We hope VW is taking notes from its Czech brand.
Skodas used to be known as Volkswagens for poor people, but the Czech-based automaker has managed to revamp its image over the last few years. The latest evidence of its prowess is its new design language, logo, corporate identity, and campaign to go electric. But while many of those are irrelevant to the US market, we can't help but be enamored by the new Vision 7S concept, which previews the brand's electric future and showcases innovative packaging that may yet make its way to VW products of the future.
Volkswagen took Skoda over in 1990 after a bidding war against BMW, GM, and others, winning out because it promised not to disassemble the Skoda brand. At the start, Skodas were based on outdated VW vehicle platforms, but around 2010, VW started giving the brand access to the complete parts bin, and the Vision 7S is a culmination of that.
First, the Vision 7S uses the same modular electric drive matrix (MEB) platform used to underpin the VW ID.4, ID.Buzz, and even the Audi Q4 e-tron. But unlike the ID.4, equipped with an 82-kilowatt-hour battery, the Skoda concept boasts a larger 89 kWh unit. In theory, this should result in a 370-mile driving range using the WLTP testing methods.
According to the EPA, the VW can only manage 250 miles on a full charge. We know there are vast differences between the EPA and WLTP testing methods, but it still appears to be a case of Skoda being allowed to outshine its parent company - a rarity under the VW umbrella. Then again, this is a concept.
The seven-seat interior of the Vision 7S has two different configurations: Driving and Relaxing. In Driving mode, all the controls are positioned to be within easy reach for the driver, and the central 14.6-inch touchscreen is oriented vertically to enhance accessibility and information stacking.
When switched to Relax mode, the steering wheel and instrument cluster slide backward away from the driver and front passenger. This allows more space to enjoy the touchscreen in a horizontal position.
We can already see the VW Group's improvement to its highly criticized modern user interfaces on this concept. Instead of the current digital setup, the Vision 7S has six physical buttons that provide direct access to infotainment, phone, vehicle settings, navigation, and app menus.
The interior modes aren't simply for driver and front passenger comfort. The first-row seats rotate inward, creating an unobstructed view of the screen for the rear passengers. Thanks to the large interior, the second-row seats can recline.
Skoda also developed several new features aimed directly at families. Front passengers can place their smartphones in the center console, which will be held in place by magnets. The smartphone's screen can then be used as a tracking pad that interacts directly with the car's interface. The magnets are also placed on the front seatbacks so that second-row passengers can set their devices for optimal viewing. The door panel fabric is interactive and can point a passenger to the door handle. Kids can also draw on the fabric with their fingers. How has nobody thought about this before?
You might also have noticed the oddly placed child seat. If you have an infant, you'll know a rear-facing seat with sturdy mounting is the safest possible scenario, while the central position takes the child as far away from any crumpling bodywork as possible in the event of an accident. An optional camera can transmit a live feed from the rear seat to the infotainment display. That way, you can keep an eye on the little one without reaching over and disturbing them.
The Vision 7S previews upcoming Skoda models, which will gradually be rolled out from next year. By 2026, the brand wants to have three BEVs on the road. Skoda is not ready to give up on ICE entirely, however, as only 70% of models sold by 2030 will be electric, leaving room for a portfolio of efficient combustion engines.
To achieve its EV goal, Skoda will invest $5.6 billion in e-mobility. Skoda did not reveal how the investment will be spent, but the first chunk will likely go to the new logo and corporate identity. The new brand logo no longer uses sculptural 3D graphics, and the two chosen corporate identity colors are Emerald and Electric Green. According to Skoda, these colors represent ecology, sustainability, and electromobility.
It's improbable Skoda will be sold in the USA, even though it filed trademarks for its various products in 2016. Making Skoda available in the States would inevitably lead to brand cannibalization, and that's not ideal for VW, which is also amid an EV revamp.