The management shake-up at Seat has continued with the appointment of Cupra brand CEO Wayne Griffiths as the new president of the overall company, replacing Luca de Meo, who left for Renault in January.
The Briton will assume his new role on 1 October, taking over from acting president Carsten Isensee, who will return to his previous role as executive vice-president for finance and IT. Griffiths remains Cupra CEO, as well as Seat’s sales and marketing executive vice-president, until a successor is announced.
The move adds weight to previous suggestions that the Volkswagen Group is plotting to rebrand Seat as Cupra in an effort to move the Spanish marque upmarket and differentiate it further from its Skoda sibling.
Speaking at the launch of the Cupra El-Born electric hot hatch earlier this year, Griffiths told Autocar that it made sense for the Volkswagen ID 3-based EV to launch as a Cupra, rather than a Seat, but that it didn’t reflect a swap in superiority for the two brands.
“We will be investing €5 billion [£4.5bn] in both brands, in electrification and technology,” he said. “We’ve just invested €1bn [£0.9bn] in the new Seat Leon. We will be spending money on both brands because one isn't there to substitute the other. They have totally different purposes, different positioning, different types of cars and different design. They complement each other excellently.”
His main goal as president will be to “drive the continued transformation of Seat and its brands towards electrification and sustainable mobility and develop the Cupra brand”. The performance offshoot currently offers just one bespoke model, a performance version of the Seat Ateca, but a Cupra version of the Leon and the brand’s bespoke Formentor crossover are due in the coming months.
Seat and Cupra will launch five new electric and plug-in hybrid models by 2021, as part of the Volkswagen Group’s wider ambition to build 26 million EVs by 2029.
Seat chairman and Volkswagen Group boss Herbert Diess said: “Wayne Griffiths is one of the Group’s most qualified managers. Over the past four years, he has driven Seat sales to record levels and is leading the development of the new Cupra brand. He has my full support and I'm convinced that his time as president of Seat will be a success.”
Griffiths joined Seat as head of sales in 2016, having spent nearly 30 years in various different roles throughout the Volkswagen Group. From 2016-2019, he oversaw a 40% sales increase which made Seat the fastest-growing brand in Europe.
His appointment as Seat president comes as Volkswagen Group Components boss Herbert Steiner becomes Seat’s new vice-president for production and logistics, and Luis Comas Martínez de Tejada switches from a role in the legal department to become chairman of the audit, compliance and governance commission for Seat and Volkswagen Navarra.