Born in 1950, the Seat brand (Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo) initially produced Fiats under license. It will experience its first success in the late 1950s with the Seat 600 (model identical to the Fiat 600), which will allow many Spaniards to have their own car. In 1986, it was bought by Volkswagen and became one of the brands of the Volkswagen group. Since then, Seat has benefited from the Volkswagen Group’s experience to increase production and sales. Thus, in 1986, Seat began exporting its models in Europe, starting with the Netherlands, in 1989 the construction of the Martorell factory began (the work was completed in 1993). The Seat Toledo is the first model developed within the VW Group, it was launched in 1990. Three years later, the second generation of the Seat Ibiza (derived from the Volkswagen Polo) hits the market. In 1999, the Seat León arrived at the same time as the new brand identity… Since then, many cars with the Seat emblem have left the Martorell factory and cars with the Cupra emblem have also left the same factory…
Goal: 500,000 sales/year for Cupra!
Cupra, is in 1996 the sports division of Seat. The Seat Ibiza with a Volkswagen Golf GTI engine is the first Seat to receive the Cupra designation. But Luca de Meo, who became president of Seat in 2015 (before leaving for Renault in 2020) has other ambitions for Cupra and transforms the sports division into his own brand in 2018. The first car of the new brand is the SUV Cupra Ateca. It’s still a rebranded Seat model, but there are differences. Thus, it is equipped with a 300 hp engine, has a remodeled interior and a more sporty exterior style. It will only be two years before the first new Cupra model arrives: the Cupra Formentor SUV. This model, which is produced in Martorell and Kvasiny in the Czech Republic, quickly becomes the star of the brand and thanks to it, Cupra sales continue to rise while those of the Seat brand begin a reverse curve. The success of Cupra is such that the brand announces that it wants to double its sales in 2022 compared to 2021 (79,300 units in 2021, including 54,600 Formentor) and given the figures for the first half of 2022 (63,000 sales) l goal may be achievable. Better yet, Cupra wants to reach 500,000 sales by 2025, which is what Seat SA (Seat + Cupra) sold worldwide in 2021!
Cupra, a success that overshadows Seat
Although the Cupra brand has benefited from Seat’s experience and technical resources for its development, it seeks to free itself from this control by developing its own distribution network and offering more and more new models. So, after the Cupra Formentor comes the electric Cupra Born (a very close technical cousin of the Volkswagen ID.3) and then the compact SUV Cupra Terramar (a technical cousin of the Audi Q3 and assembled like it in Györ in Hungary) planned for 2024, will come. the 100% electric SUV coupe Cupra Tavascan, then the electric city car Cupra UrbanRebel. So many models that shouldn’t be marked Seat. While Cupra invests in electrics, Seat currently has no electric car (since the Mii Electric disappeared in June 2021) to offer its customers, the brand settling for three plug-in hybrids (Seat León, Seat León Sportstourer and Seat Tarraco) of electric scooters and a Seat Mó 125 electric scooter, that’s not much.
What will Seat’s Volkswagen Group do?
This absence of electric vehicles begins to weigh on Seat, where the question is what will the Volkswagen Group do with its Spanish brand? Especially since the margin on Cupra vehicles is higher than on Seat vehicles. That the average price of a Cupra is around €30,000 compared to €23,000 for a Seat. So, what will happen to Seat in the future? Only the Volkswagen Group knows this. The presidency of the German group having recently changed with the arrival of Porsche president Olivier Blume, it will be necessary to wait what this new boss will say about Seat. It’s hard to imagine VW abandoning the Spanish brand, perhaps another positioning, but sooner or later electric models will have to appear, the year 2035, and the likely abandonment of thermal engines in Europe not so far away.