The Volkswagen Group’s top brass may currently be concerned with the imminent takeover of Porsche, but its accountants will be occupied with the performance of its Spanish subsidiary Seat.Loss-making in 2005 and 2006 and suffering stagnant sales this year, Seat has recently been prescribed fresh, German-dominated management, a revised product plan and a new design centre. The long-term goal is to double production to 800,000 units by 2012. Will it work? Read on to find out.
New men at the helm
VW has parachuted in three key German execs to Seat’s executive board: chairman Eric Schmitt, R&D head Frank Bekemeier and sales boss Berthold Kruger – plus Belgian design chief Luc Donckerwolke, formerly of Lamborghini.Schmitt is the key man, and his leadership will be measured on whether Seat gets back to profitability and hits its new production peak. Both Schmitt and Bekemeier are ex-Audi and know Seat from previous stints at the company.
New designs on the drawing board
Design will be a big theme in Seat’s revival, and Luc Donckerwolke has been hooked out of Lamborghini to bring controlled creativity to a company whose new products have veered from the sublime (Leon) to the ridiculous (Toledo). The design theme established in 2000 by Walter Da Silva will largely stay. “I’m not going to change everything, that’s not my style,” says Donckerwolke. Details will change, however, and we’ve seen the brand’s new flavour with the Tribu 4x4 concept, which introduces Audi A8-style air intakes. Dominant on the Tribu, they’ll be scaled down on the new Ibiza supermini, Donckerwolke’s first production Seat.A key detail for future Seats will continue to be the downward curving bodyside feature line, most obvious on today’s Leon. The execution will change, however, with the line appearing in more subtle form.Donckerwolke is very keen that all future Seats designs have “higher quality”. By that he means the way the cars’ proportions and details are better realised: “We will do much better in quality in future.”