say that they did vote for the motion. Or they wanted to but couldn’t because there was a clumsy formulation in paragraph 5 line 86, but they are very much for the idea and always were and always will be and are eager to support the next motion that comes. Miraculously that one gets scrapped as well. And this goes on and on and on, year after year, motion after motion.

The money is not the point, the numbers are negligible. I wouldn’t even say it’s a matter of some great principle. It’s just pathetic, that’s all.

By train to the airport? Until six years, Prague promises

Dec 10, 12:17 Filed under transport

In future, tourists and Prague inhabitants could get from the centre to Ruzyne airport in 22 minutes. This will be possible thanks to the new modern railway called AirCon, which will continue from the airport to Kladno. First passengers will be able to use it use it in 2013. Deputy Transport Secretary, City Hall, Prague 6 and Central Bohemian territory agreed on a term of construction.

Transport between Kladno and Prague airport is the main priority of Department of Transport in the following years,” said the Minister of Transport Ales Rebicek who initiated the meeting. Nevertheless, it is not clear, which way railway tracks will go, on which Prague station it will start, even how much it will cost. But some time ago it was spoken about the costs in amount of 20 billion CZK.

The planned up-to-date trains are going to reach the speed of 80 km/h. Railcars will have modified space for more luggages. In advance we take account of about nine stations, for example Bubny, Vystaviste, Dejvice, Veleslavin, Liboc or Dlouha Mile.

A study, which will be done until a half of December by Faculty of Transport CVUT will show the exact train path. According to the speaker of department Karel Hanzelka, all stations except for the Main Station come into question. The likeliest candidates are Masaryk’s, Smichov or Holesovice stations.

About how the AirCon will be financed has not been decided yet. Ministry considers the possibility to use the private capital within the frame of so-called PPP project, that means partnership of private and public sector.

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