New role for Seat as rise of Cupra continues

5 Monate, 3 Wochen her - 06. September 2023, autocar
New role for Seat as rise of Cupra continues
Manufacturer moves into electric mobility and away from mainstream car making as Cupra's prominence increases

Seat's long-term future lies away from being a mainstream car maker and that role will instead be taken by Cupra, its chairman has confirmed.

When asked about the future of Seat at the Munich motor show today, Thomas Schäfer said: “The future of Seat is Cupra.”

Schäfer said that the existing Seat models will continue to be produced in their current lifecycles - several of which are planned to run through much of the 2020s - but the brand would ultimately have a new role in the future.

The Seat brand name won’t be retired; Schäfer said the Volkswagen Group “would find a different role for it”.

It's likely to pivot into other vehicles and mobility solutions, such as e-scooters, as it has started to do with the Seat Mó. Small cars remain an option too.

Schäfer said it was prohibitive to invest in both Seat and Cupra as mainstream brands, and the earning potential for Cupra was ultimately far greater.

To that end, Schafer said the Volkswagen Group would “invest strongly in Cupra; this will ramp up”.

Cupra has moved into making its own bespoke models, having started as a performance arm of Seat. The Cupra Formentor is being followed by the Cupra Tavascan; plus the firm has previewed a new entry-level hatchback with a concept called the Cupra UrbanRebel and a sports car with the Cupra DarkRebel.

The production version of the UrbanRebel – named the Raval – will go into production in 2025 at Seat’s Martorell factory in Spain, alongside its platform twins from other Volkswagen Group brands, including the Volkswagen ID 2.

Schäfer said such an investment in manufacturing at Martorell showed the Volkswagen Group’s commitment to Spain, something further seen by the German giant being an investor in a new €10 billion EV battery factory in Valencia.

“There are no problems with the government,” he said on the decision to move away from Seat, adding that Spanish customers had also responded well to Cupra.

He also highlighted that, further afield, Cupra was the fastest growing brand in Europe.

Schäfer said the wheels had been set in motion for Cupra to take Seat's role long ago. He said it had always been a long-term brand, but Cupra's success had cemented the thinking that this was the right thing to do.

There had been debate about trying to reinvigorate Seat, he said, but the brand had a history of making losses and ultimately Cupra’s greater earning potential cemented the decision.

"I think it was the right decision in hindsight, but it's a gamble,” said Schäfer. “I’ve seen lots of new names come up and go, but this was a good decision. Cupra is bigger than Alfa Romeo and Polestar, so not just new brands but also old.”

It’s possible that the Seat name could be dropped completely from the Leon when that car is facelifted in 2024, leaving it solely as the Cupra Leon.

The Ibiza is unlikely to be replaced in its current form when it's phased out, while Cupra is also planning to launch an SUV based on the Audi Q3 in 2024.

In effect, the more profitable and successful Seat models will be absorbed into Cupra, the new brand at the same time launching into higher segments with more strikingly designed cars.

In the longer term, Cupra is investigating a halo sports car based on the Cupra DarkRebel concept revealed at the Munich motor show.

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