Marcin Rafal Sot: „The ŠKODA AUTO showroom redesign project is unprecedented in its size“

Marcin Rafal Sot comes from Poland. He studied German language and economics. His first work experience was as an intern at ŠKODA AUTO, and he was the first foreigner to take part in its training programme. He has been working for the company since 2005, when he joined the marketing department. He then left ŠKODA AUTO for a couple of years before returning in August 2011 to work in the FCICD Department.

How long did it take to prepare the project for the new ŠKODA AUTO showrooms?

I started working on the project in August 2011. That same year the new ŠKODA AUTO brand identity was launched at the Geneva Motor Show, where we also presented the first generation of architectural concept. On the eve of the motor show we organised the Modern Conference in Prague, where we presented our vision to the sales team. We constructed a mock-up showroom, which enabled us to show them exactly how the new design will look and work.

Preparation of the concept as a whole took a year and a half and the first showroom in the new design was opened in 2013. The main concept was to create a nice environment for the new ŠKODA AUTO product range.

What was the impulse for ŠKODA AUTO to embark on such a fundamental innovation of the showroom appearance?

The main idea was to create a showroom that reflects the current product range of ŠKODA AUTO, which has an energetic, young and lively image. The original showroom appearance was developed in the 90s, almost 20 years ago, and its design corresponded to the old model range. The aim was therefore to introduce a visual change to the sales and service network, which is part of the distribution strategy of Škoda. This strategy calls for the creation of a stable and profitable dealer network that also offers customers a suitable environment for the purchase of a new car.

What as a company do you see the new design delivering? Are the objectives primarily in the area of brand perception, or do they also cover increased car sales?

We firmly believe that the innovative form of the showrooms supports sales, but also we want to emphasise the new appearance of our cars, which have a youthful and dynamic feel and deserve to be displayed in an environment corresponding to the new ŠKODA AUTO brand image. The new design also aims to provide customers with an “experience”. This is facilitated by the functional and logical layout of the individual elements, the placement of work and relax zones, and the use of modern technology (e.g. the car configurator, which allows customers to configure a car according to their wishes). Another new feature is combining the service area with the showroom.

Can you describe the role that you and your team played in the project as a whole?

From the start I and my team were involved in the complete implementation of the concept for individual markets. Our work consisted of the selection of suppliers, the management of suppliers, quality control, roll out of the concept in individual markets, communication with importers, data collection and reporting.

What criteria did ŠKODA AUTO use when selecting suppliers? What played the biggest role, price, ability to respond flexibly to orders, or references from previous projects? How did selection take place?

All suppliers were selected by tender. These were divided into two parts - specification in accordance with technical documentation, and price negotiation. My team was responsible for the technical part. With regards to the scale and uniqueness of the project with a global scope, we also considered, for example, the ability to deliver projects throughout Europe, ability to communicate with dealers in the individual countries and the provision of post-guarantee services etc.

The new showroom project is massive. How many employees of ŠKODA worked on it?

In the initial phase of developing the concept around 10 people worked in the team. As time went by, and as the project became more demanding, the team grew in size, and continues to grow. There are currently around 25 people in the team, but people from other departments and external agencies also contribute. 

The change in design affects a huge number of sites. This places exceptional demands on coordination and quality control. How does ŠKODA AUTO handle this? What demands does it place on suppliers?

I and my team are concerned with quality from the perspective of the technical finish of deliveries. This means that we defined the specification according to which a supplier must produce the individual elements.

In relation to these requirements an internal team was set up to focus on quality. This team performs checks of individual showrooms and suppliers, and prepares training tools and materials which help both sides (suppliers and importers) to achieve the set goals.

Are you in a position to assess cooperation with TECHO?

Cooperation with furniture suppliers has gone very well, both from a quality perspective, and with regards to customer focus. Our work with TECHO goes very smoothly. In particular I appreciate their project management, which is of a high standard, their flexibility in responding to high production demands, and their contribution to the development and prototyping of new furniture elements.

What degree of freedom do the individual showrooms have in the implementation of the new design? Is it possible to alter it to suit a given showroom building layout?

The design is not changeable, the design is strictly set out. The rules are defined in the ETG (European Technical Guidebook). We are trying to achieve a unified appearance for all our operations and dealerships. All proposals for new showrooms are consulted and approved by a team of ŠKODA AUTO architects.

What percentage of showrooms have already been converted to the new design? Is it possible to estimate when all dealers will have the new image?

We will soon celebrate the 1000th showroom in the new design across the globe, and others are at various stages of completion. The largest number of showrooms that are currently being transformed are in Germany, China, Czech Republic and Great Britain.

What was most difficult about the project?

The biggest obstacle to the project was time. ŠKODA AUTO needed to completely change the image of its showrooms in just two years, which is a project of unprecedented size.

What gave you the most pleasure?

The fact that I was working on such an interesting project. It required the solving of issues from a wide range of fields, including technical areas, design, architecture, legal matters, finance and management of the production of the showrooms. 

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