Currently reading: Seat UK boss: We can do even better than Skoda
UK director Richard Harrison said £2.8bn of Volkswagen Group investment is propelling Seat forward

Seat UK director Richard Harrison believes the Spanish brand can achieve a faster rate of progress than Skoda following an investment of 3.3 billion euros (£2.8bn) from 2015.

At the launch of Seat’s first shopping mall store at Lakeside in Essex, Harrison said that the Volkswagen-owned marque has made strides forward just one year after the group began investing into its range, facilities and research and development.

“We’re like the kid who’s got their first job and is finally contributing to the household,” he told Autocar. “It’s been happening for about a year and a half since the investment began.”

Harrison explained that models such as the Seat Leon and eagerly anticipated Seat Ateca SUV have acted as catalysts for this improvement. The brand is now on course to report its highest profits ever of around £85 million - a dramatic change that follows eight years of loss making.

Seat ateca rear

Skoda enjoyed a similar turnaround of success following its acquisition by the Volkswagen Group in 1991. The Czech brand delivered more than one million cars to customers last year, breaking all of its previous records, showing that its image problem of the 20th century has been almost entirely been eradicated.

But Harrison believes Seat’s stronger starting position means his brand could do even better in the long term. “Seat hasn’t been given much attention in the past, but now this is our chance to really take off,” he continued. “Seat was already in a good position [with regards to image], and with the Ateca and Arona on the way, we’re really excited.”

The Arona, a new Nissan Juke-rivalling crossover, is confirmed for launch in December 2017. It follows the recently launched Ateca SUV and an all-new Ibiza, which is due in July. Harrison wouldn’t confirm if an Ateca Cupra was on the way, despite recent sightings of a development car, but he did suggest more hot models were due.

New Lakeside store

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Harrison believes Seat’s new Lakeside shopping centre store is an example of the brand’s desire to try new things. He said the store, which employs similar soft sell techniques as the Rockar stores used by Hyundai and Land Rover, “puts Seat’s space in a place where the customers are already coming”.

Mattphoto 08 ls 29

Harrison said the Lakeside store has already earned the name the ‘innovation lab’ within Seat UK, because it evolves and responds to customer reactions. For example, the store has a stock of 71 cars, all available to be bought and driven away in within seven days, that can be changed and adapted based on customer demand.

“Our research found that many customers want that fast turnaround, like they get when they’re buying a new smartphone – they can walk away with one within a matter of days,” explained Matt Benns, head of customer quality & network development at Seat, who was also at the store launch. “The focus here is on simplicity.”

Benns revealed that around 90% of sales at the Lakeside shop, which officially opened in August, had been for PCP. For this reason the store advertises monthly payment prices more clearly than the outright cost of cars.

“I believe we’re going through a period of exciting change in the car industry,” added Harrison. “While I can’t tell you what [the dealer industry] will look like in a few years, I can say Seat is working to get a step ahead.”

Join the debate

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3mocion 7 December 2016

Moving in the right direction

SEAT are going in the right direction and their profit figures proves it after eight years of losses. Having a lack of heritage has benefited SEAT for the simple fact that today's buyers are different from yesteryears with technology and image being the main reason for people choosing their cars (just look at the A class). I agree that cars like the Alhambra, Mii and Toledo stand out in the range for the wrong reasons. I'd say kill off the the Alhambra and redesign the Mii, the Toledo should be a sleek 4 door coupe to increase market share in the D segment and to offer an alternative to the traditional Passat and the capacious Superb. As much as i dislike coupe SUVs, i think VW have confused themselves with which brand this fits into as an SUV coupe doesn't fit into Skoda's brand image of best in class interior space. An SUV coupe which prioritises style over practicality fits with SEAT's brand image. A sports car would be nice halo product for the brand, but could put profits at risk and it's not worth the risk just yet for the brand. I love the brand for what it offers and i'll continue buying from the brand in the future. Hopefully i wont have to wait too long until they introduce new exciting products alongside their bread and butter.
jag150 7 December 2016

A question for Mr Harrison

As of 31.12.16,my local Seat dealer will be no longer doing sales,service and warranty closing, although it is part of a large group that continues to operate. I live in the largest town in the county and I will now have to travel 50 miles for the the above services. Why should I buy another Seat Mr Harrison?
poon 8 December 2016

Another question

Another question for Mr Harrison.You can walk away with a new smartphone there and then not "in a few days". Dumb.
scrap 7 December 2016

Alfa Romeo has had its own

Alfa Romeo has had its own problems in recent years, but at least has a glamorous heritage. SEAT has none of that. It's a Spanish contract manufacturer. It has precisely zero great accomplishments to its name, and now is a mix of hatchbacks and crossovers, all with existing tech. No innovation. They are likeable enough, but not very interesting. They are buying a lot of coverage in Autocar though!
supermanuel 7 December 2016

scrap wrote:

scrap wrote:

Alfa Romeo has had its own problems in recent years, but at least has a glamorous heritage. SEAT has none of that.

If VAG had committed to properly to it's original intention with SEAT then it would have been 25 years into a motorsport 'heritage' by now. These things take time and commitment. Turning the mongrel SEAT into something with equity was always going to be a long game but they would have started seeing results now had they stuck with the plan and committed to motorsport. The 2000's were a disaster for SEAT with a range of fat Golfs and rebadged cast-offs- it was as if someone at VAG wanted SEAT to die.

xxxx 7 December 2016

VAG wanted SEAT to die, maybe but

If they had wanted that they would have let it fall/stay in the Spanish governments hands
supermanuel 7 December 2016


xxxx wrote:

If they had wanted that they would have let it fall/stay in the Spanish governments hands

True enough xxxx. But Mr Harrison is certainly correct in saying “Seat hasn’t been given much attention in the past." in my humble opinion.