Václav Klement came from the town of Velvary, where he was born in 1868. He worked in a book shop in Mladá Boleslav and later went on to become the owner. His passion was however for cycling and it was his dream to own a shop selling and repairing bicycles. Another man went to Mladá Boleslav after gaining experience in a company which manufactured velocipedes. This was Václav Laurin, who came from the village of Kamení near Turnov.
The fateful association of two personalities
After their fateful meeting, the enthusiast and natural businessman thus got together with the thoughtful and skilled technician. They started a joint venture in 1885 under the trading name Laurin & Klement, originally engaging in manufacturing of bicycles. As time went by, they took on more employees, the business grew and with it a varied range of products.
In 1899, they offered 5 types of bicycles, 2 types of tandems, 2 types of children’s bicycles and the first “motocyclette” also appeared in the range, this being a bicycle with a small auxiliary motor. In November of the very same year, the company introduced the first true motorcycle – the Laurin & Klement Type 1. A year later, the company received an order for 150 motorcycles for the London-based company Hawetson, this being the first impulse leading them to focus their efforts on production of motorcycles alone.
The first car
At the end of 1905, their originally small workshop already spread out over an area of 80 ha and had a total of 355 employees. The first actual car also first saw the light of day in the same year – the Laurin & Klement A. The brand’s popularity grew alongside demand for its products.
Changes as a result of World War One
World War One changed the company’s manufacturing focus towards production of weapons for the army. It also expanded its activities into other fields. It had its own power plant, farm, soda shop, shoemaking workshop and even an electric computer.
The post-war period was marked by a decline as there was nowhere to export to with the newly created counties being economically weak. Fire broke out in the company in 1924 destroying most of the equipment. The company found itself in financial difficulties and was overtaken by competition such as Praga or Tatra. This is why merger took place in 1925 with the “Škodovy závody” company in Plzeň, which was an engineering business. The cars which were manufactured thus started to bear the name Laurin & Klement – Škoda, the new ones then being known only as Škoda.