slovak_automotive_industry
Photo credit: Slovak Spectator

A BRIEF HISTORY

The seeds of automotive industry in Slovakia were planted even before the state itself was established. In 1913 the first automobile fully constructed in Slovakia, by Michal Majer, was named the “Drndička”. The 2,5m long wooden car had a 3-speed transmission with shift lever on the right and water-cooled cooler and drum brakes on rear wheels, and was able to reached the top speed of 50km/h. Supposebly Majer copied the design of the car owned by Bulgarian king who was travelling through Slovakia.

drndicka
Photo credit: www.ceautoclassic.eu

After World War I, Slovakia was a part of the newly formed Czechoslovakia influenced mostly by Germans. The tradition of Czech car production started in 1897 when the first Czech car – Präsident was produced, and the first lorry only a year later. In 1899 the first Škoda motorcycle was constructed and in 1905 the company started to manufacture the autmobiles. Today Škoda Auto is world’s fifth oldest company with an unbroken history of successfully producing car.

prasident
Photo credit: www.theapricity.com
skoda_first_motorcycle
Photo credit: www.skoda-storyboard.com

After the World War II the automotive industry was a major and important part of the economy of the former Czechoslovakia – they became the second largest producers (after Poland) in the Soviet block outside the USSR. Škoda produced cars and trolleybuses, Tatra and Avia produced mainly trucks and trams, Karosa was the leading producer of buses, the motorcycles were in the domain of Jawa and Česka Zbrojevka. In the Slovak part the companies were the suppliers of the parts and components for the Czech part of the republic, where the actual production of the automobiles took place. After the war was over the industry moved from the military to civilian markets.

The rapid development of the Slovak auto-industry started to happen in 1991, when Volkswagen bought Skoda’s production sites, and in 1999 the Volkswagen Slovakia was established – and that was the breaking and the actual starting point of the big boom that happened in the following decades.

Despite the fact that Slovakia does not have a single automobile brand of its own, the automotive industry became one of the strongest pillars of Slovak economy. They success in a very strategic way. They used their geographical  proximity to the strongest Western European economies and combined it with its skilled labor force with a pay level lower than in the neighbouring countries. The first automaker to discover this advantage of Slovakia was Volkswagen, which established a production facility near Bratislava in the early 1990s.

volkswagen_bratislava
Photo credit: Volkswagen Newsroom

THE PRESENT

Today there are four manufacturers in Slovakia – Volkswagen Slovakia in Bratislava (since 1991), PSA Peugeot Citroën in Trnava (since 2003), Kia Motors Slovakia in Žilina (since 2004) and Jaguar Land Rover. Together they produce over one million cars per year due to the Slovak labor force known for its flexibility, excellent qualification and high productivity, which makes Slovakia one of the biggest car producers in the world.

VOLKSWAGEN Slovakia
Photo credit: VOLKSWAGEN Slovakia

A QUICK OVERVIEW

  • 129,000 People employed directly by the 3 car producers — VW, PSA, Kia & Tier 1 suppliers
  • 250,000 People employed directly & indirectly by the automotive industry
  • 44% Share of the automotive industry of the country’s total industrial production
  • 40% Share of the automotive industry of the total industrial export of Slovakia
  • 26bn€ Volume of industrial export generated by the automotive industry

Slovak automotive industry gradually developed from a wooden Drndička to a flying car in a century. Among the important activities of modern automotive industry development is most certainly the development of e-Mobility, where Slovakia is the leading force in Europe and is successfully meeting the demands of the fast growing market.

Slovak Investment and trade developing agency – SARIO, outlines 10 reasons for investing in the Slovak automotive industry:

  • Strategic location in Europe with great export potential
  • Wide supplier network in automotive sector
  • Political & economic stability
  • Euro currency as one of a few in CEE
  • CEE leader in labour productivity
  • Cost effective, skilled & educated labour force
  • Numerous technical schools & implementation of dual education scheme
  • Developed and steadily growing R&D centers & innovation network
  • Attractive investment incentives for automotive industry
  • Well-developed infrastructure
aerobobil_4.0.

There are several indicators that rank Slovakia among the most advanced automotive superpowers:

  • Slovakia is the leader for the number of cars produced per 1000 inhabitants
  • The number of direct and indirect job positions created by the industry (almost 10% of people employed in the Slovak economy)
  • The industry is preparing for the extensive electrification (according to ZAP SR, by 2025, electric cars in Slovak factories will account for 15% of total production)
  • Hybrid power drive has already been used in KIA and cars at PSA Peugeot. Also by JLR the same plans are being discussed
  • The technological changes are already slowly happening – read about the investment in the new electric battery line )
  • Slovakia already produces the most advanced cars with electric drive, which will gradually become the standard
bratislava_motor_city