In the beginning of October 2018, we headed for the Czech Republic, visiting the Kayaba and Skoda factories. Our group was small but select, composed primarily of faithful clients of Wagen International accompanied by a WINT guide, a driver and a member of the "Seventh Force".
We headed Northwest sometime after midnight. A perfect time to travel because we were all asleep.
Morning brought good weather, seasoned just by a couple of rain drops, just enough to make the air pleasant. The first destination was Pardubice, a town of 90,000 inhabitants, located 96 kilometers East of Prague.
We spent the night at the Zlatá Štica Hotel, and got better acquainted with this town during our walk to the restaurant "St. Patrick" where we had dinner. Although from the name one can assume that this an Irish pub, this did not stop us from enjoying quality Czech beer.
KYB Corporation is a Japanese company based in Tokyo, engaged in the production of car components, but also operates in other industrial segments (a 65% share is dedicated to the automotive sector, out of which nearly 43% to shock absorbers).
The product portfolio of this company along with the shock absorbers also includes airborne suspension elements, electronic and servo assist systems, hydraulic pumps, motors, cylinders and valves. It is one of the world's largest manufacturers, and we ourselves had the opportunity to confirm.
KYB is primarily specialized in hydraulic components and the technology that is widely used in aeronautics, shipbuilding and the rail industry. Many are unaware of the fact that KYB is the leading Japanese company in the field of hydraulics.
The European headquarters of the company are located in Düsseldorf, with nine branches that provide support and sales across Europe and Africa.
We can say that Kayaba is a relatively young company in the Old Continent, since it embarked on this territory in 1989.
The company produces components both for the first and aftrmarket installation, and almost all reputable car manufacturers are on the list of its customers.
This Japanese company has 34 factories and 62 offices in 21 countries. The office in charge of our market is located in Timisoara, Romania, whereas WINT is the authorized distributor of Kayaba products.
Factory in Pardubice
The production plant in this Czech Republic town is specialized in the production of shock absorbers and was built in 2013.
The usual question, both to us journalists and the consumers is: "Is the quality of the component used in the original installation by manufacuters equal to the quality of the one in the aftermraket?" This is precisely the case with Kayaba because the manufacturer guarantees a uniform quality, of which we could convince ourselves on the spot, because the products used in the original installation by manufacturers and those used in the so-called "aftermarket" segment came down the same production lines.
A thing that should be singled out as being very interesting is the Kayaba program for older cars under the name "KYB K'lassic". To avoid mistakes, quality is controlled by Japanese engineers who are very strict on this issue. This sales category has been achieving great results for two consecutive years. Thus, Kayaba quality is also available for older models of cars, so there is no just reason for not having flawless quality shock absorbers even on Fiat Style.
Shock absorbers from Pardubice are placed across the European market, but also in Russia. The list of Kayaba's clients includes such names as Alfa Romeo, Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Citroen, Dacia, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes, Skoda, Toyota, Volkswagen, Volvo ...
It should be pointed out that Kayaba wholeheartedly supports the community of Pardubice, sponsoring many sporting events.
Factory in Chrudim
A smaller Kayaba plant in the Czech Republic is engaged in the production of spiral springs. This is of course a vital component, because it has to cope with the mass of the vehicle at the same time providing necessary stability, especially in difficult driving conditions.
Spiral springs have a characteristic to compress and decompress when the vehicle encounters uneven parts on the road. Certain types of springs, such as "airborne", can help regulate vehicle clearance, which on the other hand affects the steering system and self-suspension.
There are different types of springs depending on type of car and truck, or the design of the suspension, but spiral springs are most often in use. They can "store" energy and release it when needed, and also have the ability to "absorb" shocks and maintain elastic force between the two contact surfaces.
Having enjoyed the time spent in the factories, as well as the kindness and attentiveness of our hosts, we headed to Prague for a well-deserved rest.
We arrived in the Czech capital in the afternoon. The first impression of Prague, compared to our big cities, is the presence of more greenery. The positive energy which Prague emanates is reflected on its inhabitants, most of whom are of pleasant mood and forthcoming.
After registering into Hotel Pentahotel Prague, we went on a tour of the city. Public transport in the city is exceptionally organized, which is greatly contributed to by the discipline of its citizens, so no matter how crowded, you will not be pushing with other passengers, which is often known to be the case in our country.
In the Czech capital live around 1,300,000 inhabitants. It is a kind of city-monument, due to the fact that it has for centuries not felt the wrath of conquerors, so that everything is largely preserved. Therefore, one should not be surprised that Prague is acquiring huge funds from tourism.
Of course, we visited all three main attractions - Prazsky hrad (Prague Castle), Charles Bridge and Old Town Square.
After being exhausted from such a long kilometer walk, it was time for our dinner. Whishing everything to remain in the same style and athmosphere, we chose the restaurant Malostranska Pivnica in the city center as a gourmet destination.
Food was in quantities that we definitely could not "master", but the situation with the beer was a bit better, bearing in mind our capacities. The positive result was that we had a good reason for a new stroll to the hotel and a sightseeing tour of Prague during the night.
The next day was reserved for going to Mladá Boleslav, where the famous Skoda factory is located. Before going to visit the production complex of the Czech brand, we enjoyed the fantastic museum exhibit cars found in the Skoda Museum, divided into several sections.
This space is, of course, dedicated to materializing the rich tradition and heritage of Skoda in the best possible way. There are fascinating museum exhibit cars from the past, often associated with some unusual stories, which when put together form a kind of a biography and a special atmosphere that surrounds the Czech brand.
It is in the central part of the exhibition complex where you can learn about the evolution of the company from its very beginnings when it was founded by Laurin and Clement to the concepts which are heralds of the future brand.
This section provides a detailed insight into the fact that the museum is located where the production halls once were. Here Skoda's old timers are restored, and this process is not only a pure automotive art, but is also highly costly. When you look at the car at the beginning, during and at the end of the restoration process, it becomes clear why that is so.
Getting information about the displayed items and finding out additional facts is greatly facilitated by media stations, where visitors can get to know whatever they want in Czech, German and English.
In 1895, Vaclav Clement and Vaclav Laurin founded the company in Mladá Boleslav. This makes Skoda one of the oldest and most traditional car companies in the world. The Skoda Museum is a great way to, similar to a time machine, bring many old-timers and classics into the present time, in their "top form".
Concerning the production complex in Mladá Boleslav, the complex is like real "city". We saw only a fraction of what was happening there, and for that we needed a few hours. Fabia, Octavia, Rapid are manufactured here along with Karoq the production of which commenced at the beginning of this year -.
The development of a factory employing twenty thousand people has greatly contributed to the development of Mladá Boleslav into a rich city. As many as 2,500 vehicles are ready for sale every day from the production lines of this factory.
120 years ago, here existed a small Laraine & Clement bicycle manufacture, which has in the meantime grown into one of the most modern, most powerful and most valuable production facilities in the automotive industry.
This factory is the central pillar of Skoda's global production network. More than 50 percent of all vehicles with the Czech brand name come from it. The plant has gone through a comprehensive renovation process, especially since the merger with the Volkswagen Group in 1991. Since then, 12 million cars were produced here to the end of 2015.
Components for plug-in hybrids will also be produced, in Mladá Boleslav, and from 2020, production of pure electric models can also be expected.
Not only cars and petrol engines, but also transmission gears are manufactured today in Mladá Boleslav. In this factory, only in productions work over 15,000 employees.
What’s there to be said – hats off to them.
Cruise to Vltava
When we returned to Prague, we came across the usual afternoon traffic jams. Road infrastructure in the Czech Republic is very good and is constantly improving. However, the raising of economy and increased number of vehicles are taking their toll. What is indicative, especially on highways, is the presence of a large number of trucks, which of course indicates a high frequency of goods flow through this Central European country, which is continuously rising its standard.
The time before dinner, namely the Vltava cruise, was again used to view the Prague attractions this time during the day, which involved more events and a greater presence of people on the streets.
Prague is a city with a soul, and although it sounds like a phrase, it fully deserves its nicknames - "Golden Prague" and "the City of a hundred towers". Grammatically speaking, although in Serbian the name of the city is of the male gender, in the Czech language (Praha) it is female.
Then, pleasantly tired again, we finally settled into the guts of the "ship-restaurant" and through its windows enjoyed the view of the Vltava River and sights of Prague as twilight slowly approached. Of course, nothing without great Czech beer but also wine, which we tasted with pleasure.
The trip to the Czech Republic brought us a new and different experience. On the one hand is the inevitable tourist moment when you find yourself in Bohemia, and on the other hand, the economic progress of the country profiled through industrial investments, which present the top notch production technologies within the automotive industry.
It (technology) is constantly progressing. The quality of the components used in the original installation by manufactures and in the aftermarket has virtually been levelled, thanks to conscientious component makers, such as Kayaba (KYB Corporation), which uses the most modern equipment and CNC machines. The once inaccessible quality, especially for older vehicles, presented a big problem for our drivers for quite realistic reasons, as we are aware, the average age of the fleet in Serbia is fifteen years. However, this should not be the reason why a slightly older car cannot be driven safely, with security and fun. As Kayaba says: "Our precision, your advantage".
When speaking of Skoda we were convinced that everything is possible. Great dedication, knowledge, and diligence inevitably bring great results. Skoda is an exemplary for this, and the constant breaking of records in terms of volume of production and sales can clearly prove the fact.
Tired but happy, full of nice experiences and enriched with some new friendships, we headed back to Serbia, saying "See you again!", because when you once visits Prague and the Czech Republic you definitely have to come another time.