Škoda Auto was founded in 1895 as Laurin & Klement in the Czech Republic, and initially produced bicycles before researching motorised vehicles, such as early “motorcyclettes”. The impetus for the business came from Václav Klement – then a bookseller in the Kingdom of Bohemia – who returned his German bicycle for repairs, only to receive a reply, in German, stating: “If you would like an answer to your inquiry, you should try writing in a language we can understand”.
Realising the potential for a bike repair business in the Bohemian Kingdom (now known as the Czech Republic) and wanting to get one over the Germans, Klement started a bicycle repair shop with Václav Laurin in Mladá Boleslav. After two years of moderate success, the pair opened a new factory and bought a Werner “Motocyclette” which proved dangerous and unreliable, causing Laurin to have an accident which cost him a front tooth.
Laurin & Klement were inspired to create a more balanced design, and their Slavia motorcycle debuted in 1899, widely accepted as the first true commercially-available motorcycle. From this point, it seemed natural to move into automobile design, and after several successful cars, Laurin & Klement partnered with “Akciová společnost, dříve Škodovy závody” (Limited Company, formerly the Škoda Works) in 1925, and they began manufacturing cars under the Škoda name.
During the occupation of Czechoslovakia in World War 2, the Škoda Works were forced to serve the German war effort, producing Skoda tyres and components for military vehicles. Their factories were subsequently bombed by the Allied forces, and development stalled under the Communist planned economy until the “Velvet Revolution” in 1989.
Thanks to their practical designs and low prices (partly due to forced labour under Communist rule), Skoda cars were popular to the point of ridiculousness in the UK during the 80s, often called “the poor man’s Porsche”. However, the fall of communism in the late 1980s meant that the Czechoslovakian government needed some Capitalist investors to support their failing economy.
Volkswagen, with efficient production techniques and expertise honed by competitive capitalist markets was a clear choice, despite lingering anti-German sentiments in the Czech Republic. With German efficiency, these new investors were able to restart production of Skoda tyres and parts in force, leading to greatly improved build quality and sales performance. With ex-communist heritage and Eastern European sensibilities, any kind of Škoda tyres can handle a lot, so factory-fitted or all-weather tyres will do you fine.