New Seat boss Luca de Meo believes his company has "a historic opportunity" to lift itself away from the Volkswagen-led mainstream and "become a front-runner in some important areas" as a result of the recent Wolfsburg upheaval.
De Meo, who took command at Seat barely four weeks ago, believes the recent announcement by group chief Matthias Muller that divisional managements should be more devolved in future may allow Seat to be a leader in areas such as infotainment, "rather than just living under the same umbrella" as the rest the group divisions. "I have some ideas already," he said, "but they are only ideas."
For now, though, de Meo is intent on implementing departing boss Jurgen Stackmann's "solid and logical" model and business plans, which are understood to involve introducing two brand new SUV models in the mainstream market. The models will allow Seat access to 80% of the car market, not the present 50%.
"At present we have 1.2% of the market in terms of sales, which makes us pretty well invisible in some of our 70-odd markets," said de Meo. "We need some models that can make 5% or 6% of a segment, to get us on people's shopping lists."
De Meo is confident Seat is close to its long-sought profitability, as a result of "good foundations" laid by his predecessor Stackmann, and Englishman James Muir before that.
He believes the existing plan should continue, more or less unmodified, for the next two or three years. "It would be a little bit weird if I were to start changing our direction after four weeks in the job," he said. "But it is my hope, my dream and my aspiration to find ways to make us unique. In most automotive fields, people are learning by doing at present. This puts us at the same level as everyone else - and we also have access to premier league technology from the wider group."
De Meo also dismissed suggestions that his former Fiat connections might lead him to "do an Alfa Romeo" with Seat - even though that is a connection VW Group patriarch Ferdinand Piech took pains to make some years ago. "When you're talking about branding," said de Meo, "benchmarking yourself against someone else just doesn't work. It means you'll always be second. Our task is to find our own formula. I don't have the answer today, but I intend to work on it."